Schooling in Spain

Published on 3/16/2010 in Kids in Spain

Schools and Education in Spain Guide

Spain has a state funded school system as well as private schools and a range of international and foreign schools. Around 30% of Spain´s schoolchildren attend private schools; the majority of which are co-educational.

Schools in SpainInternational and foreign schools are the only schools which use English as the teaching language. If your children attend any other schools they will be taught their lessons in Spanish. Many people with younger children opt for spanish state schooling. The younger a child begins to learn a second language, the easier it is for them to speak it.

A Spanish state school will also help both pupil and parent integrate into the local community. It is also worth bearing in mind that transferring a child from state education into private education is a far easier process than transferring a child from private education into a state school.

Compulsory education begins at six years of age with the children attending primary school which, in most cases, is local. This lasts for eight years when, at fourteen, the child receives a school leaving certificate. Those with higher marks are able to attend a higher secondary school with less academic pupils moving onto a vocational school.

Different areas have different processes but most state schools will take children from the age of 3 or 4. There are also a number of high quality nurseries available across the coast. Enrolling in a Spanish school requires an interview. New arrivals in Spain must have their children's education record verified which can be a long and expensive process. This is called convalidation.

A pupil will not be accepted without the necessary paperwork so it is best to get this done before arriving in Spain so the child can immediately enter upon arrival in the Country. To enrol you must also have: ·

  • proof of convalidation· (see above),
  • your child's birth certificate or passport,
  • proof of immunization,
  • proof of residence in the form of a bill in your name (if you haven't got one then a rent receipt, or lease is acceptable)
  • and a passport-size photograph (for a student ID card) for a child entering secondary school.
  • Registration in most state schools begins in May for September enrolment.


Spanish school hours

These vary from place to place and according to type of school. One typical schedule would run from 0900 until 1700 with a two hour break for lunch; another typical schedule would go from 0900 with no break and finish classes for the day at 1400.


The Spanish system of education is split into three categories

  • ESO - Compulsory Secondary Education
  • BUP - Equivalent of British GCSEs
  • COU - Spanish version of A level

Those wishing to go on to further education such as university must complete the Selectividad exam.

Please remember that your child will be attending a non-English speaking school, bear in mind that their knowledge of learning the English language should not be taken for granted. All students in Spanish state schools have to take English as a subject. A good idea would be to purchase text books from the UK or purchase from the internet (, so that your child can take advantage of the rudimentary English lessons, use this opportunity to keep their English to excellent standards.

If you are interested in your child following the British curriculum and seek advice about British schools in Spain then you may contact the following department:

British Council - Paseo Martinez Campos, 31, 28/010, Madrid. +34 913 373 500.

If you are considering Spanish state run schools, contact the Town Hall in the area that you are planning to move to. Public education is free, but books and materials are not supplied. Grants are available on a need basis for books and also for lunch programs.

There are special schools too that offer courses in Music, Dance and The Arts. If you live in a rural area then there are state run residential schools as well as private boarding schools. Children with special needs are integrated into mainstream schools wherever possible.

Fourteen is the age when a child's progress in school shapes their future academic possibilities.

Curriculum Areas in Spain

  • Ciencas de la Naturaleza (Natural Sciences) - Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Geology
  • Ciencas Sociales, Geografía e Historia (Social Sciences) - Geography, History
  • Educación Plástica y Visual (Visual education, plastics) - Art and Design, DT
  • Lengua Castellana y Literatura (Spanish Language and Literature)
  • Matemáticas (Mathematics)
  • Música (Music)
  • Tecnología (Technology) - DT, IT
  • Filosofía (Philosophy) - Law
  • Latín, Griego y cultura clásica (Latin, Greek and the Classics)
  • Lenguas extranjeras (Foreign Languages) - English, French/German


Private Education

Private schools can be funded by individuals, cooperatives, businesses or subsidised by the state. Spanish state schools that are subsidised are called Concertados.

Written by: Simone Icough

About the author:

Ambient are providers of recruitment services within Spain and Gibraltar. We bring companies and candidates together. Operating for 4 years on the Costa del Sol.  Check out their website for jobs in Spain and Gibraltar.

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Clloyd said:
Friday, May 15, 2015 @ 2:31 PM

Hi , trying to find out if I need my sons primary school records convalidated from his UK school. He is going to be starting his first year in senior state school hopefully in September in Spain. If anyone's done it would really appreciate any advise.thank you.

debra said:
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 @ 10:28 PM

hi cant afford private education want to come to spain costadelsol where could my 12 year old daughter go to school where there are a mixture of english dutch and spanish do you have to pay for biligual or would it be state school thanks

lorraine said:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @ 8:35 PM

hi... glad someone is in the same boat with this convalidation thing... what is it and do you need it for state schools in fuengirola? were do you get this from? can anyone give me any light on this matter!!! please....! thanks

Rebecca said:
Thursday, April 22, 2010 @ 5:18 PM

Hi Stuart - I've just googled virtually the same question as yours and we too are planning a move to the Coast Blanca (possibly Los Montesinos) in August this year! I have 4 children age 4-12 and I believe their annual uk school reports are proof enough (my older 2 will also have proof of sats results) Have you managed to find a link for the schools as I've searched but with no luck? Cheers, Rebecca

david said:
Monday, March 22, 2010 @ 4:56 PM

we moved to spain 3 years ago, my son was then 8,we did not need any "convalidation" the school just gave him a test to see his standard,however this is in catalonia.

stuart said:
Friday, March 19, 2010 @ 8:52 AM

me and my family are looking to move to spain in august in los montesinos area we would like to put them in the state schools can anyone please tell me how to go about getting school reports proof of convalidtion????
any help would be great
kind regards ...stuart

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