Public School in Spain? Let the research begin.

Our preliminary research showed that school in Spain started on September 17th in the Southern part of Spain. Upon arrival, we decided to stop by a public elementary school; just to be sure we had researched properly. 

Almuñécar - School Classroom

Register for school in Spain

We arrived in the office of the Secretary and sheepishly asked about “admission”. Not a soul spoke a word of English, so we were prepared to embrace the situation and do the best we could.  We did find out that School started a week earlier than we anticipated (YIKES). We also found out that the schools here go by calendar year born for your grade, so there is no cut off in August or October.  (See more on this in the Dilemma below) The lady we spoke with was so very nice, but she wanted to communicate more when we began speaking of paperwork required.

She held up her finger and appeared to tell us “just a moment” and off she went. There we were standing in the office, not sure what to do. She then returned with the school English teacher. She greeted me with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. Then the same for Alan, I must say he really enjoyed that. She was very pretty! It caught us both off guard, but then the discussion began about the requirements.  The verified that we do need to have a residence prior to selecting a school and that we will need to go to the town hall and register as well. This is all info that we already knew, but the golden gem was that school started a week earlier.  It was going to be ok if the kids started after that date, but it would be best if we could get everything taken care of in time. The kids really wanted to start school on the first day with everyone else. After we obtain our rental, we will register the kids for school and just see how it all works out.

Our Dilemma

This means that Anya with her September birthday will be in 3rd grade in Spain, but would have been in 2nd grade in USA.


In NC, the year Anya was to enter grade K, they moved the birthday cutoff date from October to Aug 31. Thus, Anya needed to wait an additional year for K in public school.  We decided at that time to have her enter K in private school and then repeat K for public school.  So now we are on the flip side.  Anya is the age of the standard 3rd grader here. In fact, anyone that was born in 2004 will be in 3rd grade.

What do we do?

  1. Should we insist she be placed in 2ndgrade?
    1. School will be challenging enough with it all being in Spanish. Is that enough of a change for her?
    2. She will be nearly a year older than many in her class, not to mention much taller.
    3. The course work may be easier.
  2. Should we just go with the flow and have her in 3rdgrade?
    1. She will be with peers of her own age.
    2. She was well ahead in reading and math back home and is likely at 3rd grade level in many areas.
    3. Is this too much for her in addition to the language barrier?

We think we are leaning towards option 2 and just let the her land with peers. We wanted this experience to be social for the kids. To pick up the language and make lifetime friends. We feel we will be able to supplement with her education. We also plan to hire a Spanish tutor for both kids, so this will also help. Then if it isn’t working out well, we can mention to the school and have her grade changed if needed.   The kids will have a special “Spanish as a second language” type course in school, so hopefully it will work.

What would you do?

13 thoughts on “Public School in Spain? Let the research begin.

  1. Dumb question… looking online, in some cities it seems there are many schools within a limited area (we are looking at bigger cities!)

    Do they have strict catchment areas and neighborhood boundaries, or can you enroll in any school (with room, if you arrive in mid-school-year) that’s essentially within your side of town?

    • Hey Paul! Yes, there are catchment areas, but we have yet to see any of them mapped out online. That said, if a school in your catchment area doesn’t have space available, your child would attend another area. Many schools provide transportation, to those outside of the catchment area. It is possible for some schools to just register, providing they have space, regardless of your area. I know this isn’t a clear answer your question, but it all depends on the city, school etc. There are also different types of schools, which may have different catchment areas public, Catholic, Concertado, International.

      In Andalucia public primary school hours are from 9am-2pm, but schools in other autonomous communities may have split schedules, 9-12 and 3-5 or something like that.

  2. An absolute yes – not only a super bright young girl, but very mature, as well! If it doesn’t end up being the right fit, I imagine it will be much easier to move back a grade than it will be to move up.

    • We submitted the papers today and we went with 3rd grade. It just feels right! Anya is so excited. We will get the “ticket/coupon” for books in the morning and they should be able to attend on Wed!

  3. Let her go to 3rd. She’ll do great! Keeping to the norm would be the best since she might be singled out as the American kid anyways. Have you thought about getting the school English teacher as her tutor? They both might learn alot from each other so it might be cheaper? BTW, it’s the same way in Australia.

  4. In my opinion and what I have observed as a former teacher I would opt for the third grade. With the extra tutoring I think she would do better with her own age group.
    Keeping up with you guys and enjoying the adventure

  5. I’m with you.. I’d put her in 3rd.. I’m sure she’s bright enough for the work and between you/Alan and a tutor I would imagine she will be just fine. Wow, all the little details that have to be worked out !! Good Luck!

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