Which school to choose?

*School Search services

Written bystepsint



Moving with children is always difficult, but when you’re moving to a new country like Spain, there’s a lot more to think about – not only will you have to settle your family into a completely new way of life with new languages to learn, new friends to make and new food to get accustomed to, but you probably also need to find them a new school. Yikes! 

It sounds overwhelming but there’s a lot of help and resources out there. Use our experience and expertise to guide you through the selection and application process so you can be confident and secure that the choice that you make is the right one.

Before applying for a school place, you should be clear on what type of school you would like for your child in Spain. To help get you started here are some key questions that you should consider when making that decision:

  • Age of children and grasp of local language? 

Children are not sponges – the don’t just soak up new languages effortlessly. It may seem that this is the case because of the naturalistic way in which they acquire a new language (no vocabulary lists and verb conjugations!) but it’s actually a lot of work for a school-aged child to not only learn a new language, but learn school content at the same time. The younger they are, the easier it is for them.

It figures then that the more support they get, the more progress they will make. Support from the school, but also at home. As parents we need to be ensuring understanding of school content while our children are learning the new language, because otherwise they really will be lost when their new teacher is telling them about ecosystems in an unfamiliar language!

  • Duration of stay? 

If you are planning on making Spain your home for the unforeseeable future then State schools can be a great option. Your children will pick up the language and it’s a fantastic way to integrate into your local community. All of those birthday parties and play dates will ensure that you quickly make new acquaintances!

However, if you’re planning on spending just a few years in Spain then an international school will be a much easier option as it provides consistency in your child’s education.

  • What’s available locally? 

It goes without saying that the closer you live to your child’s school well then the easier life is. Of course it’s not the be all and end all and each family has different priorities but it’s always a good idea to check out what schools are available locally and to try and gauge other family’s overall satisfaction with their local school. 

Most international schools are located on the city outskirts which means taking a bus but these are always private school buses (at an additional cost).

  • Co-educational?

Schools in Spain are predominantly co-ed (almost all State schools are co-ed). Single sex options do exist but only in Concertado or Private schools.  

  • Religious beliefs?

Spanish State schools provide a secular education but religion can be chosen as an optional subject. There are Concertados and Private schools which are run by religious groups and these offer a religious education option. 

  • Finances?

State education is free and although you will have to pay for school books, it is definitely the most cost effective. Concertados are partly subsidized by the State but also charge a monthly fee. Private schools are fully independent from the State and charge monthly/ yearly fees.  International schools usually charge the heftiest fees.


Once you’ve answered these questions it should help steer you on the type of school that will best suit your children. Try as much as possible to involve them in the school search which helps give them a voice.

Get in contact to discuss your family’s unique needs and how we can best support you.

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.

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