There are numerous schools in Spain providing education in many languages using different curriculums.
Children aim towards studying for a bacchillerato with which they can then apply to university. This qualification is recognised by universities worldwide.
Children with special needs are well provided for in Spanish main stream schools, often receiving individual attention from an assistant assigned to them. If your child needs extra support and your intention is to enrol them in a private school be sure to ask what level of provision will be made for your child. It may be that you will need to arrange and pay for an assistant yourself. Some private schools specialise in learning difficulties and smaller class sizes reflect more individual attention. Ensure that the class teacher has some understanding of your child's specific learning difficulty and preferably qualifications in this field if the school claims to specialise in learning difficulties.
Research has shown that children are more adept at becoming truly bilingual if they are integrated into a Spanish school before the age of 10. After this fluency can be achieved but as the brain learns the language in a different way it may take more time and effort. Due to the multicultural mix of inhabitants in Spain most schools have pupils from many countries
Spanish state senior schools end at lunchtime, that is 2 pm. In the afternoon there may be extra optional classes such as sports and arts and crafts. The provision of private after school classes is very widespread and for a small fee children can learn dance, languages and many other activities in conjunction with their academic classes.
Classes in primary level Spanish schools are generally kept to a maximum of 25 children. At secondary level this may increase to 30. The infants/juniors have different times, with a general start time of 9.00 am until 12.30, then they return at 3 pm until 4.30pm. There is an option to pay for “Commedor" – school dinners and play during the siesta break. The child will be provided with a high standard healthy meal, which means that parents do not need to worry about collecting their children during this period.
Alternatively you may prefer your child to continue studying in his native language. International schools usually teach in English and often follow the British curriculum.
Many schools claim to be bi-lingual. Although the majority of classes are taught in English there is usually a Spanish assistant in each class and Spanish is taught at least thrice weekly. If your prime aim in sending your child to a Bi-lingual school is that they will learn Spanish you must consider whether this is a realistic expectation. If your child speaks English at home, has English friends and is taught predominantly in English will a lesson in Spanish three times a week or even daily be enough?
Most international schools provide some tuition in Spanish but generally teachers are recruited from England and follow the British curriculum. Class sizes are usually kept to a maximum of 24 and cater for the needs of children of various nationalities. Extra English support is often available for non-native speakers.
Whether you choose a state school or a private school it is a good idea to visit and compare various schools. Call to make an appointment and request a time when the teacher of the class your child might be joining is free for a brief chat. Talk to other parents with children at the school. Ask yourself; does the school feel happy and cheerful? Are the staff content and enthusiastic? Is the equipment clean and up to date? Are the classrooms bright and airy? Are there computers in every classroom? Do the pupils respect their teachers and peers? Does the timetable provide enough P.E. and music? Is the lunch menu nutritious and varied? Is work displayed on the walls? Are pupils attaining the government set levels for their age? What procedures are followed to discipline a child? Do the teachers ensure child safety at playtime? Are classes interactive and multi sensory? Do teachers comfort a distressed child with a cuddle? Does the school have a good reputation?
You may find that there is a waiting list for your first choice of school. If this is the case don't despair, as a place will often become available in a term or two. Do be aware that many primary schools cater for children up to year two or three. This might mean considerable competition for places beyond these years in other schools. Although smaller primary schools may be a gentle introduction to the school system perhaps it may be better to secure your place in a school that provides education from start to finish by enrolling your child in an early year.
With private schools expect to pay fees of 1500 – 2500 euros per term for tuition, materials and lunch, plus a registration fee of between a few hundred and 2000 euros and a deposit of up to 2000 euros. The deposit is usually refundable if written notice is given at least one term in advance of your intention to withdraw your child. Fees usually do not include registration, books, materials, laundry, extra-curricular activities , excursions, meals and transport (most privat schools provide school buses). Also allow around a further 800 euros a term for meals and other extras. The fees will vary from area to area.
Whichever type of school you choose for your child, they will need to be up to date with their immunisations, remembering that here in Spain, it is a slightly different timetable for some injections, and also that there may be some extra ones that are not compulsory in other countries. Along with the injections, each child must have an NIE number (National Insurance number for foriegners) and a Padron from the local town-hall showing that they are residing in the school district. Once, you have the documents and the medical records showing the up to date immunisations, the head teacher of the chosen school will wish to have a meeting with you all for the acceptance into the school.