If you are about to move to Spain with your family, you are likely to have queries about your children's education, especially if they are younger than 5 years old. They will be eligible for the Spanish childcare system. In fact, you are likely to find nurseries, kindergartens and child care centres in all Spanish cities. But above all, you have to be aware of your parenting responsibilities and enquire about the country's education system.
The Spanish education system is governed by the Ministry of Education and Culture, but schools are generally managed at regional levels. Thus, school hours, as well as curricular and extra-curricular activities are determined locally.
Pre-school in Spain
It is worth noting that in a child's first sixn years, education is not compulsory in Spain, but it is recommended for the child's development and well-being. In general, 0-3 years old children are assigned to nurseries (guarderias) while 3 to 6 years old children attend kindergarten. They are enrolled in primary school only at the age of 6.
Moreover, pre-primary education, known as 'educación infantil' is in turn divided into two different cycles. 0-3 year old children are entrusted to day care centres or nurseries called guardería. You will find public and private day care centres almost all around the country. Note that working parents may be eligible for financial assistance if they opt for a public childcare centre or nursery.
Three-year-old children are then enrolled in escuela infantil, which is kindergartens or pre-primary school. There, they start to learn through social, emotional, physical and intellectual development. Many Spanish primary schools have a pre-primary section. This should facilitate your child's enrollment in primary school. In general, children are enrolled in pre-primary school in September of the year they turn three.
Good to know:
Since maternity leave only covers four months in Spain, it is not uncommon to see four months old babies in guardarías. However, canguros or day nannies, who care for up to 5 babies at their home, are a very popular alternative.
Full time childcare for young children tends to be quite expensive in Spain, therefore most mothers opt to work part-time around 30 hours a week which makes childcare fees more reasonable.
Also note that in some regions like Catalonia the institution will operate in the local language – for example, most guardarías and pre-schools in Barcelona only speak Catalan.
Registering in pre-school
The pre-primary school registration period generally begins in early May. It can, however, vary from one region to another. The application form can be obtained at the school of your choice or with the regional education department. Documents to be produced are the following:
- a duly filled and signed application form
- your child's birth certificate
- your child's health card and proof of necessary vaccination
- a registration certificate from the nearest municipality to your place of residence (certificado de empadronamiento).
Good to know:
Childcare centres are generally open from 7am to 9pm, but school activities take place from 10am to 5pm. Some pre-primary schools offer transport facilities for children. You are required to enquire with the chosen school or nursery before proceeding with registration.
Of course you can also opt for an alternative childcare service: nannies. You can easily find nannies in Spain, whether it be students looking for a part-time job or trained nannies (or canguros) proposed by specialised agencies. You can also search on the internet and in classified ads in local newspapers.