How to choose the best type of school for expat kids ?
Moving to Madrid is a great opportunity for children not only to learn a new language, but also to grow up through living new experiences and meeting a new culture.
The school he or she will attend will be the place where he adapts to his new Spanish environment.
How do you then choose the best school for your children ?
First, you have to get to know the basics – there are 3 kinds of schools in Madrid:
– state schools, which can be “bilingual” or not
– privately-run state-funded school (“concertados“), most being bilingual,
– private schools.
In bilingual state school or in privately-run state-funded schools, about 1/3 of all classes are taught in English by a teacher with specific accreditation allowing her to give her class in English. The program is the Spanish one. Nearly all pupils will be Spanish-speaking. You will find here the official list of all bilingual state schools in Madrid, either state-run or privately-run.
On the other hand, private bilingual schools tend to have most of the classes taught in English. The program is often the British one, with a co-validation of GCSE and A-Levels. Getting accepted in a British or English speaking university is then easier. Depending on the school:
– either half of the pupils are Spaniards, or binational children, with another half foreigners of different origins, as in the British Council school in Pozuelo for instance (the most frequent option),
– either a large majority (two thirds at least) are Spaniards with a small portion of foreigners (less frequent than previous case),
– either a large majority all pupils are foreigners (very rare).
I created this interactive map with all the best private schools for expat kids.
Now, based on this knowledge you have to answer these key questions:
- How long are you planning to live in Spain ? If you are planning to stay in Spain only for 1 year, staying within the boundaries of a private school is better. If you plan staying longer, then immersion is key for your children to integrate and learn Spanish quickly. In this case, choosing a school with a majority of Spanish-speaking children is a good idea.
- How does your child respond to change ? Change is difficult for all of us. Children, however, seem to be like sponges, absorbing new languages and social rules faster than adults, even if during the first adaptation period, they will need extra support and caring. But do not underestimate your child adaptation capacity, but think of how he will first respond to change. Support has to be available, and a meeting with the responsible of your future school should ensure that such timely individual support will be delivered. If you prefer having extensive individual support, then a private school is the obvious choice.
- Are you ready to spend from 4000 to 10 000 € (even 20 000 € in some cases) a year on tuition fees ? If not, then private schools are not the right option. Especially if you are an employee of a Spanish company, you are entitled to free education, which in many cases is good quality.
- Do you want “religion-free” education ? Then you will have to check closely since most private and “concertados” are run by a religious order. And the other way around: if you want a religious-run school, you will have plenty to choose from in Madrid.
- Finally, how much Spanish do you want your child to learn ? How much do you want him or her to adapt and learn the cultural differences of Spaniards ? In a private school, in many ways, they will be protected from the “Spanish” world, and will only speak Spanish with pupils in the playground. In a public school at least, you are sure that your child will integrate and adapt to the Spanish culture, even if it will be hard at first. In a private schools, this cultural adaptation and language learning will take more time.
For more information, have a look on how to choose the best private school.
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Pierre – Moving2Madrid