One of the most important decisions you have to make, when moving to Spain with children, is choosing a school to send your children to. Whether to enrol your children in a Spanish state school or a private international school.
The availability of state schools and international schools in Spain varies by region. Hence, it is advisable to carefully research the schools in the area you plan to make your new home, before you plan your move to Spain.
When choosing a school in Spain for your children, the following factors should be considered:
The age of your child: From experience, (this is only my personal opinion and to be taken or left as you choose), I would highly recommend enrolling any child aged 6 years or below in a Spanish state or Spanish speaking private school, whether it be a nursery or primary school. At this age they are sponges and you may be amazed at how quickly they integrate and pick up the language. I clearly remember our son´s first word after only a few days … “mío”!
Your knowledge of the Spanish language: I am lucky to have a pretty high level of Spanish and my husband has a good conversational level. However, we often have to use Google in order to complete our 7 year old’s homework assignments. I truly believe that many expat children struggle in school due to the lack of available support at home, as a result of a lack of language ability. My advice would be that once you are unable to help your children with their Spanish homework then you should consider either moving them to a private/international school or, as a more economical alternative, source a home tutor.
Financial commitments: Private schools are not cheap. State education is a much cheaper option. This school year we have seen quite a sharp increase in foreign students joining our children´s state school. Unfortunately, these are not children that have just relocated, these are older children that were previously in private international schools who, due to the downturn in their parents economic position, have been forced to end their private education. Needless to say, they do not find it easy. This is not to say that any child older that 6 or 7 will not adapt. Children are amazing and they never cease to amaze us.
Your desired level of integration in Spanish life: This may seem like a strange consideration, however, we have met many people that have no interest whatsoever in integrating with the local Spaniards. Their children have attended private schools and have picked up the language randomly, as children do, by chatting with other Spanish children. As a result, their children have integrated in a minor way in their town/village yet the parents continue to mix in their own circles.
I am in no way stating that if your children do not attend Spanish state school that you will not integrate. Nor am I saying that by putting your children in the local school will you be accepted as part of the local community. In our village, everyone seems to know our children and I have worked hard at always being involved in meetings, school trips and activities in order to be accepted by the local mums. Now, after almost 3 years, we seem to be considered as part of the community … As a parent, you need to decide what you want and what you think is best for your child and your family.
School Timetables: In Andalucia, the State school timetable for lessons is 9am until 2pm. In most schools, there is a canteen option (at extra cost) and extra curricula activities (at extra cost) and an early morning drop off option (at extra cost). In other parts of Spain the schools close for a 2 hour lunch and continue lessons in the afternoon. Private/International schools tend to follow the traditional UK timetables of 9am until 4pm or 5pm.
Whichever type of school you chose, do consider the implications of the timetable and transportation options. It is very easy to soon get fed up of spending half your time as a school taxi.
These are only 5 of many considerations when selecting a school for your child. We look forward to hearing your suggestions and ideas …
Read more of our experiences of Education in Spain here.
By Lisa Sadleir