Living In Spain


Families planning to live in Spain often worry about the sort of education their children are likely to get and ... how to go about getting it!

For those with the financial means and inclination, there are several good, international private schools throughout Spain, many of long standing. But, not everyone can afford these: my daughter, for example, was educated at the local state Spanish school and I, certainly, have no complaints.

If you are settling in Spain and wish your children to attend the local state school, you must first be registered on the "Empadronamiento". This is surprisingly easy and you need not be resident or have a NIE number. Just go to the local Town Hall ("Ayuntamiento") with passports, copy of "escritura" (deeds) if a property owner, or your rental contract if not, and ask to register. You will be given a "Volante de Empadronamiento" - a document confirming your entry.

The Spanish state schools provide free education for children from the age of three onwards although, unlike Britain, you have to pay for all their books. There is no uniform, but infants are expected to wear a little overall, usually a sort of blue-and-white checked affair.

School hours differ from the UK

Infant and Junior schools start at 9 am, break for lunch at either 12 noon or 12.30 pm, recommence at 3 pm or 3.30 pm and finish at 5 pm. Nowadays, children can usually stay for school dinners, and there are extra-curricula activities to occupy them during the long lunch break.

In the hot summer months of June and September, school hours are shorter - 9 am until 1 pm - with no afternoon lessons.

Secondary or high school ("instituto") hours differ. The youngsters start earlier - at 8 am - and finish about 2 pm, with no afternoon lessons.

School Holidays

Children will certainly enjoy the Spanish school summer holidays as they are quite long! Younger children receive about 10 weeks and secondary/high-school children, about 3 months! (Did I hear Mum and Dad say they've decided against coming to live in Spain!).

School Leaving Age / Required Examinations

Children must remain at school until the age of 16, when they should matriculate by passing their ESO - "Enseñanza Secundaria Obligatoria". This is probably the equivalent to GCSEs in Britain. However, you have to pass the whole curriculum, not just individual subjects. This consists of some 14 subjects and, if you fail three or more, you have to repeat the whole year!

For the academically inclined, after completing ESO comes the "bachilllerato" course - equivalent to British A-levels - which you need for university entrance.

After successfully gaining the ESO your child may prefer a work training course of some sort. Should this be the case, s/he can opt for one of the many "formación profesional" courses. Tourism, administration, computers, electrical work ... there is a multitude to choose from, most lasting about two years.

"Formación profesional" (FP) courses come in two grades: middle and advanced. For the middle grade, you will need your ESO; for the advanced, you will need your "bachillerato" or FP middle grade.

But what about the youngster who has not successfully completed ESO? Well, there are a number of courses called "módulos", where s/he can obtain a training, for example telephonist and reception work. And, of course, if bi-lingual, with basic computer knowledge and a driving licence, s/he could probably find work without any specialist training, in particular in tourist areas.

So ... perhaps Spain is no different from most other countries: there is a suitable niche for everyone and, if approached with enthusiasm and vigour, it is surely possible to be successful in whichever field is chosen!

The Types of Spanish School

Infant Education (Educacion Infantil)

Infant Education throughout Spain is generally well taught and lasts for three years.

Primary Education (Educacion Primaria)

Children progress into Primary Education at approximately 6 years old. The stage lasts for six years and is divided into three cycles and the classes will be mixed ability. In the third year term exams are introduced.

Secondary Education

At age 12, children start Secondary School, similar to the UK Comprehensive School system, with complete mixed ability groups. The first four years of secondary school are compulsory and the leaving age is 16 years, otherwise they can stay on and do the 2 year 'bachillerato' (academic) or 'modulos' (practical).


Students planning to go to university must take an entrance exam and this will be taken into account together with the results of their 'bachillerato'.

Please Note International 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.

map of Spain