Spanish School Happy Kids

Published on 17/09/2007 in Kids in Spain

Schools and Education in Spain Guide

School in SpainOne of the major concerns that parents have about moving their children to Spain concerns their education. It is true that children beyond the age of 8 or 9 when the language becomes an issue do struggle compared with younger children. Personally, I can only go on my own children’s experience in one Spanish state school but it is an overall positive one. When they started the school there were no introductions or school tours. We expected to be given a leaflet or some kind of information about the school but instead we were handed a pile of similar forms to fill in, in Spanish, of course. There is no smoothing in period with feedback. It was literally a case of two three year olds being thrown in at the deep end. They are lucky enough to be twins and so they had each other. Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable.

They have been fortunate that that since they started at aged three, they have had the same lovely teacher and we are currently waiting to hear if she will be returning in September. Their teacher is so different to my own pre-school teachers Mrs Smack and Mrs Slaughter in that they call her by her first name, she looks like Jennifer Lopez (so dads are always present at events) and is full of enthusiasm and energy. It amazes me how tactile she is with the children as are most Spanish teachers with children of this age group. She always gives them a hug and strokes their little faces. I am sure that they drive her mad and I get reports home that children in class have been “castigada” (punished) which involves being put in the esquina (corner).

Everything feels so homely from the classrooms with the traditional toys piled in the designated “rincones” to the habit of the children taking in a specific desayuno (breakfast) in their mochila (backpack) every morning according to a sheet that we are given at the beginning of the year. At this age food and eating takes precedence and it is not unusual for the dinner ladies to spoon feed the little ones at comedor(dining room).Some might argue that they are force fed but it is peace of mind to know that they have had a good meal consisting of comida casera (home made food). Every month we pay for the lunch by direct debit and we always receive a menu planner home so that we can check what they have eaten and plan their evening meal accordingly.

Although, we receive lots of information where eating is concerned, everything else related to school is on a need to know basis and a lot of the British mothers do get annoyed about this. In fact if you don’t ask, you don’t find out what’s going on because you will only receive letters home if there’s a trip. Don’t expect too much notice as they will usually only let you know a couple of days before. The trips are generally to fun places such as the aquarium and the cinema.

Don’t expect the children to be using the latest in technology as we actually lent the class one of our PCs so that the teacher could do some IT work with them. But nearly every family has a PC at home that the children can practise on so that shouldn‘t be an issue.

The best thing about the Spanish schools is how much celebrating goes on and how enthusiastic the parents are about doing their bit. At Christmas time the children usually go to school dressed in the traditional pastor outfit. The mothers and grandmother really go to town on this and the outfits for the summer concert were especially fit for the stage.

Although there is a uniform which was just introduced last year, by law they cannot make it obligatory. Probably half the children (including my own) attend school in uniform. However, I probably won’t buy it in the future as it is extremely expensive with polo shirts costing around 16euros, you can only buy it from a specified uniform shop nearby who is very unreliable and the quality is poor.

One of the common worries that parents have is that their child will be bullied. You will be surprised to learn that most of the bullying goes on amongst fellow expat children rather than Spanish bullying English. Due to us living right on the Costa del Sol there are lots of other British children in the school. In fact a third of the children in my girls’ class are English. If this is something that you want to avoid then you should look to move somewhere more inland or another region of Spain such as Galicia or Extremadura where you are less likely to find fellow expats.

Every other Friday my children bring home a book in Spanish that they keep for a week. Parents are expected to read to and with their children and fill in a book report not unlike what I had to do during my own school days. Bear in mind that this is all done in Spanish. My Spanish is of a fairly good level, definitely to degree standard, and my husband is semi fluent since he is from Gibraltar. However, we often struggle with reading the books and some of the vocabulary is unfamiliar to us at times.

At preschool age which are the years between three to six the emphasis is placed on play, socialisation and developing independence. Children are not expected to start to learn to read until they are six which might seem a bit late by UK standards. However, once they do start learning, since Spanish is mainly phonetic, it all falls into place quite quickly whilst many children in the UK have been struggling with the same concepts daily for the past two years.

I am sure that experiences in Spanish schools will vary according to children’s ages, personalities, academic ability. I can only speak of my experience as a mother of twin preschoolers. What I can say is that they are very happy in school and they have made phenomenal progress in terms of social skills and confidence over the past two years. In fact, they are always keen to go to school and are really comfortable there despite the presence of much older children up to twelve years old.

Soon we will have to start preparing for the new year. They won’t start back at school fully equipped like the children in the UK. Things don’t fall into place for a couple of weeks as the teacher has to inform us of what books and stationary we need to buy. We then order these at a local shop but you can guarantee that there will be problems or the wrong books will be sent. Don’t worry though as your child won’t get into trouble as this doesn’t seem to bother the teachers too much as they seem to expect the lack of organisation and unreliability of the shops and suppliers. We waited a whole year for a book to arrive and gave up in the end. We had to resort to photocopying the teacher’s copy. It was annoying that the shop never kept us informed and I wonder if they knew themselves that it would never arrive but hey, that’s Spain. However, it is very annoying when it affects your child’s education but that’s another article!

Written by: Susan Pedalino

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Women In Spain

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