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Education in Spain

Starting School

British families who move to Spain with school-age or pre-school children should register at their town hall, who will advise about schools.

Compulsory schooling starts at the age of 3. Your child either enters the state education system, or is enrolled at a charter school which is a private school run by a religious organisation but funded by the state, or a fee-paying private school. Spanish families place high priority on giving their children a good education; consequently places at private schools are filled well in advance, and there are waiting lists. Parents should contact the school direct to find out what their procedures are.

State schools take children from their catchment area. In rural areas there will often be only one school that serves your village, but in cities there may be several possible schools. Where that is the case parents can specify which school they would prefer, but all applications are submitted to the education department and decisions are made on a points system. For instance, a family living in the same neighbourhood as their preferred school with children already at that school scores more points than a family in an adjacent neighbourhood with no child attending the school. Once all decisions have been made, the administration will write to all the families to inform them which school their child will attend.

Families who move to Spain during the school year should seek advice from the town hall.

Application forms for the state system can be obtained from the education department. You also need a medical statement from your doctor; your child's vaccinations must be up to date, and you should be able to provide evidence of vaccinations in the UK.

Secondary Education

At 12, children begin the secondary phase of education. At 14 they can choose which subjects to take and which to drop. Upon successfully completion of four years of secondary education they are awarded their ESO (certificate of secondary education, Educación Secundaria Obligatoria). This may take more than four years since failure to make satisfactory progress can mean repeating the year.

Teenagers who have their ESO can move on either to higher secondary education and aim for their bachillerato or baccalaureat, or begin vocational training.

Youth Culture

Of course underage drinking and substance abuse exists in Spain to some extent. The legal age to drink in bars is 18. It should be noted that personal consumption of marijuana is legal in Spain and growing the plant for your own consumption is perfectly acceptable, but dealing or public consumption is illegal. The Spanish government is proactive in monitoring and combating these issues, and it also funds a network of youth organisations to try to provide constructive activities for teenagers.