There are three principal types of schools in Spain and when choosing the right school for your child it is important to understand each one. Once you’ve got this in hand, it will be easier to make informed decisions on the type of school that you would like for your child in Spain.
The three main types of Schools in Spain
Schools in Spain are generally divided into 3 main categories: free, state-funded schools (Colegios Públicos), privately run schools funded by the state (Colegios Concertados) and purely private schools whose financing depends directly on the schools themselves allowing them complete independence (Colegios Privados).
State funded schools
Públicos/state schooling is free up to university but parents are responsible for buying their own children’s school supplies including textbooks and other reading materials. Entrance to state schools is based on a points system and is generally allocated according to your catchment area (for both primary and secondary education), so this may influence your decision on where to live. In Spain, the state school system is highly regulated, with the same format and regulations in place across the country. However, due to the nation’s system of autonomous regions, it is important to take into account that bank holidays, weekly timetables, school holiday dates and languages may vary (for example, Catalan is the primary taught language in Catalunya). The school day in primary school can either be a 5 hour continuous block (jornada continua) which is usually 9-14:00 or it can be split with a 2 hour lunch break in between (jornada partida) which could be 9-13:00 followed by lunch and classes resume from 15:00-17:00. In secondary school students usually begin 8/8:30 – 15:00/15:30. State schools are secular (although religion can be a subject option), co-educational and uniform is optional.
Concertados /Semi – Private. Somewhere between public and private schools are government funded “concertados” that incur a monthly fee. Introduced in Spain in 1985, the concept is similar to academies or charter schools in UK and US, and they are attended by around 26% of Spanish pupils. This system allows concertado schools to have greater freedom when it comes to teaching their curriculum, as well as organizing their programming and methodologies. However, these schools must respect rules and limitations set by the Public Administration. Concertados are open to all and the admission process is identical to that of the state schools. The primary language will be Spanish and will follow the Spanish state curriculum. The timetable for both Primary and Secondary is usually jornada partida which is something like 9-13:00 followed by lunch and classes from15:00-17:00. Concertados may be religious or secular, co-ed or single sex and uniform will be compulsory in most.
Privados/Private schools are paid for with a monthly, termly or yearly fee. Unless it’s a bilingual or international school the primary teaching language will be Spanish or the co-official language of the region. There’s a wide range of private schools in Spain, including parochial schools, bilingual schools, international schools and a variety of foreign schools. Around a third of children in Spain are educated at private school. Private schools may be religious or secular, co-ed or single sex and uniform will be compulsory in most.
International schools are private schools that teach an international curriculum such as the International Baccalaurette (IB) or the curriculum of another country. They usually have higher fees than most other private schools. Spain has the highest number of international schools in all of Europe! They are usually located on the outskirts of the city. Demand can be quite high for specific schools so it is always recommended to begin the application process as early as possible.
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Sinéad Galvin is an educational consultant and founded Steps into Spain (a boutique educational and relocation consultancy located in Madrid) to help families find the right school for their child in Madrid. She uses her professional and personal experience of Spanish schools, the Spanish education system and the Spanish way of life to ensure that parents are knowledgeable and informed about what to expect and can secure the best school for their child.
Steps into Spain will take stock of your children’s educational needs and overall family requirements (housing, paperwork and general settling in). Our trusted and expert service is provided to families who are moving to Madrid from abroad. And also, to families that already live here and need some extra guidance and support.