Private schools in Spain

Private and international schools in Spain

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As an alternative to state education in Spain, expat parents can opt to send their children to private schools, international schools, or international baccalaureate schools in Spain.

If you're moving to Spain with children, there is a wide range of private schools (escuelas privadas) in Spain in which you can enrol your child: subsidised private schools, bilingual schools and fully independent international schools, including American and British schools.

Private and international schools in Spain can offer a lot to the expat family, but you need to do research to see which Spanish education system best suits the needs of your children.

Private schools in Spain

Most private schools in Spain are co-educational Catholic day schools, although a number of schools (including some American and British schools) take weekly terms or boaders. Similar to state schools, most private schools in Spain operate a Monday to Friday timetable.

You can choose a private school in Spain based on which course level or curriculum you want your childen to learn, including:

  • the Spanish bachillerato;
  • the British GCSE and A-level examinations;
  • the American High School Diploma and its college entrance examinations (eg. ACT, SAT, achievement tests and AP exams);
  • the International Baccalaureate (IB).

The Spanish bachillerato is generally taught at Spanish private schools, which teach entirely in Spanish, are state-subsidised (thus cheaper) and follow the Spanish state-school curriculum.

Some international schools are also subsidised, follow a bilingual (English/Spanish) curriculum and are also authorised to accept both Spanish and foreign pupils. They are required to teach the Spanish curriculum, including primary and secondary education, and the bachillerato. These schools provide the opportunity for children to become completely bilingual, and to choose between a Spanish or English-language university or career.

To receive state subsidies, 25 percent of a school’s total number of pupils must be Spanish (at least 20 percent in each class). As a condition of receiving government funding, schools with Spanish pupils are subject to inspection by the Spanish school authorities.

International schools in Spain

Some private schools in Spain are independent and can thus follow a curriculum of another country, although fees tend to be higher. In addition to American and British schools there are also French, German, Swedish and other foreign-language schools in Spain. Under Spanish law, all foreign schools must be approved by their country's embassy in Spain. Some international schools accept children from ages three to 18.

If you prioritise an easy transition for your child over integration, it is worth considering a private international school. Also if you are only staying in Spain on a short-term contract, you may feel it is not worth putting your child through the strain of having to learn another language – although the immersion will be beneficial in future years.

Your choice of foreign schools will depend on where you live in Spain. There’s a good choice of English-speaking schools in Madrid, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife, and on the costas. For example, there are British schools in Alicante, Barcelona, Cádiz, Fuengirola, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Las Palmas, Madrid, Menorca, Palma de Mallorca, Marbella, Tenerife, Torremolinos and Valencia.

Private, foreign and international schools tend to have smaller classes and a more relaxed, less rigid regime and curriculum than Spanish state schools. They provide a more varied and international approach to sport, culture and art, and a wider choice of academic subjects. Many also provide English-language summer school programmes combining academic lessons with sports, arts and crafts, and other extra-curricular activities.

A usual aim is developing a child as an individual and the encouragement of his or her unique talents, rather than teaching on a production-line system. This is made possible by small classes which allow teachers to provide pupils with individually-tailored lessons and tuition. The results are self-evident with examination pass rates high, and private secondary schools have an exceptional university placement rate.

On the other hand, one of the major problems of private foreign-language education in Spain is that children can grow up in cultural ‘ghettos’ and be ‘illiterate’ as far as the Spanish language and culture are concerned. Although attending a private school may be advantageous from an academic viewpoint, integration into Spanish society can be severely restricted.

International schools vary hugely, however, and some international schools take pupils from Spain as well as expats. Spain has one of the largest number of 'foreign' schools of any European country, meaning schools where the majority of pupils are from the host nation, as many Spanish seek the prestige of sending their child to an English-speaking or other foreign-language school. So in some schools, lessons may be in English but Spanish can rule in the playground.

Education fees in Spain

Private school fees in Spain vary considerably depending on the quality, reputation and location of a school, but are generally lower compared to the cost of private education in Northern Europe and North America. Not surprisingly, schools located in Madrid and Barcelona tend to be among the most expensive.

