Schools and Education on the Costa Blanca
Routines For Children
As in any other country, there are two types of school/college for your children - public (in Spain this refers to state run schools), or private.
Private International Colleges throughout the Costa Blanca provide an English curriculum taught in the medium of English. Fees are generally a little cheaper than they are in the UK although the class sizes can be a lot higher than some Spanish schools. Children sit the same exams as their UK compatriots including the A and AS level qualifications. If you are not sure if your move to Spain is a permanent one, or your children are eleven or over, this is probably the better choice for you as for them to cope with a new language at a level where their studies become more complicated, is not giving them a fair chance of attaining good grades.
If your children are younger but you are still worried about whether they will be able to cope with the added trauma of a new language as well as a new school and a new country, take heart from my own experience. I have two daughters who were aged 6 and 10 when we came to Spain 6 years ago. Although I considered the private route of education, I liked the smaller classes and friendly atmosphere of the local state-run village school. Now 12 and 16 respectively, both girls are fluent in Valencian (the local regional language, which is a cross between French and Italian) and Castilian (the national Spanish language). It took them just 12 months to learn and my youngest is consistently the only member of her all spanish class to get full marks in her Spanish exams! Generally speaking, the younger your child is when you move to another country, the easier they will integrate with their classmates and so learn the language.
Under the Spanish curriculum, your child will be taught:-
Maths (bear in mind that calculations are done in different ways on the continent, so you may find it hard in the beginning in helping with the homework!),
Castiliano (like English grammar but obviously in Spanish),
Conocemiento del Medi (a mixture of geography, geology and biology which is studied up to the age of 12),
Gym - which in Spain includes a degree of theory/written course work,
Religion (Catholicism - although your child can opt out of this and take Etica - which should be another subject but ends up being free time to catch up on homework),
Sociales (history and geography for the older students),
Naturales (natural sciences/biology for the older students),
Prensa (history of journalism and print),
Tutoria (an hour of student/teacher communication to discuss work or social issues),
plus also languages - French, English and Valencian (the regional language).
In some schools, more than half of your childs' lessons will be conducted in Valencian rather than Castilian (the national spanish language), great if your child is of an age where they will absorb new languages easily (normally up to the age of 10), more difficult for older children where the level of study is more complex. In many of the villages, Valencian is the language of choice by most Spaniards, although without exception they will also speak Castilian. But if you want your child to integrate with the local village children, it would be a good idea to learn the two languages. You'd be surprised how quickly they pick it up in the playground. If you do opt for a Spanish school, don't expect to be shown around by the head teacher when you go to enroll your child - for some reason, this is not the 'done' thing in Spain, so you may get faced with a blank stare if you ask !! Also, books and lunch are chargeable. Books will normally have to be bought from a local shop, and can amount to quite a lot of money. You will be provided with a list when your child starts school. Lunch will be paid by standing order from your bank account, so you will have to provide the school with your details. Each school sets it's own rate, so ask first.
To enroll your child in the Spanish school you will need to provide the school with a Certificado de Empadronamiento, which is a certificate of proof of residency in your village (you can get this at the local Town Hall or Ayuntamiento by supplying your passports and title deeds to your property or a rental contract), a copy of your childs' passport and a current Certificate of Health from your doctor stating that your child is up to date with all vaccinations and that their hearing and sight is of a sufficient level. Obviously it is a good idea to have your doctor in the UK supply you with a list of vaccinations before you leave the UK so that your Spanish doctor can translate them into something the school will accept.
As the school needs the paperwork for each child enrolled in the school, it is a good idea to get a Certificado de Empadronamiento for each member of the family and keep copies as they will be needed for other things as well.
I have tried both the Private English system and the Spanish, and although neither is perfect, both my children prefer the Spanish schools. You must decide for yourself what is best for you.
Learning is not only for kids.