Some parents think that the best option is to place their children in a Spanish state school and immerse them in the language and culture of Spain, however the older the children are, the more difficult it will be for them to fit in. When some children find it hard to make friends even when they speak the same language, imagine how hard it would be for them to be dropped in at the deep end so to speak.
Due to the increased influx of different nationalities and cultures, some state schools are filled to bursting point. The infrastructure simply cannot cope with the influx of foreigners. Of course this is also happening in the U.K. with immigrants putting a strain on the education system and the National Health Service; the majority of Brits complain bitterly about it, but that is exactly what some of us are doing here.
Putting a child, with absolutely no knowledge of the Spanish language into a Spanish state school means that that child would have to sit through every lesson not understanding a single word. Should the teacher speak some English or translate via another English speaking child, it takes time and puts a strain on both the teacher and the class; and what about children who speak other languages?
It is advisable to organize private Spanish lessons before the child starts school and give him the chance to understand some of the lessons without special help. When a school in the U.K. is given a glowing report from Ofsted, people move house just to be in the catchment area and there have been cases, that have even been reported on national television, where battles have erupted because one child has been given a place in a highly rated school and another refused because they live on the wrong side of the street and are therefore outside the catchment area. We must remember this when we come to Spain as there are schools that are highly rated and ones that are not.
Some will go the extra distance for the extranjeros and employ classroom assistants or offer extra Spanish lessons after school, some will not. We must also remember that, before coming to Spain, we all had different ideas of how our children should be educated. Some of the children will have attended state schoolsin the U.K., others private day schools or boarding schools One of the benefits of sending your child to an International School is that, if you have to return to the U.K. there will be no serious glitch in your child’s education as all British Schools in Spain follow the British National Curriculum.
International Primary schools, in general, give Spanish lessons every day, whilst, depending on the timetable, your child would have three or four hours a week at Secondary. Most schools would offer extra Spanish lessons out of school hours. One important point to remember is that you were adventurous enough to up sticks and settle in Spain so, it stands to reason that your child may well be the same and might want to up sticks and move back to the U.K. so don’t close all the doors on the way out.
If he or she decides to move back to the U.K., either to attend university or to start a career, they will need a good level of English. English Language and Literature is taught as a first language in the International schools but, obviously, Spanish is the first language in Spanish schools.
If you decide to opt for an International school, choosing the right one is, of course, extremely important. The choice should be based on several considerations; you should take into account the distance between home and school and traffic congestion. If you are intending to work, your child may have to rely on public transport services unless the school has a private bus service. Remember, a school that is only twenty minutes away by car could take double that time on a bus with regular stops and a not-so-direct route.
Other factors for consideration are: does the school have an entrance exam? What is the ethos of the school? What are the class sizes? What are the facilities like? What is included in the fees? Is there a waiting list?
Many of the larger International schools now have waiting lists and the class sizes have grown considerably. Some families arriving on the coast during the summer months wait until just before the beginning of the academic year to look for a suitable school only to find there are no places available for their children. Organizing schooling must be given priority and, if you find the right school, enrol your children before the holidays then relax and enjoy the long Spanish summer.