Fees at subsidised Spanish schools are around EUR 700 a year, whereas fees at independent foreign schools range from around EUR 4,000 a year to well over EUR 8,000 a year at senior schools (particularly for boarders).

Fees usually do not include registration, books, materials, laundry, insurance, extra-curricular activities, excursions, meals and transport (most private schools provide school buses). As an example, you may need to budget around EUR 800 a term for meals and other extras.

Most private schools subscribe to insurance schemes covering accidents, both in school and during school-sponsored activities.

Some schools award scholarships and offer grants to help parents pay fees, depending on their financial circumstances.

How to apply to a private or international school

Apply to private schools as far in advance as possible, as some international schools have waiting lists for places. You’re usually requested to send school reports, exam results and other records. Before enrolling your child in a private school, make sure you understand the withdrawal conditions and fees in the school contract.

It’s advisable to check whether a school is recognised by the Spanish education authorities and whether it belongs to an accredited organisation. You can also consult ECIS for a list of international schools in Spain, otherwise most British schools in Spain belong to the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS), whose members are visited and approved by British school inspectors. Advice about British English-language schools in Spain can also be obtained from the British Council.

David Hampshire / Expatica

This was an extract from Living and Working in Spain, by David Hampshire. Published by Survival Books, updated 2015.
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19 Comments To This Article

  • Janis posted:

    on 3rd June 2017, 17:23:13 - Reply

    If you could help with advise of schools in Valencia region. For 7 and 9 year old children. 1st garde and 3rd grade.
    English knowladges are at relatively good level although we are not native English speaking people. We plan to move for living in Valncia from Latvia.

    Many thanks in advance!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.] 

  • Isabel posted:

    on 26th May 2017, 21:10:36 - Reply

    Hi Carly,
    My name is Isabel. I am relocating to Sitges in the fall and have been trying to contact the International School of Barcelona in Sitges. I finally spoke with someone and they told me that they were just a boarding service and that they don't have academics. I'm so confused!! I found the school's website but my emails went unanswered and when I finally made contact via telephone, that's what I was told. I'm sure I spoke with the wrong person but if you could give me their direct number, I would be grateful. I have 2 daughters, 15 and 12 and I am worried about getting them into a school in time for the fall semester. they go to school in alexandria virginia and are in 6th and 9th grade. Thanks in advance!
    Isabel Cassle

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.] 

  • Karen posted:

    on 28th April 2017, 16:19:42 - Reply

    Hi! I personally recommend Hamelin-Laie International School in Montgat, Barcelona. We have relocated there 5 months ago. The location is increible and the beaches are great. Hamelin-Laie is a very good school, for students from 0 to 18 years old, and offer National Baccalaureate and International Baccalaureate. My concern was that my daughter doesn't speak Spanish, but the school has also a Language School and they offer extra spanish lessons, and also for parents! The school has a really international feel, there is more than a half of international students for sure. Good luck!
  • Attila posted:

    on 9th September 2016, 15:16:15 - Reply

    Me and my son of 9y are moving from Belgium to granada. Can you give me adresses of good schools for my sun. I want him to learn english and spanisch.

    Greetings Attila

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Irshad posted:

    on 16th May 2016, 21:01:38 - Reply

    Hi, I am likely to move to Madrid from India. can you please suggest good school and avg fee per month etc. My sons are 10 and 5, they don't know Spanish. Looking forward your response. Thanks in advance

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our expat forums.]

  • Carly posted:

    on 22nd May 2015, 11:03:27 - Reply

    Hi, I can personally recommend International School of Barcelona - ISB in Sitges. We have relocated there two months ago. The location is super. It is about half an hour from Barcelona, yet the area is quiet. Sitges is really beautiful and the beaches are great. ISb is a good school, they do IGSCE and IB, all in English. My concern was that my kids don't speak Spanish and will get few friends. But the school and the area have a really international feel, there is more than a half of international students for sure. Good luck!

