Education Options for Expat Kids on the Costa Blanca

For British Expats making the big move to the Costa Blanca with their kids and family, the education options can present as quite confusing and daunting.  This article should serve to explain and simplify the choices in front of you and hopefully give you some peace of mind with the decision you have to make for your most precious asset, your children. 

There are two directions available to you on the Costa Blanca, public or private.  Each of these two major areas of education also have multiple options and we will cover everything you need to know below.  

Remember you can always do this yourself or hire a relocation expert that will take care of everything for you so you can do what all Expats do after they relocate to the Costa Blanca, RELAX! (get expert advice now)

Public Education on the Costa Blanca 

Is Public Education Good on the Costa Blanca

The good news for Expats relocating to the Costa Blanca is that the quality of education is still considered very high and is above the average according to the most recent Better Life Index put out by The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  So if you are a fan of the public school system then rest assured your children are in capable hands on the Costa Blanca.

The Pros and Cons of Public Education Options for Expats Kids on the Costa Blanca

As with anything there are always pros and cons to ponder and the topic of public education on the Costa Blanca is no different.  Please see below as we have listed the most glaring pros and cons for you to review and hopefully help with your decision making process.

This has to be one of the most underrated benefits of the Spanish public education system.  By integration we mean, into the community, for both the parents and the kids.  School is a meeting place and can help relocating families develop relationships that could last a lifetime.
Different from Home
When the school system your child comes from is significantly different from the one they find on the Costa Blanca they could have issues if and when they return home back to the original system.  They may have to work extra hard to get back up to speed.
The fact that attending Spanish public school will give children a second fluent language and make them fully bilingual is a benefit that certainly cannot be overlooked and certainly won’t be by their future endeavours.
Strangely enough this is a pro and a con because if your child is a bit older entering into the education system in a new place, having to make new friends and learn a new language on top of it all could be a struggle with communication, comprehension and social dynamics.
One of the hardest things to do as a relocating Expat is to insert yourself into the culture and there is no better way to do this than through the public education system.  Your kids will learn vast amounts of knowledge about local and national culture and history.
Because the Costa Blanca works on a points system where points are awarded based on where you work and live.  You could also get points if a sibling already attends the school.  In short, even if you moved into the catchment area and chose the school and it is a popular school you may not get placed there.
This is a simple one to explain.  The public education system on the Costa Blanca is free of fees which makes it the most budget friendly option.  The only hidden fee is books and supplies which are paid by the parents or legal guardians.

Registering Your Child for Public Education on the Costa Blanca

The first thing to understand about registering your kids for school on the Costa Blanca is that you will need a certificado de empadronamiento (similar to census registration) for whichever ayuntamiento (town hall) you’re living under on the Costa Blanca .  In order to be able to get this you will need to have already been granted Spanish residency.  For help with Spanish residency you can always hire a relocation expert. (get expert advice now)  You may need assistance with this since everything has drastically changed as a result of Brexit.

Once you have the "el padron", as the Spanish call the certificado de empradronamiento, you can go to the education department for your city or town and get the necessary enrollment and medical forms you will need to register for the public education system.

The enrollment period will be different depending on the school you are enrolling in and the level of education.  The ministry of education will announce the admission periods so keep an eye on the government websites.  This period will likely be a 2 month window between February and June for September of the same year.

The documents and forms you will likely need to have along the way could be:

  • Filled in forms from the department of education
  • Parental passport(s)
  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Child’s passport
  • Spanish residency (TIE)
  • Child’s up to date immunisation and medical records 
  • 2 passport sized photos

So in conclusion, the option of public education for Expat kids on the Costa Blanca is a complicated one registration wise, but can be accomplished with good organisation and planning.  Always remember these tasks can be automated for you by a relocation expert that has all the experience and expertise necessary to take care of it for you. (get expert advice now)

Preschool Education on the Costa Blanca

On the Costa Blanca preschool is between the ages of 3 months and 6 years old and is not mandatory.  School is only mandatory from the ages of 6 and 16 on the Costa Blanca.  This preschool education is split into two stages or cycles.  Both stages are free of charge and covered and governed by the autonomous community.

The first stage is for children between 3 months and 3 years old and is taught at daycare centres (guarderias in Spanish).  The operating hours for stage 1 are from 9:00 until 13:00.  

The second stage is for children between 3 and 6 years old and is known as infant school or kindergarden.  This stage is taught at infant schools (escuela infantil in Spanish).  The in school hours for this stage are 9:30 until 16:30 which includes a 2 hour lunch that the children may either stay in the school for or be collected and returned afterward.

The enrollment level in both the preschool stages is high in Spain and it is recommended that you at least secure a spot for your child in level 2 as this is when they start teaching soft skills and they can develop friendships and social skills.  It is important to note that if your child is a native English speaker with zero Spanish then the earlier the better to get them in with Spanish speaking children.

Primary Education on the Costa Blanca

After your child graduates from kindergarten or infant school  level and is ready to move onto what is considered primary school.   This is the first compulsory part of the public education system on the Costa Blanca.  Children will attend these primary schools between the ages of 6 and 12.

Sometimes it is possible to make a choice of which primary school you would like your child to attend but generally it works on which school is closest to your home.  There are rare occasions when the school closest to your residence is full and at this point the local government will find your child a place in the next closest school with availability.   Just remember though that spare places are awarded through the points system described above.

