Back to school in Spain – Olive Press News Spain

With the festive season winding down, tourists heading home, and nights coming, that can only mean one thing: the kids are back in school.

While most parents and children look forward to the ‘vuelta al cole‘, and some can’t wait for the school doors to open, it can be a trying experience for some families, especially if they are new to the Spanish system.

Maybe your elementary-aged daughter is shy about going to class, or your teenager has spent most of the holidays in bed and this is a major jerk to the system.

Many of you will have a child who is not fluent in Spanish and is worried about communicating with classmates.

Some students will change schools, which can be a life-changing decision. They could go from a public school to an international college, or to a Montosorri or Warldorf institution.

Other students will repeat a school year, having failed an exam or two in June, presenting a particular set of challenges for child and parent.

Or maybe you’re just wondering where to get this year’s school supplies without costing a small fortune.

Whatever your child’s school situation is in September (and most will have started last week, so they’ll have gotten used to it by now), the Olive Press sets out to demystify “back to school 2022.”

Blue backpack with school supplies. Photo: Adobe.

What types of education are available in Spain

For parents who view their children as individual “square pegs”, who do not fit into the “round holes” of public education, based largely on continuous assessment and examinations, there are alternative choices available. throughout Spain.

There are 7,806 private schools in Spain, of which 14,694 are in the public sector…so around a third of the schools are independent.

Among other interesting official statistics, with an enrollment rate of 97.3%, there is not much homeschooling or school absenteeism in Spain.

Meanwhile, 9.9% of Spanish students are foreign, while in Andalusia 21% are educated outside the public system and in Valencia this figure rises to 25%, which is why there are so many schools international schools on the coasts, many with French, British and American schools. study programs.

International Schools for a UK Program

In the case of British schools, these offer Cambridge exams and allow students to take GCSEs and A-Levels.

Most offer an individualized learning plan, which would not be available in public schools and they are likely to have excellent purpose-built facilities.

They communicate with parents in their mother tongue, which facilitates parent-teacher meetings.

International schools also offer a convenient route to seamlessly enter the UK university system.

They are a popular choice with parents who come to Spain for contract work, or for a limited time only, and do not plan to stay here – although that type of working life has diminished with Brexit.

Parents can expect to pay between €10,000 and €35,000 per year, depending on whether or not the child enters school.

Parents will also need to purchase uniforms and other extras for their children.

The Waldorf/Steiner system

Spain has more than 70 Waldorf or Steiner schools. Dating from 1919 in Germany, they are based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner.

It is one of the largest groups of independent schools in the world and the educational style is holistic and aims to develop students’ intellectual, artistic and practical skills, as well as their imagination and creativity.

In this system, teachers play an important role in defining the curriculum and classroom methods. Assessments are integrated into daily classroom activities and formal testing is limited to the actual requirements for students to enter post-secondary education, not the ongoing, formal assessment that occurs in a public school. The costs are approximately €200 per month.

mother or school teacher with children.  Creative arts and crafts
Schoolchildren around a project. Photo: Adobe.


Spain has several Montessori schools, with most major cities offering at least one.

Developed at the beginning of the 20e century by the Italian physician Maria Montessori and based on scientific experimentation, the emphasis is on the development of natural interests and activities, as well as practical learning and real-life skills, rather than the use of formal teaching methods.
The idea is to encourage independence by helping children learn in a well-prepared environment and this discourages grades and tests.

Popular elements of this system include co-ed classrooms, freedom for students to choose their own activities, uninterrupted work time, and specially trained teachers. The cost can be around €200 per month.

Children playing educational game on floor in Montessori school
Children playing in Montessori school. Photo: Adobe.

A Parent’s Perspective – State vs. Independent

Jenni Stephanides from Seville is both a parent and a teacher, with one daughter attending a state school, while the other is at the international school where she teaches.

“The two girls started at the international school, because my husband and I work there. We were offered free places, which allowed the girls to continue their education in the UK system, should we decide to return to the UK.

“But after three years, my eldest daughter was advanced by a school year. Due to her birthday, she had been placed in the correct academic year for the UK, but not for Spain – this held her back educationally.

“Meanwhile, my youngest was placed in the correct school year.

“When we decided to stay in Spain, we gave both girls the choice to switch to the Spanish system to integrate more into the local community. Both refused at the time.

“My eldest is about to start her final year and intends to go to university in the UK. However, my youngest moved to the Spanish system last year and immediately thrived.

“Now she is fluent in Spanish, got fantastic grades in her first year in the public system and has many friends from the public system. My eldest stands by her decision to stay in independent school.

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High school student teenager. Photo: Ben Mullins/Unsplash.

Peter Jones is the opposite. His two children began their education in the interior province of Valencia in a public school at an early age and enjoyed it and flourished.

But as they entered their teenage years, Jones, a businessman who spends his time traveling around Europe, agreed with his wife and their children that they should try a private school on the coast of the Costa Blanca.

The family felt they would have a better chance of excelling in the arts and music and, most importantly, meeting a more international group of children, who in turn would “broaden their horizons”.

“It’s definitely worked out and they’re both loving it, with the eldest taking her A-levels and planning a good university in the UK, while our younger daughter will probably take the International Baccalaureate and go to university in Holland or Germany. “

He continued: “Although it meant earning around €2,000 more a month, it definitely paid off. They’re completely bilingual and still friends with their old local buddies, who of course are all planning colleges, if at all, in Spain.

I sent my son to a Steiner school

Olive Press reader Annabelle Gray insists her son, 10, has ‘boosted his confidence’ after moving from state education to a Granada-area Steiner school.

“At the international school, she had lots of friends from all over the world, but the Spanish girls didn’t include her and she wasn’t sure if she spoke Spanish.

“He really didn’t like regular school. He was quiet and introverted and felt the other children were getting more attention because they demanded it from the teachers.

“Now he is seen and valued. When he started, he didn’t speak during morning circle time – the first part of the day when children and teachers share their news and feelings. Now he shares gladly every day.He has a noticeable sense of self-confidence, enjoys learning now, and talks about what he is doing at school.

The curriculum includes math, English and languages, but they are taught visually with stories and illustrations on the board. And they also learn geography, astronomy, botany, zoology, geometry, agriculture, music, noise mythology and more.

“Everything is taught in blocks of around 4-5 weeks, except for key subjects which are weekly, so children learn and explore many different things.”

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Books, blocks and apple. Photo: Element5Digital / Unsplash.



  • Your child will be involved in your local community
  • Their friends will live there
  • They will quickly master Spanish / Bilingual
  • No more carrying your children to school
  • It’s free

The inconvenients

  • Rigid structure based on continuous assessment
  • Difficult for parents who do not speak Spanish to understand what is happening
  • Not much creative learning, in terms of art, acting, etc.
  • It is relatively easy for your child to repeat a year. With regard to secondary education, the repetition rate is 5.5% for public establishments combined with 1.4% for independents.



  • Cambridge exams are provided
  • Supports entry into UK universities
  • Entrance to the International Baccalaureate
  • The school is likely to be in a beautiful setting because you are paying for it!
  • Individualized learning plan
  • Constant contact with parents / participation in the learning experience
  • Talk to Educators in English

The inconvenients

  • The cost each year
  • Pay for the school uniform your child must wear
  • Less immersion of your child in their local community
  • Friends may live further away
  • Child is less likely to be fluent in Spanish
  • The need to transport children to school – possibly at a geographical distance
  • School holidays do not correspond to Spanish holidays

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