Schools in Spain
If you are thinking of moving to Spain and you have children, you will need to start thinking about their schooling
as soon as possible. If you plan to move to one of the big cities or in an expat area, such as the Costa Blanca or the Costa del Sol, then
your biggest choice you will be between sending them to a Spanish school or to a biligual or international school. If you plan to move to
a less popular area of Spain then you may not get such a choice.
There are private international schools in most major resort towns, where your child can receive lessons in
English. Some of these schools also teach UK exam courses (GCSEs and A Levels) but most use the International
Baccalaureate or the Spanish bachilllerato syllabuses. Price (and quality) varies, but overall private education
in Spain is cheaper than in the UK. the National Association of british Schools
in Spain is a good place to start looking for international schools.
Bilingual schools exist in many Spanish cities and teach the Spanish curriculum, with additional lessons taught by
native English speakers. Most of the students in such schools are Spanish and therefore the language will still be
an issue you need to think about.
Attending a Spanish school, whether state or private, is probably the best way for your children to integrate
into Spanish society. State schools have improved tremendously in recent decades and in general, are of a comparable
quality with those in other EU countries, although the teaching methods used may differ.
School in Spain is not compulsory until the age of 6, but children generally start school in the autumn
of the year in which they turn 3. The legal maximum class size in primary schools is 25, with one teacher and a "floating"
classroom assistant who helps out with several classes. There is special provision for children over the age of 6
who donít speak Spanish as a first language.
Enrollment procedures vary from region to region and also from school to school. However for most schools, you will only be guaranteed a place
if you enroll in the Spring - usually March or April.
Learning the Language
In theory, children up to the age of 9 will pick up Spanish within a year or so simply by mixing with Spanish
children (the exact age varies). Even so we would suggest giving any child over the age of 4 some sort of
beginner lessons in Spanish either before you go or soon after you get there because it will help them
to make friends and to get on with other schoolwork. Even younger children will benefit from as much exposure to Spanish
as you can give them - whether that's from a Spanish speaking friend, from the TV or from yourself.
Older children will usually need more help. Private tuition is one solution: the going rate in Spain is 6-12 Euros an hour.
Also since older children generally find it harder to settle in to a new school, it is highly recommended that they
receive some tuition in Spanish for as long as possible before you leave.
If you are thinking of moving to Catalonia, the Balearics or the Basque region, remember to find out
what language the schools teach in. Many schools in those areas teach most lessons in the local language (Catalan,
Basque, etc) and only teach Spanish as a foreign language. While this is not necessarily a bad thing it is
certainly worth considering. You will also need to bear in mind that proof of immunisation is necessary for
enrolment into any Spanish state school, although some schools may neglect to ask for it.
Teaching Your Child Spanish - Resources
Here are some sites and products you might find helpful in helping your child learn Spanish.
Spanish Picture Dictionary
Useful for building your child's Spanish vocabulary. Your children will either need to be able to read, or you will
need to learn the basics of Spanish pronunciation and read it with them.
Children's Multilingual Dictionary
Click on either the British flag or the Spanish flag to go to a list of words with translations. Slightly awkward to use,
but does contain sound clips for pronunciation.
BBC Spanish Courses
An excellent internet based course for adults and older children.
Let's Sing and Learn in Spanish (from Amazon.co.uk)
An excellent way to introduce younger children to the sounds of Spanish. Includes a CD.
Spanish for Beginners (from Amazon.co.uk)
A good introductory text book with cassette for all ages.