Education in Spain

Picking the right school in Spain to help your child integrate

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If you plan to enrol your child in the education system in Spain, what factors do you need to consider to ensure they integrate well into a school in Spain?

Moving to Spain can be difficult for your child if she encounters difficulty assimilating into the new school’s culture, says author Yolanda Solo.

How would you feel to know your bright young child was bottom of the class in all subjects and the object of ridicule by his school-mates. Not only that but the reason for this was entirely your fault?

With more and more Brits relocating their family to Spain, the negative impact a move like this can have on school-age children who were doing well in their own country is becoming clear.

Yolanda Solo, author of Spain: The Expat Survival Guide and mother of two believes serious damage can be done to your child's education if you get things wrong.

She says, "The refusal of many expats to learn Spanish is having the biggest negative impact on their children's education. Despite many schools in Spain working hard to teach language skills to children from other countries, their parents will be unable to help their children with homework as they do not understand the language."

"Furthermore," Yolanda continues, "those who mix only with the expat community find it harder to integrate into the Spanish lifestyle. As a result many expat children always feel the odd ones out, have difficulty making friends and often come bottom in their class at school."

Yolanda has the following advice for parents of school-age children considering a move to Spain.

Spanish or international school?

If you send your children to a local school they will quickly learn the language, make local friends and adapt to the Spanish way of life. However, the initial shock of being thrown into a new school with new friends and having to learn a new language can severely affect many children.

If you choose to send the children to an international school, it will make the transition easier but it will also mean that your children are likely to mix mainly with other English-speaking children and not integrate well in their new home.

Bilingual schools also exist and are a good alternative to the other options as they are likely to have a mix of Spanish and international children and will continue to learn in English as well as Spanish.

Younger children fair better

The younger your children are, the better they will adapt.

A key age seems to be about seven or eight years old. Much older and it begins to get harder as your children will have an established group of friends and already be used to a certain school system.

Older children will therefore benefit most from learning Spanish before they arrive to speed up their integration into the school system.

Fee-paying schools

While accessible when you first arrive with lots of savings or the proceeds from the sale of your house in your own country it is important to remember that you may be looking at over EUR 60,000 to keep two children in school for 10 years – not including extras and inflation.

Research the schools listed on the websites such as the National Association of British Schools in Spain  to estimate the school fees payable in the area of Spain you will be relocating to.

Do your homework

Decide on which type of school is most likely to suit your child and research the schools accordingly. If you are going to send your children to a local Spanish school it will make their transition much easier if they start learning Spanish before they arrive. 

Yolanda Solo / Expatica

Yolanda Solo is the author of Spain: The Expat Survival Guide – a comprehensive look at the realities of moving to Spain and why it can be a financial and emotional nightmare.

Updated 2008; 2010.

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