By August 18, 2010 2 Comments Read More →

Bringing up expat children in Spain

More and more young professionals are moving abroad, often with children in tow. Emma Grenham gives her advice to British parents planning to bring up their children in Spain. (From the Telegraph)
Spain may once have been a popular destination for retired expats but it has more recently began attracting parents with younger families looking for a change of lifestyle for both themselves and their children. Many of these new arrivals have lived overseas before and take little time settling into their new home.

Whereas the Costas were once the place to head for new residents, expat families often relocate to larger towns or cities such as Barcelona or Madrid, as their cosmopolitan nature not only offers parents an easier transition into an international community but also greater work opportunities.

Which school to choose depends upon a combination of factors: whether you are planning an indefinite stay, or are on a short-term work contract, the ages of your children, and the style of education you would like them to receive.

The Spanish school system offers the choice of state (public) schools, private schools and an additional option of semi-private schools known as colegios concertados. The latter usually offer better facilities for pupils than the state system with less fee requirements than independent schools.

As with school entry at home, it is usually best to make your application during the annual admission dates. This offers you the best chance of a place in the school of your choice although, ultimately, success depends on how well you fare in the points scheme. State and semi-private school admissions work according to a fixed point scheme which takes account of your proximity to the school, siblings in attendance and any health issues that your child may have.

If you are moving to Spain with school-age kids, you may decide to choose short-term rental accommodation until you have decided upon the school and area where you would like to settle. If you are relocating to a small town or village, the chances are that you will have few options to choose from and will opt for the closest school. Whereas in the UK, parents might plan house moves with their eye on school-catchment areas, the property market in Spain is less affected by the proximity of “good schools”. With minimal criteria on which to judge a school’s performance and no league tables to speak of, word-of-mouth advice is usually key to any decision making process.

If you choose to fund your child’s education in the private system, international schools are always an option. It is worth remembering that although they may be international by name, they are not always by nature. In some cases, the majority of pupils are local children and not the offspring of globe-trotting, transient families as might be expected. British and American schools can attract Spanish families seeking an English-language education for their children . Some international schools regulate their intake by fixing the percentage of nationals and international students enrolled. It may also be the case that your child receives their formal teaching in English but in the playground or during after-school social occasions the lingua franca among classmates is Spanish.

Schools may also mix Spanish and British curriculums. Pupils can follow UK key stage curriculums at primary level and then be switched to the local curriculum during their secondary years. Although they may be taught in English, it is not GCSEs or A-levels that they work towards but the equivalent Spanish leaving certificate and university entrance exams. If you are relocating with older children who are already well into their school years, you may also be asked to provide school reports, end-of-year exam results and often, in the case of international schools, their language level will be tested.

Whereas kids can feasibly walk to a local school, international schools are frequently located on the outskirts of town which means a lengthy return journey. With the school day often running from 9am to 5pm, this can make for a full and tiring day for children.
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2 Comments on "Bringing up expat children in Spain"

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  1. Tess says:

    I see a lot of talk regarding International schools abroad. But there is never mention of a price range of tuition. Is there anyone that can elaborate what type of tuitions (even if a range) you have encountered? Thank you.

  2. lisa says:

    Hi Tess,
    In France International schools cost around 8,000 euros a year. I have passed your message to Rebecca Grappo at RNG international Educational Experts and I hope she will post an answer that will give you a better range.

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