Education in Spain

There are three main options for education in Spain:

State Schools

State education in Spain is free and compulsory. It is necessary to attend school between the ages of 6-16 years of age. Although education is free, parents have to pay for text books and materials. These can be quite expensive with costs ranging from €150 - €250 per child per year. However, an older child's text books can often be used for a younger child once they reach the relevant year.

Attending a local state school will help your child to integrate into the local community and to learn to speak Spanish quickly. This is an advantage if you plan to stay in Spain for the long term. Many foreign children often prefer to attend a Spanish school and become part of the local community.

The Spanish state system offers the following stages of schooling:

  • Primary school ( Educación Primaria) (6-12 years of age)
  • Secondary school ( Educación Secundaria Obligatoria) (12-16 years of age)
  • Post-compulsory secondary education (Bachillerato) (16-18 years of age)

Pre-school ( Educación Infantil) (0-6 years of age) is not compulsory and consequently not all children can gain a place.

Although there are state schools for pupils with special educational needs, it is not uncommon to see children with minor disabilities attending the normal state school and being readily accepted by their peers.

You need to be aware that all teaching is done in Spanish and it may be that none of the teachers speak English. In some schools foreign pupils will be offered extra classes in the Spanish language to help them learn more quickly.

In Spain, children must attend a state school within a certain distance of their home so if you have a preference for a particular school, it is important that you buy or rent a home within the catchment area of that particular school.

It is advisable to visit the school of your choice with your child before you make any decisions. When you make the appointment, try to find an English speaking teacher to translate for you. If there is not one available, take someone with you who can translate for you. Ask all the same questions you would ask if you were choosing a new school in the UK.

In order to enroll your child in a Spanish state school you need to provide the following:

  • Copies of their birth certificate and passport
  • Signed and stamped proof of all immunizations/vaccinations from your UK doctor
  • Proof of residence in Spain – the title deed of your house, a rental agreement or an electricity bill
  • Four passport photographs of your child
  • Proof of convalidation – this is an official validation of your child's education record

(in practice, this is not normally needed)

A report from your child's present school is very useful for the new school. They generally prefer it if you have had the report translated into Spanish and it will need to be stamped and signed by the head teacher of the UK school.

You need to begin the process of enrolment no later than April for the new school year.

Subjects taught in Spanish state schools include:

  • Social sciences, history and geography
  • Biology, physics, chemistry and geology
  • Physical education
  • Art and design
  • Mathematics
  • Spanish language and literature
  • Craft, design and technology and information technology
  • Foreign languages usually English and/or French/German
  • Music
  • Philosophy/ethics
  • Latin, Greek and the Classics

These last two subjects may or may not be taught in the particular school to which you apply. Religious education is taught in all schools but your child may opt out of this subject.

When your child starts at the new school, they will usually be placed in a year lower than that which would be expected for their age. This gives them time to learn Spanish, to become accustomed to their new environment and to minimize the pressure to succeed in the first, already stressful, year.

Children are continually assessed during the school year and in some subjects, they will sit an examination at the end of each term. Children can be held back at the end of the year if they fail more than two subjects and then they will have to repeat that year.

Your child will be apprehensive about starting school in Spain. From my own experiences with my children (10 and 13 years of age when they started school here) the first few days will probably be as bad as they are expecting but after a week or so, things will improve.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about your child starting school. You may find my personal experiences useful to you.

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International Schools

International schools teach in English and Spanish and pride themselves on providing a wide ranging and well taught curriculum. Some offer residential accommodation and all are fee paying. The nearest school to the Axarquia region is the Almuñecar International School, a popular choice for many parents as it is only a short drive along the coast from Nerja. See our links page for a list of some of the international schools on the Costa del Sol.

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Private Schools

The number of private schools is increasing with many specializing in particular subject areas such as music or science. Private schools are fee paying.

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This information is for advice only.