Getting your children into school in Spain – The easy way!
If you are a parent, relocating to a new country when you have children is extremely daunting. I have moved to and from southern Spain with my two children several times, this will explain how to get your children into school in Spain. Before I arrived here for the first time I extensively researched online what was the quickest way of getting my children into the local Spanish school. There was very little information but what I could find was either on the UK Government website or via various ex-pat forums. None of which really gave me a quick and simple way of how to go about this. Always keep in mind that if you are already a citizen of an EU country, then you do not require a visa/work permits or to officially register as a tax resident to live in Spain and to place your children into school, click here for Spanish ministry of education site. Indeed it is the law that all children in the EU are educated. They really can’t do anything about you being here but complain (and the Spanish love to complain about the foreigners).
The Schengen Agreement led to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area in 1995. This allows all EU citizens the right to move freely with the EU member countries. Spain however, likes everyone to register as a Spanish resident and also as a tax payer, although it is by no means law there are a few steps I would advise you to follow to make your own life much easier.
The first step of this is to obtain a NIE. A NIE Numbers A Foreign Identification Number Número de Identificación de Extranjero. If you are intending to live permanently or for any length of time in Spain it is best to obtain a NIE before you do anything else. Go to the local police station (Polica Nationale) between 8-11am and collect the form, fill it in, go to the nominated bank, pay the fee then return to the police station the following day with all your forms (photocopy them and your passports twice) and they will issue you one immediately. You will need your NIE for anything legal and to open your bank account to pay your bills.
Your next step in getting your children into school is register as a resident at the local town hall.
These are the documents you need to register as a resident:
Full birth certificates of children only (x 2 photocopies)
Passports of all residents of your household, including the children (x 2 photocopies)
Copy of your tenancy agreement (If in English this must be translated into Spanish but only one copy needs to be signed – x 2 photocopies)
NIE – Not essential at this point but the school will ask for it when you apply for the school place. (If you own property in Spain, or live in Spain as a resident, you are going to need an N.I.E. number for numerous tasks)
Now you need to locate and attend the local town hall. Town halls in Spain vary in size and what services they offer so you may need to ask at the information desk where you need to go and who you need to see to register as resident in your province. The town hall will check the owner of your property and the documents you submit and they will issue you with a “Ayuntamiento de (Mine says Mijas)” certificate confirming all residents of your household and most importantly that the children live at your address. You can now go to the local school and apply for your child to attend and also register at the local doctor’s surgery.
I visited all of the local schools and certainly had my preferences over others, unfortunately we have no say in the matter at the local education department decide which school your child/children will be attending. Once you have collected the application for a school place forms from any school you submit them and the local education authority call you to tell you where your child will be going to school and when they can start. This can all be done on the same day.
A little Spanish schooling info
- Schooling in Spain is compulsory between the ages of 6 to 16, Nursery education 3 to 6 years Educación Infantil, Primary education 6 to 12 years Educación Primaria, Secondary education 12 to 16/18 years Educacion Secundaria.
- The Spanish School Leaving Certificate ESO is equal to a number of GCSEs, Junior Cert in Ireland or Standard Grades in Scotland. The Bachillerato is equal to A levels, Leaving Certificate in Ireland as a result, Spanish students gaining the appropriate grades necessary for entrance into universities in other parts of Europe, including Britain, are not precluded.
- Primary education 6 to 12 years is split into three two year periods. If the necessary standard by the end of any period is not attained they may have to repeat the second year of that period. Children learn the Spanish language, maths, Conocimiento del Medio which includes history, geography and biology, Physical Education, Art and a another language, generally English. Religion is also taught most schools concentrating on Catholicism.
- If you opt to fund your children’s education in the private system, international schools are a choice. It is worth knowing that though they may be international by name, they are not always by nature. In some forms, the bulk of pupils are local children and not the children of globetrotting, transitory families as might be anticipated. British and American schools can attract Spanish families seeking an English language education for their offspring.