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Education and Admission to School for children in Spain

In Spain, the education system is regulated by the LOE or Ley Organica de Education. This law states the major principles and requirements for running the system. Nevertheless the implementation of these principles is delegated to the different autonomous regions resulting in many differences in the day-to-day functioning of schools.

One of the main principles of the Spanish education system is that it is both compulsory and free for children aged 6 to 16. Here again each region sets its own requirements and standards for admission and costs.

There are in general 3 types of schools:

  • Publicly funded schools (colegios públicos in Spanish)
  • Privately managed schools running on public funds (colegios concertados in Spanish)
  • Private schools

While education is free in public schools, parents are expected to pay for books and materials (in Andalusia, Valencia and few other communities the region supports the purchase of school books for children in primary schools, as general rule from 3 to 10 years old).

Deciding whether to send you children to a private or a public school is a difficult choice. Independent evaluations show that the quality of the education can vary dramatically from school to school.

Admission process

While private schools are largely free to set their own admission criteria and will evaluate student’s applications all year long, public schools have a rigid admission process. The window for processing admission requests for the academic year is usually between February and April, again depending on the region (from 1 to 31 of March in Andalusia). It is therefore recommended not to leave this process to the last minute especially if it is the first time that the child is joining the Spanish education system.

The specific public school where the child will be assigned depends on many factors, including the area of residency or the address of the work place of the parents. From the websites of the different regional ministries of education, it is possible to get a list of the eligible schools. Specifically for Andalusia there is a mobile phone app for Android or Apple iOS issued by the ministry of education that will allow the checking for your preferred school. In general the most popular schools won’t be able to satisfy the demand, therefore the application will have to include additional school choices.

Application documents

Applications will have to be made to the first choice school, where it is possible to obtain the application forms and the list of documents required for the admission.

The application might include:

  • Certificate of registration at the town hall (“empadronamiento” in Spanish) to certify the address of the child
  • Copy of the payment of the income tax (to certify the level of income of the family)
  • Copy of the employment contract of one of the parents (to certify the proximity of the school to the parents workplace)
  • Document certifying the enrolment of brothers in the same school (if applicable)
  • Large family certificate (if applicable)
  • Certificates of disability, illness, etc. (if applicable)

If there are not enough available places in the school for all the applicants, a point ranking will be established using the following criteria:

  • Brother or sister registered to the same school
  • Proximity of the home or place of work of the parents
  • Family annual income
  • Any kind of disability of the child or any member of the family
  • Child belongs to a large family
  • Child living in a single parent family
  • Previous academic records (only for secondary schools)

It is very important to note that the parents can only file one application per child. Failure to this (for example applying to different schools) will send the application to the bottom of the list.