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Back to School

Back to School

15th May 2020

Planning on moving to Spain with the family? Then you´ll need to know a little on how the school system works.

An important consideration when buying is Spain is to know where the schools are and which one to choose. Children in Spain tend to start pre-school from the age of 3 but in some areas as young as 2. The compulsory ages for school are from 6 to 16 years of age and there are three categories:

State schools (colegios públicos)
Privately-run schools funded by the state (colegios concertados)
Purely private schools (colegios privados)

The free state schools can be an good option for most families but you may decide that investing in a semi-private or private school your child could benefit from smaller classes and access to a wider range of facilities. The international schools can offer students the option of classes taught in English and Spanish as well as follow the UK curriculum to obtain their GCSE and A-Level qualifications.

School Terms are divided into 3 terms or trimesters with a long break over the summer of nearly three months. The Winter Term spans from September to December; the Spring Term spans from January to Easter, and then the last term from Easter to the end of June. There is a two week holiday for the Christmas period and a week for Easter (Semana Santa) with national and regional bank holidays also being observed.

The system of education can be broken down into 5 stages.

Pre-school (Early years or Infant school)
Primary school (Primary or First & Middle school)
Complusory secondary education (Secondary or High School)
Post-compulsory secondary education (Further Education or College)
Tertiary education (Higher Education or University)

Pre-school (Educación Infantil or Preescolar) is non-compulsory and for children of 3 to 6 years old. They are typically located next to a Primary school but can also be a separate nursery school known as a Colegio Infantile. They are seen as an important step for developing social skills and prepare them academically for the next stage.

Primary school (Educación Primaria or Colegio) starts 6 years of the compulsory 10 year period of education. It is subdivided into three stages:

First Cycle (6 to 8 years old)
Second Cycle (8 to 10 years old)
Third Cycle (10 to 12 years old)

The curriculum is pre-determined by the national and regional standards, starting from the basic academic skills like reading and writing, to subject matter that will prepare them for the secondary school.

Compulsory secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria or ESO) covers the last 4 years of compulsory schooling. Students from 12 to 16 will have a set curriculum but they may also choose to focus on academic subjects with aims of leading onto further education or vocational studies. Upon completion of the ESO, the student will be awarded a Certificate of Completion of Secondary Education (Titulo de Graduado en Educación Secundaria).

Post-Compulsory education

Once students have completed the compulsory secondary education they essentially have three options: 

Leave school.
Study for a Spanish Baccalaureate or Bachillerato (for students pursuing university education or higher vocational studies).
Vocational courses - a program known as Ciclo Formativo. Often offered at the same school at which they earned their ESO certificate.

Spanish Baccalaureate (Bachillerato Education) is a 2 year course which is comparable to the A-Levels in the UK. It is divided into two main parts, a core curriculum which all students must take, and a specialist component.

In the core curriculum students must study:

Spanish Language and Literature:  2 years
Co-Official language of Spain (Valencian, Catalan, Basque):  2 years
First foreign language (English, French, German or Italian; usually English):  2 Years
Philosophy:  2 years
Physical Education:  1 year only
Spanish history:  2 years
Science to the contemporary world:  1 year only
Optional subject (2 foreign language, psychology, informational technology):  2 years
Catholic studies/World religious studies:  Optional in the 1 year only

Specialist components include Art, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Science & Engineering, Information & Communication Technologies, Economics, Geography and History amongst others.

Once the student passes the Bachillerato program, they become eligible to sit for the University Entrance Exam (Pruebas de acceso a la Universidad or Selectividad) which differs between regions. They are also eligible to enter the Superior-level Training Cycles for vocational training (Ciclos Formativos de grado Superior) for which the Spanish Baccalaureate is the principal requirement. After completing this level of vocational training, they can enter the workforce or continue their training in a number of related University degree programs.

Vocational Training is open to students who complete their ESO education and wish to pursue vocational education rather than a Baccalaureate. They can remain in school and enter the Middle Grade Vocational Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de Grado Medio) for typically 2 years. Successful completion of this training can lead to gainful employment in a variety of trades and disciplines.    

Higher Education is available in 76 universities across the country, a majority of which are supported by state funding. Admission is determined by the cut-off grade (nota de corte) that is achieved at the close of the two-year Bachillerato. A number between 1 and 10, called the cut-off grade, is a combination of the grade achieved from the Bachillerato exams and the average grade obtained from the university selection exam. The most popular courses demand the highest cut-off grade. At private universities the cost is the only determining factor with the most popular courses costing the most money.

The higher education system in Spain has aligned itself with the provisions laid out in the Bologna Process which aims to facilitate student transfer at universities throughout Europe. Under this new system, university courses now have “ECTS” credits, and students will normally take 60 of these credits each year.

The Spanish university degree structure is as follows:

Bachelor Program: 3 year program (180 credits)

Master’s Degree: 2 year program (120 credits)

It is important to know that after completing the Bachelor degree students are not awarded a degree. They will instead be promoted to the Master´s program for the final two years of studies. Certain courses do, however, allow students who are not interested in a Master´s level degree, to pursue a 4 year study program that leads to an undergraduate degree.

Students who want to obtain a doctorate-level or PhD degree, as well as more advanced degrees in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, etc. typically span an additional 3 to 7 years depending on the area of study.

Your agent at Lexington Realty can guide you as to where the local schools are for each property and help you get the registration process started.