This was another thing that totally blew my mind, I literally couldn’t find any information that confirmed the process or what information was required, everything I read was different from other information I had read with no actual factual information to be found regarding Spanish state schools.
Schooling in Spain is quite different to the UK, for a start there are no school uniforms YAY! After much research I found there were 3 options for schooling, state Spanish schools, semi private schools that are sometimes bilingual and are often subsidised by the government ( I haven’t actually seen or heard of any of these schools in our local area) and private schools of all different nationality’s with plenty being British curriculum schools. Children with special needs are to be integrated into state school wherever possible, there are a few special needs schools but they seem to be for more severe disabilities. Homeschooling in Spain is frowned upon and not a popular option, some say its illegal but it depends how you read the guidelines. I am aware of some homeschooling groups who help with the setup if this option is the only option.
State school information
- Nursery (educación infantil) – optional – aged 0-3
- Preschool (educación infantil) – optional – aged 3-6
- Primary (educación or escuela primaria) – compulsory aged 6-12
- Compulsory secondary education (educación secundaria obligatoria) aged 12-16
- Upper secondary education (bachillerato) – optional aged 16-18
Which type of school?
We decided pretty early on that we would want our children to attend a Spanish state school so they could fully immerse themselves into our new culture but we also knew it might be more difficult for Harvey having autism, communication can be difficult in your own language let alone in one you don’t understand. We knew the costs for private school were much cheaper than in the UK but it was still a large expense and we would like to try him in the Spanish system first, if it didn’t go well then we had other options which was a great peace of mind.
Once we had decided on the school type and had found the area we were going to live in I started searching for more relevant information, I was still confused!!!
Finding our local school
I tried googling Rojales primary school but came up with 2 different school names, which one was correct? There was no information on the school website about enrollment or school hours, whilst researching I had read that some schools did split days so the kids could have a siesta during the day, others finished early so they could siesta after school, I spent hours searching the internet and asking questions on expat pages on Facebook, eventually I did manage to locate a phone number for the school and asked Frankie our translator to phone the school for us. The number didn’t work, I found the other named school number, that did work, yay success at last!
We were told that school enrolment took place in May, we would need to be in Spain with the children and would need NIE and Padron and to fill out an application form on the day of enrollment.
We realised we would have to go Spain before we moved over in July to ensure they had a space in the school. With Harvey’s autism, we didn’t want to risk him starting later than everyone else in September as his anxiety is especially high when he is joining something after others, it was very important that we made this as easy for him as possible as he would struggle the most with the change.
Visiting our new school
Rojales school is situated at the top of Rojales hill, overlooking the cave houses and the town. There are 2 parts to the school, the pre school ( Infantil) is where children 3-6 attend and the primary school (escuela primaria) is where children aged 6-12 go.
We headed to reception at the primary school along with our green folder full of any piece of paperwork we had received so far in Spain, I would highly recommend getting a nice sturdy folder to keep all your paperwork in, you will need it often and being organised is definitely the key!
We found our way to reception and hoped that they would know enough English for us to get by, we had hoped to use our translator but she was fully booked so we were hopeful we would get by without one. The receptionist was very helpful and luckily spoke a little English. She gave us the forms to fill out there and then, cue panic from me & Sim, how would we understand them? luckily we met a lovely family there who introduced us to google translate, I must say this was a total game changer! We use google translate daily now, you can take a photo of typed text and then highlight the text you need translating into your own language, we use it for all the school letters we receive and also utility bills etc
The day that we attended the school is was raining, and it wasn’t just rain, it was like a biblical flood! We wanted to check out the cave houses whilst we were here but that would have to wait until our next visit. We decided to take the application form home and return them the following day, the office hours for applications were from 9am-10:20am.
When we returned the forms the next day, we were told that the enrolment process wasn’t yet complete, we would have to return again between 14th June and 2nd July, one problem, we would be back in the UK by then. The school did say that a family member could do this for us but they didn’t explain the process, just that someone had to go back during these dates. I presumed this was to given class information. The language barrier was beginning to become and issue and we realised we needed to step up on the learning Spanish front. We had given our NIE & Padron information to them and were told we would need a medical cert from the local doctor. I was starting to get a little stressed out, we didn’t know the enrolment was a 2 step process and we had hoped to have everything tied up before we headed home to the UK, I was starting to learn that this is Spain and rules change daily and I was going to have to learn to go with the flow….a small price to pay for a happy new life in the sun!
