The Education System in Spain
If you have decided that your child is to attend a Spanish State school, before you leave the UK you will need to photocopy all your child/children’s exam certificates and have the photocopies certified. A good idea is to have two of each exam certificate just to be on the safe side.
Any English documentation to be submitted for the purpose of enrolling your child in school will require a full Spanish translations of the original document.
The Spanish Education System: Spain bases its education system on their Fundamental Law of Education (Ley Orgánica de Educación) which means that not only is education free but it is also compulsory for children from the age of 6 until 16 years of age. In the secondary stage of education children are required to complete a School Leaving Certificate (ESO). After this and if the child is over 16 the choice is open as to whether or not to continue to the equivalent of British A-levels (Bachillerato). After successfully completing the Bachillerato pupils then have to sit another exam to see if they have reached the standard required at a University they wish to enter. These exams (selectividad) are set by the University they wish to enter.
Note: Whilst it may be a good thing for a child to be integrated into the local culture, it is something to consider very carefully once your child is above the very early stages of their education, as the complete change of culture and language may cause unnecessary disruption and may affect your child’s ability to cope.
Registering your child for school
On Arrival in Spain
Your family is required to register on the town hall list, the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes. Once you have done this, you need to head for the Education Department (Ayuntamiento), where you will be issued with a school registration form and medical certificate form. The medical certificate form has to be completed by a doctor and must include your child’s full medical history and confirm that all vaccinations are up-to-date.
How to get a medical certificate
Before you leave: A good idea is to get a medical certificate before you leave the UK and have it translated and submit both the original with the Spanish translation, but this should be the last thing you do before leaving the UK to ensure that it is valid.
In Spain: if you are entitled to the state healthcare you can go to a state clinic near you, they will know what is required.
If you have not yet registered with Social Security you need to go to a private clinic or a local doctor.
Finding a local school
Finding a local school: The town hall in your town/city or the Provincial Ministry of Education Offices will have lists of the schools in their areas. If you are living in a rural area there may be only one school and therefore no lists are necessary.
Once you have the completed medical certificate form you need to complete the school registration form and for this you will require your NIE number as well as ID documents that provide confirmation that you are the parent/guardian. The registration form allows you to select either Spanish or a local dialect as the language of choice. All Spanish schools are Catholic so expect your child to be given religious education as a Catholic.
The choice of school is not up to the parent/guardian the Ayuntamiento will determine which school in its catchment area is appropriate and will notify you.
Documents to enrol your child at a state school
- A confirmation of residence document: Volante de Empadronamiento or Certificado de Empadronamiento. Issued at the town hall. This confirms that your child is a resident within its catchment area.
- Your child’s birth certificate, a full translation in Spanish and a photocopy
- The completed medical certificate form issued by your doctor
- Three recent passport size photographs of your child.
Second cycle of secondary school
- Proof that your child’s education record has been verified by the Spanish Ministry of Education. An official form is provided by the Ministry of Education and is available at most Spanish Consulates and Embassies.
To verify past education (homologación or convalidación)
- Completed and signed application form
- Your child’s school record book and/or exam qualifications
- Your child’s birth certificate
All documents not issued in Spanish require official Spanish translations. It is a good idea to submit the translations together with stamped certified copies as it is risky to let go of originals.
All documents should then be forwarded to:
Subdirección General de Títulos, Convalidaciones y Homologaciones
Paseo del Prado 28
Private and International Schools in Spain
International schools: are the most popular education choice of ex-pats as these schools offer education in the UK recognised examinations and you can choose a school where the language of tuition is English, and in many instances the teachers are UK nationals.
British Private Schools: there are quite a number of British private schools, but if you choose one of these it is advisable that you check if they are a member of the National Association of British Schools in Spain before you make you final choice. For a list of accredited British schools in Spain go to the National Association of British Schools in Spain website.
British International Schools: there is a list of schools in Spain on the Council of British International schools on the COBIS website. One this website you can contact the school of your choice and request further details on fees and entry requirements.
Further information: The Good Schools Guide International list, provides independent reviews of the top international schools in Spain. gsgi.co.uk