  • Jason posted:

    on 4th May 2015, 20:45:54 - Reply

    I am in the same boat, moving to Spain with two kids 13 & 15. I am wondering what you have found out. I'm just starting to research. Thanks
  • Sereen posted:

    on 30th April 2015, 09:16:34 - Reply

    what a great website
    I have some questions
    Q1is it possible for Spanish students to join international schools ?
    Q2 what is the average tuition for private schools in spain

    q3 what is the average salary for teachers?

    [Moderator's note: Please post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • ANI2 posted:

    on 30th March 2015, 18:26:26 - Reply

    Hello, we are moving from US to Spain with 2 kids age 12 and 15. Need suggestions on which international school and are to move to.
    Thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our expat forums]

  • sunshine posted:

    on 18th October 2014, 11:15:29 - Reply

    We are evaluating places to move to ... my husband, daughter and i are considering madrid. Need some advise on 2 fronts - 1. good school - she is 15 and will be in the 4th secondary or the 11th grade . What is the best option and the fees. I do not believe good education comes with high fees.
    (2) Can my husband work in Spain if I he is a dependent spouse. I am from India. My husband is a well qualified computer professional .
  • prem posted:

    on 8th September 2014, 10:48:18 - Reply

    Hi I'm Prem from India, working for an international school in Bangalore ( India ), interested to work in Spain, I'm a PHYSICS teacher for the age group of 16 to 18.. my qualifications are M.Sc, M.Phil, B.Ed in physics and 7 years of experience..
  • Mr Duncan Whittaker posted:

    on 2nd August 2014, 01:54:04 - Reply

    I am a Qualified Maths teacher based in the Benidorm area, Costa Blanca, have transport, any enquiries for private tuition, please contact me either on my email above or my mobile no. 633332514.
  • Jess posted:

    on 1st June 2014, 16:33:53 - Reply

    We are a family of 5 w three kids that are moving to Vejer de la frontera in two years. Can anyone recommend where to send our kids to school? We prefer English/Spanish idea. The kids will be 6, 13/14 and 16/17 when we leave from the UK
  • John posted:

    on 8th April 2014, 10:38:44 - Reply

    Hello my children are coursing GCSE and A levels and I need to find some Maths tutor . Someone can help me ??

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our community forums.]

  • Linzi posted:

    on 27th January 2014, 01:48:44 - Reply

    There is a decision to make living in Barca. Do you allow your children to go to state schools and learn Catalan which is a minority language or to a private school for Spanish and English?
    As any expat abroad ..... who teaches your child English? Who teaches them to read? At home its always been English and Brit TV. Outside and at school its Spanish.
  • kulwinder posted:

    on 19th January 2014, 06:42:51 - Reply

    Teaching job here in Spain. I am living at Cornella de llobregat.
  • kulwinder kaur posted:

    on 19th January 2014, 06:41:06 - Reply

    Hello! I am an English teacher, I can't speak Spanish.. Can anyone tell me the criteria to get job in any school, please. Thanks.
  • Emiliano posted:

    on 22nd October 2013, 09:14:10 - Reply

    Hola JMS, my wife and I are planning to move to Spain in 2014 or 2015, 3 kids (12, 10, 3); I am from Argentina (fluent Spanish) but my wife and kids do not speak fluent (yet), and my wife is an elementary school teacher (taught in international schools in Asia for 10 years, from Kindergarden to grade 3); would you be able to guide us in any way schools to consider in Costa Blanca, both for my wife to work and for the kids to school? Thanks in advance for any advice.
  • JMS posted:

    on 14th September 2011, 23:30:27 - Reply

    Both my sons (now 10 and 13) go to Catalan state schools. Although I work in an international private school and I could send them there cheaply, I prefer for them to be educated where they are. They are happy, and doing well. It's too early to pass an overall judgement, but as a family we are happy. They are trilingual (Catalan, Spanish and English) and have normal difficulties, like with maths or with playing an instrument. I agree with J S; " it's a mistake to think that you always get better quality education when you pay a lot".