We weren’t really sure what the rest of the application process would involve but we asked Frankie to call the school and see what my aunt and uncle would be required to do for the application if they could go for us. Turns out there was another application form and passport photos would be required too, it wasn’t as simple as we thought so decided it was too complicated for my aunt & Uncle to do on our behalf and we would have to just wait till we were back in Spain.
When we officially moved over to Spain In July the school was closed for the holidays so we would have to wait till September to complete the process, I was worried that the children would be starting late as the first day back was 10th September but we heard that the school would be open the week before so I was still pretty hopeful that we could complete the enrolment before then and they could start on the first day of the new term.
Returning to school and enrolment completion
On the 7th September we went to school again, armed with all our paperwork and completed the enrolment, we were told that before the children could start we would need to have a meet and greet with their teachers at the end of the day on the first day of term!!! It meant the Harvey & Keira wouldn’t be starting on the first day of term with the other new children but at least they would only be a day late.
We were also told about the school hours which are 9 am till 2pm in winter months and 9am till 1pm in June and September, we were also told about commodore and the school bus, which is a package, if you child catches the bus to and from school they will also get commodore which is like an after school lunch club that’s helpful for working parents, it runs from 2pm till 4pm and they then get the return bus home. I really love the idea of the school bus, something we never had in the UK but as we are both work from home parents it wouldn’t be needed for our children but is still a possibility for the future.
We returned to school on the 10th September at 2:30pm to meet the children’s new teachers, the kids were excited but nervous too. We met with Keira’s teacher first, Marie Carmen, a lovely lady who made us and Keira feel at ease, she didn’t speak any English though but luckily another teacher did, she helped us work through an application form asking many questions about Keira, had she settled into her old school ok? does she make friends easily, can she count, read & write and how much sleep she had at night, an odd question and they were surprised when we said 12 hours, we didn’t realise then that Spanish children go to bed so late as most of them still have a siesta, something I have been unable to get my children to partake in, id love a daily siesta .
Next up it was time to meet Harvey’s new teacher, we had arranged to meet a translator for Harvey’s teacher meeting due to his autism we wanted to ensure they understood the situation and that his needs would be catered for. Harvey’s teacher was called Jose and seemed really nice, Harvey seemed to take to him quite well too, we were asked similar questions that Keira’s teacher had asked including the sleep question. We explained that Harvey had autism and suffered with severe anxiety and had struggled with school refusal syndrome in the past which we had always managed to overcome eventually. Jose put our minds at rest, explained he had taught other children with autism and that he would help him settle. We were allowed to take him straight to class the next day rather than saying goodbye at the gate which would help with his anxiety.
Harvey & Keira’s first day of school
On their first day, both kids were a little nervous but also excited, at Keira’s school we were to leave her at the gate where she would then go and join a que in front of her teacher, all the children hold on to the children’s bag in from of them to create a snake effect and enter the school classroom once the bell goes, following their teacher, she was off, smiling away happily. Now it was Harvey’s turn, I could feel his hand shaking in mine, his anxiety was starting to kick in, I walked him to his classroom where all the other children were queuing outside, his teacher came over and introduced him to 2 English children that would be his classmates, I let go of his sweaty hand, he looked nervous but off he went into class, I was so amazingly proud of him and I cried all the way back to the car, this was such a massive step and he had shown me how far he had come by being so grown up in his attitude and although anxious he had managed to do it.
We went to collect them both at 2pm and to see them both come out of school happy and smiling and having both made new friends was the most amazing feeling ever, making a move to a new country is such a massive change and the only thing we ever wanted was for it to be easy for them and on day one, we had happy children, what more could you want….
Paperwork requirements for school enrolment
- N.I.E numbers
- Medical Certificate
- Passport photos
- Spanish mobile number
- Passports and Photocopies
- Don’t stress too much about enrolment dates, your children will get a place.
- Keep all your paperwork together and keep photocopies of everything
- Take a translator with you if you’re meeting their new teacher
- Download google translate
- Email the school if your finding communication difficult and you can then translate it to Spanish before you send it and translate their replies.
- Most of the schools have a facebook page where enrolment dates, times and other important information will be posted