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State School Systems for Expats in Spain

Submitted: July 2013

State schools are either partially or fully funded by the State. Education in Spain is free and compulsory for Spanish students from age 6 to 16 and is regulated by the government in each region. Some schools may require parent to pay for books and extra-curricular activities which tend to be lacking in most state schools . The state education system may be divided into four categories:

i) Early Childhood Education (Educación Infantil) 3 – 6 years: though provided free to all children in Spain, this is not compulsory.

ii) Primary Education (Educación Primaría) 6 – 12 years: this marks the start of compulsory education in Spain and forms the basis for entry into Secondary schooling.

iii) Compulsory Secondary Education (Educacion Secundaria Obligatoria) 12 – 16 years: this prepares students for a global certificate demonstrating basic proficiency in 6 core subjects and 3 optional subjects.

iv) Non-compulsory Secondary Education (Educacion Secundaria No obligatoria) 16 – 18 years: this prepares students to receive the title of “Bachiller” which indicates a proficiency in 7 core subjects plus 7/8 subjects related to their chosen area. It is an essential component for entry into Spanish and EU universities.

If your child attends a state school, he will be required to follow the national curriculum. The national curriculum includes a wide range of traditional academic subjects including: Spanish language and literature, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Geography and History, Technology among other traditional areas . Spanish is the main language of instruction in state schools although foreign languages (generally English and French) are taught in secondary schools.

For students with special needs, education in Spain has taken an inclusive approach as the child is allowed to attend a general school wherever possible. Schools are required by the law to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate students with special needs. However, special needs schools are available in cases where state schools cannot be adjusted to meet their needs. More information on policies for children with special needs in Spain may be obtained via the following link:


The issue of bullying in schools is a well-known international problem. In Spain, various initiatives have come in place not only to reduce this issue in schools, but in the general society. In particular, ConRed is one such program that is geared at improving school’s togetherness .

For a list of state schools available to you, please refer to the Ministry of Education and Culture in Spain website:


If you have decided on a state school and selected which one, admission is next obstacle to be overcome. Most state schools in Spain have limited spaces; hence allocation is done on a first-come, first-served basis. The enrolment period usually lasts for two months early in the year. Notably, this may vary from region to region. You should contact your prospective school to verify as individual schools will provide exact dates. The process of enrolment depends on the age of your child and the particular school. Be prepared to:

You may be required to start this process even before you arrive in Spain. You should contact your prospective school to verify.

Additionally, if your child is going to start a Spanish secondary school in the third year, you will need to present proof that your child’s educational record has been verified by the Spanish Ministry of Education. More information on this may be obtained via their website:




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