Find out everything you need to know about sending your child to primary school in Spain, be it public, private, religious or international schools.
Finding the right school for your child in Spain and enrolling them can seem like a huge undertaking. But help is at your fingertips as this guide will describe the main types of schools in Spain and explain the registration process. We will also list the pros and cons of each type of school, which will make your choice a bit easier.
The guide includes the following information:
The primary education system in Spain
Education is compulsory in Spain from 6 to 16 years old. Primary education (Primary education) covers children from 6 to 12 years old. There are three types of schools in Spain: state funded, private subsidized and private. You will likely come across several acronyms, such as:
- PIEC (Child and primary education center): These schools have facilities for preschool and primary children.
- CC (Colegio Concertado): State-subsidized private schools
- CPEIP (Centro Privado de Educación Infantil y Primaria): Private nursery and primary schools
Most parents send their children to kindergarten while many primary schools also offer preschool services (Infant Education). For more information on how education works, see our guide to education in Spain.
Public / public primary schools in Spain
Public primary education is popular: Spain has nearly 14,000 public schools. Public schools have, on average, 21 students per class, which is consistent with other OECD countries. Tuition is free, but there are often additional fees, such as textbooks and school trips. Books alone can cost up to € 200 per year, so it’s worth budgeting or buying used ones. However, it is unlikely that you will need to purchase a uniform because only about 13% Spanish public schools need it.
In addition to fully funded public schools, Spain has approximately 3000 concerted colleges. Most of them are Catholic and provide religious education at a lower price than private schools. The State provides funding, so they are under the supervision of local authorities (Autonomous communities).
Additional charges may include:
- A monthly subscription: by law, this is voluntary, but in practice most schools treat it as mandatory
- A uniform: not all schools need one, but they are more common in concerted colleges
- All other costs are similar to a fully subsidized public school
The curriculum of public primary schools in Spain
Primary schools in Spain teach approximately 25 hours per week. There are two common types of school days, with these regular schedules:
- Split school day (jornada partida): lessons from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., lunch break from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., lessons from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The children go home or stay in school for lunch.
- Continuous school day (jornada continues): lessons from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Some schools add an extra half hour for lunch or two 15-minute breaks.
The Spanish school year begins in September and ends in June or July. Children have about two weeks free at Christmas, one or two weeks at Easter and several weeks in summer. They also benefit from several national and regional holidays.
Primary schools in Spain teach several core subjects, which students take each year, including:
- Natural and social sciences
- Spanish language and literature
- A first foreign language
Parents choose specific subjects for their child, including physical education (PE), religious education (RE) or social and civic values. Each school must provide three hours of physical education per week. Finally, the Autonomous Community allows schools to offer additional subjects, such as co-official language.
Teachers use the following scoring system to assess children:
- SB – sobresaliente (excellent)
- BI – good (Well)
- EU – sufficient (sufficient)
- IN – insufficient (insufficient)
SB, BI, and SU are passing grades, while IN is a fail grade. Children are tested on language and math at the end of their third and sixth years. In the sixth year, they also take a science and technology test. Students can repeat a year in elementary school, but this is exceptional.
Extracurricular activities are popular in Spain. There are a lot of them including sports, language clubs and music, some are also chargeable for membership or equipment. Consult our directory for information on after-school child care.
The advantages and disadvantages of public schools in Spain
- Free courses: There are costs associated with sending your child to school, such as textbooks, but it is much cheaper than private school.
- Convenience: In theory, each child should find a free school place in his municipality.
- The integration: Since most of the children in the school will live locally, your child will fit in more easily. They will also learn Spanish or the local language faster.
- Choice: Public schools in Spain have a lot of freedom in their teaching methods. Therefore, you should be able to find a school that is suitable for your child.
- Variable quality: Although schools in Spain have the freedom to teach, some schools may be less suitable for your child.
- Over-subscription: Some schools have smaller quotas, which makes the competition for a higher place.
- The integration: While young children can easily find their place, older children without Spanish may have more difficulty in a local public school. In addition to the usual academic pressures, they will have a language barrier to overcome.
- Less resources: Your local public school may be less well equipped than a private school. Although private schools are expensive, it pays for a higher level of facilities.
Enroll in public primary schools in Spain
If you decide to send your child to a public school in Spain, you need to look for schools. You will be find your town hall (ayuntamiento) on the Department of Education website, which should provide a list of CEIPs. Each school has an annual quota, managed on a first come, first served basis. Keep an eye on registration dates – schools usually do their public spaces between January and February for the upcoming school year.
To apply for a school placement for your child, be sure to register as a resident at ayuntamiento. On their website, you can also find out how to apply at local schools. The first step is to complete an application form from the ayuntamiento. Many municipalities have an online platform to do this. Once you have completed the application, follow the instructions for your chosen school. Applications usually take place between March and April. In June or July, you should find out which school accepted your child. Different schools follow different timetables, so keep in close contact.
Private primary schools in Spain
Just under a third of primary school children in Spain attend a private school. Private primary schools in Spain require registration and tuition fees. They must meet specific class size and curriculum standards, but otherwise are free to choose what and how to teach. As with public schools, the average primary class size is 21 students.
Tuition fees typically start at a few hundred dollars per year. Yet they can reach € 10,000 in some international private schools and more than € 30,000 for boarding options. There are several types of private schools, some of which are listed below.
Most religious schools in Spain are concerted colleges linked to the Catholic Church. As the Department of Education oversees these schools, they must follow the same curriculum as public schools. The degree to which schools emphasize Catholic values varies; some schools have chapels and could teach prayer in lessons. On the other hand, others consider religious expression to be voluntary.
As well as Catholic concerted collegesSpain has many private and international schools, other Christian churches and a few Jewish schools.
Montessori schools are popular in many countries, including Spain, with at least 28 Spanish and international Montessori schools. Their program focuses on child-led activities and hands-on learning.
Waldorf-Steiner schools are another type of method school, of which there are about 77 in Spain. These schools encourage children to discover the world around them through their senses and experiences. In addition, the emphasis is on nature and artistic skills.
International schools in Spain
There are 258 international schools in Spain spread across 27 cities. These schools teach in languages other than Spanish and follow the curricula of other countries. If you are only in Spain for a short time, an international school may be suitable for your child.
There are British, American and French schools among others. These can cost from € 2,000 to € 30,000 and more, depending on the school and whether you opt for boarding.
The advantages and disadvantages of international schools in Spain
Do you want to know if an international primary school is the best choice? Consider the pros and cons:
- International schools often have better facilities
- Your child can study international degrees, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB)
- Classes are generally smaller
- Your child can follow a familiar program in their mother tongue
- You can communicate with the school in your native language
- International schools can be expensive
- It may be more difficult for children to integrate into the local community
- Not all cities have an international school