Primary school is divided into 2 stages (ciclos in Spanish) and are both 2 years each.

Your child will spend at least 50% of their learning time in primary school on the core subjects of maths, science, Spanish literature and comprehension, social studies and a start on a first second language.  The other portion of time is dedicated to other subjects such as physical education, arts, drama and possibly other local languages and dialects.

Secondary Education on the Costa Blanca 

Like primary education, secondary education is 4 years long from 12 to 16 years old and is divided into 2 stages (ciclos in Spanish) of 2 years.  The same core subjects are taught for 50% of the time but at a higher level.  The elective options increase as you go through secondary education.  

After completing all their courses and finishing secondary education they will receive a diploma  or certificate (Título de Graduado en Educación Secundaria Obligatoria in Spanish) to show that they have completed the compulsory secondary education.

Should they want to continue on and go to university they need to complete what is called a bachillerato which is a 2 year preparatory program designed to prepare you for university entrance exams.  This is usually taught at the same school as your compulsory secondary education and again requires the study of the core subjects and 4 more courses of their choosing.

The last step before going to university in Spain is to take the Spanish university admission tests (Evaluación de Acceso a la Universidad in Spanish or Selectividad).  These entrance exams are typically taken at the end of your second year of the bachillerato between June and September.

The other choice of continued education after receiving your certificate for completing compulsory education is to attend vocational training to learn a skill or trade.

Private Education on the Costa Blanca

Are There Different Types of Private education on the Costa Blanca

You will be able to find three different options for private education on the Costa Blanca.

  1. Semi-private

 These schools are generally former fully private Spanish language schools that are now financially supported by the government.  The result of this funding is that enrollment fees will be very low and sometimes can even not exist.  These are good options for parents interested in smaller class sizes and possibly more attention to English studies.  The quality and reputation of these schools will vary from one to another but if the school is in a reputable and safe area you can assume the school will reflect that.

  1. Private

Private schools in Spain are just that, fully private and can be quite expensive depending on the school.  These schools are thought to have smaller class sizes, more qualified teachers and better extra curricular activities.  Unless otherwise indicated these private schools are taught in the Spanish language and will follow the same curricu;lum and expectations as the State schools.  It is very important to collate all your documents and applications and submit well ahead of time to ensure a chance at a spot in the school of your choosing.

  1. International

International schools on the Costa Blanca are fully private education institutions that teach according to a foreign curriculum.  For British Expat kids there are several options on the Costa Blanca and the cost could vary greatly depending on your choice.  Be sure to investigate all the international school options before choosing as all the schools have benefits and drawbacks.  For instance check to see if the school has an accredited international GCSE program if your child plans on going back to the UK to study in the future.

What are the School Fees for Private Education Cost on the Costa Blanca

Unfortunately, this question has no real easy answer.  Because all of the options on the Costa Blanca for private education are, just that, private, they can set their own fees and as such differ tremendously.  It is best that you contact each school that interests first and ascertain their fees (remember to ask for all the fees, not just tuition) before narrowing down the choices.  It would be silly to get emotionally invested and excited for a school only to find out later it is way over budget.

However, we can tell you that from our experience fees can range anywhere from €1,500 up €25,000 a year.  If you do your research you will find that there are some half and full scholarships available out there for academic performance.

As these schools are fully private and funded by high tuitions and parent donations the facilities are always to a high spec.  This gives children access to the best equipment, especially in the area of sports.
This is undoubtedly the biggest disadvantage of private education on the Costa Blanca.  Depending on which school you choose the monthly or annual fees can be extremely high and that’s just tuition.  After school activities, sports and school excursions can really start to add up.
Again because of the funding available to the school they are able to offer extra curricular activities and excursions that you wouldn’t have access to in the public system.
Because private schools, especially international ones, have fewer locations than public schools it is likely that your child will have to travel either by car or bus to get to school and back everyday.
Because of the size of the schools, the enrollment cap and the available budget the teacher to student ratio is lower than any public school anywhere.  This is presumably better for child development and learning.
The other major issue with private international schools is that generally your child will be going to school with other international children and not be exposed to Spanish culture from the Costa Blanca.  If you plan on being on the Costa Blanca long term this could affect your child’s social dynamic in Spain.
Private schools, international ones especially, can be very advantageous to your child if they are older.  Integrating into Spanish state school can be difficult if they are older and already adapted well to English.  In this instance it will be much easier and more comfortable for them. 

In Conclusion

Worrying about your child’s education and their social dynamic at school is completely normal and all parents experience it.  On the Costa Blanca education and the well being of children are taken very seriously.  The public system is great and as long as your child can adapt to the language they should have no issues at all.  In the case that you prefer a fully English speaking system with teachers and administrators that speak English the private system in Spain rivals any others around the world.  You just have to have the budget for as  many kids as you have.

All in all, any experience of education on the Costa Blanca will be exciting, educational and fulfilling for children, no matter the path that is chosen for them.

Remember if you would like to take all the stress and worry out of school registration you can hire a relocation expert that will walk you through the entire process and do all the boring admin stuff for you. Fill in the form below and a relocation expert will be in touch shortly.

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