Moving to Spain with your family is a big undertaking, even more so if you have children – which begs the question, “What school should I choose for my child in Spain?” If they are of school age, ensuring their proper continued education will be foremost in your mind. Regardless of whether you are looking for a nursery, primary or secondary school place for your child, it’s an important decision that will set the path for their future development, both at home and abroad.
At this point, it is important to note that Spain does not condone home schooling. Every child aged between 6 and 16 has to attend school – it’s the law. So, what are your choices and where do you start? Depending on where exactly in Spain you are planning to settle, and what your schooling priorities and objectives are, there are several options you may wish to consider.
Private International Schools
If you would like your children’s education to carry on in the British system, eventually leading to GCSEs and A-Levels, there are many fee paying international schools in the country. Some are all English (particularly on the Costa del Sol) and some are bilingual with more or less emphasis placed on Spanish within the curriculum.
International schools offer education for a range of age groups – some are pre-schools (3-7) or nurseries (age 1-6), others may go right through from age 3 to 18.
If your time in Spain is limited to a few months or a year or so, a private international school may be the least disruptive option, enabling your child to easily re-adapt to school life once the family has moved back to Britain.
International and bilingual schools are becoming popular with other nationalities too, including Spanish parents who wish to give their children an English speaking advantage. Your son or daughter could be mixing with an international crowd and develop friendship with kids of many nationalities. This exposure to different cultures may be of great benefit.
Spanish Private Schools
Spanish private schools follow the Spanish educational system. They are designed for native children and are taught entirely in Spanish. In terms of fees, they tend to come in cheaper than international or British schools.
Sending your child to a Spanish school is a big decision. However, if you want your son or daughter to gain the most from their Spanish experience and come away with a secure command of the Spanish language and an in-depth understanding of the country’s culture as well as an excellent education, this may be the way forward.
Spanish State (Public) Schools
Spanish state schools (known as public schools) teach in Spanish, with English (and French) taught as a foreign language. Again, sending your child to a regular Spanish school will provide the most authentic experience, which can be a very good thing.
However, depending on the age of your child, they may find it difficult to adapt to the new system, the language and the culture – and it may all seem too strange and difficult for them.
If you do decide to go for a Spanish school, it helps enormously if you are able to engage with the school too – perhaps improving your own Spanish skills at the same time? Helping your children with homework, communicating with the teachers, understanding school letters… it all makes for a cohesive approach that will create a positive experience and benefit your child for the duration of their Spanish stay, and beyond.
On the other hand, it is important not to neglect your son or daughter’s English skills. English won’t be taught formally at a Spanish school other than to the level of a foreign language. Assuming you speak English at home, your child may well be bilingual when they speak, but what about their reading and writing skills? Their knowledge of English literature or British history? Be prepared to help your child acquire these skills outside of school.
Before you make an important decision such as which school to choose for your child, it is essential to do your research. Contact as many suitable schools as you can and arrange a visit wherever possible. Read prospectuses; ask questions, check with other parents who have children at schools you are considering. It all helps to make an informed decision.
Valuable information can also be obtained from the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS), from El Mundo’s list of best Spanish private schools and from The Good Schools Guide International (GSGI).
Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working together with Marbella’s largest and longest-running real estate agent Panorama.es, who were consulted over this post.