There are three types of school in Spain: public schools, publicly funded private schools, known as concertados, and private schools. Public schools are free of charge while concertados are private schools that receive government funding in exchange for signing education agreements with the local authority. These schools have subsidised fees and you may find that they have better facilities than public schools, so they provide a good midway option between public and private.
There is no official league table of Spanish schools; schools are usually recommended by word of mouth, but El Mundo (elmundo.es) newspaper publishes a list of the 100 best private and concertado schools in the country every year.
Education in Spain is compulsory between the ages of six and 16. The school year is set annually but usually runs from the first week of September until the last week of June. The timetable at public schools is usually seven hours a day, Monday-Friday, but varies slightly depending on the school, the region and the age of the children.
It is compulsory to learn Castilian at all schools, even where Spanish is not the main language. In regions with other languages such as here in Barcelona, it is also compulsory to learn the co-official language – here it is Catalan in Catalonia.
INDEPENDENT INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS
Around 30 per cent of Spaniards educate their children privately. These schools include private schools, bilingual schools, international schools, Catholic day schools and British schools.
International schools offer a range of education choices, including the British A-level system and the International Baccalaureate.
You can find more information on International Schools in Barcelona here.
Nursery school, known as guardería, is available (and sometimes subsidised) for children aged 0-3 and it is free for those aged three or over. About a quarter of children are in school by the age of two and almost all are by the age of three.
Theoretically, any child is entitled to public education at this age, but due to limited places many parents may find they have to turn to private child care.
Fees depend on the age of the child and the area in which you live, but tend to hover around the €500 (£400) per month mark. Public nursery schools will be cheaper.
The advantages of sending your child to a Spanish school are that it is free (if you choose a public school), that your child will be more integrated with the Spanish community, which may be important to you if you are planning to stay in the country on a long-term basis, and that the school is likely to be more local to where you live.
The primary language in these Barcelona schools is Catalan. Generally, children under 10 will pick up Catalan and Spanish relatively quickly, with three to six months being the rough time frame. Some schools do provide intensive language courses for children to help them learn quickly, and there are plenty of private courses available. If your child does not speak Spanish, you might find they are put back a year until they have mastered the language, at which time they will be put in with their own age group.
If your child is being educated in Catalan and Spanish, you will need to keep English spelling and grammar up at home if you intend for them to return to a British education system at some stage.
You can find a list of local public schools here.
These are private study centers that receive subsidies by the Spanish Government. That is why they are called “concertados”, which means they get some help from the Central Administration. Even when they are subject to certain conditions established by the Government, such as the limit of students, dates, admissions, etc., they have a high freedom of management.
Funding is combined between scholarships and family contributions. In other words, these schools are not free, but are partially financed. Among the characteristics of most semi-private schools is the uniform. In theory, parents only have to pay for the dining room and the school bus, but actually they are responsible for including additional costs such as nursing, conciliation or counselling.