There are several different types of schooling available in Spain’s school system across the public and private sectors, including state schools, colegios concertados (semi-private), private Spanish schools and fully independent schools (including foreign and international schools). The Spanish education system is free for all children who reside in Spain and education is compulsory from 6 to 16 years of age.
Spanish state schooling is divided into 3-4 stages, according to age group. Some schools offer educación infantíl for toddlers and children from 3-6 years old. There are also many private and subsidised state nurseries (although there can be long waiting lists and places can be hard to come by).
Children attend primary school (colegio) from the ages of 6-12, followed by secondary or middle school (instituto) from 12-16. Then, from the ages of 16 until 18, students can study the Spanish Bachillerato (the equivalent of British A-Levels or the American High School Diploma), which enables them to proceed into higher education.
The state school system in Spain is considered to be of a high standard, although this can be inconsistent across different regions and individual schools. Expats wishing to enrol their children in Spanish state school should register first with their local town hall (Empadronamiento). Another option are the semi-private colegios concertados, which generally offer better facilities than state schools without the expensive fees of a fully private or international school.
Many expat families living in Spain consider sending their children to an international school rather than enter the education system in Spain, particularly if they speak multiple languages or are likely to move again. Although these can be prohibitively expensive, there are international schools to suit every family, teaching in almost every possible combination of languages while still teaching some school subjects in Spanish.
There are currently many British and American schools in Spain, as well as French, German, Swedish and other foreign-language schools. Many of these teach the full curriculum of their “home nation”, which legally must be approved by their country’s embassy in Spain, ensuring a reliable and high standard of teaching. Many also offer the popular International Baccalaureate, which is recognised by the best universities around the world.
We have put together a useful list of the best international schools in Catalonia, Madrid, Andalucia, Valencia and Murcia and The Balearic Islands. For more detailed information on international schools in Spain as well as recommendations from parents please visit MumAbroad.com.