In Spain, compulsory schooling applies to children and teenagers aged between 6-16 years of age. However, most children start already during the year they turn 3 in “educacion infantil” (preschool). Many students also continue the last two voluntary years between the ages of 16-18, “Bachillerato” (high school / A-level). This is a short description about schools on the Costa del Sol.
There are different types of schools to choose from. It is of course incredibly important to explore all the options before deciding which school is right for your child.
Spanish state school
If you are going to stay in Spain for a longer period, it is a good idea to investigate the state schools close to where you are going to live. Your child will pick up the language in no time whatsoever! The quality of teaching and the facilities differ a great deal between various state schools. Take your time to get all facts right. The state schools are free and registration takes place in March for the September admission. You have to provide your child with materials such as pens, notebooks, calculators, recorders (!) etc. Sometimes also books and all this usually comes to 300 euros per term. (Some municipalities offer books free of charge.)
In the state schools there is no pre-adaption school period for your child, no matter how young the child is. This may appear strange to us, but in Spain it seems to work. Tears the first few days, but after that the little ones generally get used to the new routine.
Kids bring food, or a lighter snack to school. As they finish at 2 pm already every day they are expected to eat their “main” meal at home. Thus, the packed lunch can be sandwich, juice and yogurt or similar.
Some children, whose parents are low-income earners can stay for lunch after school. However, parents must present proof of income to receive this benefit. The school lunch is therefore not provided to all children as a standard.
The obligatory school years are divided into “educacion primaria” which is 6-12 years and “educacion secundaria” which is for the older children between 12-16 years. Should a student not pass the exams at the end of each year taken they will sometimes have to re-take the entire year. This is actually not so uncommon, as in some schools there are few extra resources to assist children with special needs or those with language difficulties.
The voluntary Spanish schooling for young people aged 16-18 (Bachillerato) is there to prepare students for university studies. There are many good and renowned university cities on the Costa del Sol, such as Granada, Cordoba, Malaga and Seville.
There are several private alternatives in addition to the state schools on the coast. The private schools all charge a yearly fee – they differ slightly from school to school, so best to enquire individually. As a guideline, expect about € 700 a month minimum plus food, books and school trips etc.
Again, if you are going to stay here long term, Spanish private schools are a good alternative to the state ones. These have less student-teacher ratio and offer different sports facilities, music classes and school trips abroad. Salliver in Los Pacos – Fuengirola, Alborán – Las Chapas or San Jose – Guadalmina are some examples of Spanish private schools. They all have a very good reputation and always come out at the top when Spanish schools are ranked. One of the advantages in these Spanish private schools, compared to state schools, in addition to the low number of pupils, is teaching of other languages. This is something that the municipal schools unfortunately do not prioritise.
English speaking and bi-lingual schools
Private English schools are popular, such as Aloha College in Nueva Andalucia, Laude in San Pedro, Swans in Marbella, The English International College in El Rosario, near Elviria, St Antony’s near La Cala, Mijas Costa or The British College in Torremuelle, Benalmadena. They teach according to the British curriculum and thus offer the opportunity to apply to British or American universities.
The private schools offer pick-up and drop-off for children at an extra cost. The smaller children will generally eat lunch in the schools dining room (also at an extra cost) while the older ones either bring a packed lunch or buy something simpler in the school cafeteria.
The private schools finishes at 16:00 for children of all ages and there are also afternoon activities that you can sign up for.
There is a very long summer break here, normally 12 weeks which can be a bit daunting for both children and parents.
Bi-lingual and International Schools
On the coast there is also a Finnish school, in Los Pacos Fuengirola, a German school in La Mairena in Ojen, a French school in Malaga and a Norwegian school in Benalmadena. “Saturday schools” for children are available in for example Danish, Dutch and Chinese to name a few alternatives.
So, in general, the selection is large and what suits your child will probably not be the same as someone else’s child.
Good luck and feel free to contact me if you want some advice on schools on the Costa del Sol.