Pre-School and Primary Education

The early years in the Spanish education system, find out about the pre-school and primary school system...

Infant education  (educación infantil)

Educación infantil refers to the first six non-compulsory years of education which is split into two cycles of three years each. The first cycle is for children up to three and the second cycle, which is free, is for children aged three to six.

Nursery school (guardería)

Nursery school is normally available for children from the age of three months until the child is in their third year.

Guardería are either state run or private, though private facilities are usually more expensive. Guardería fees are paid monthly. Working mothers may be entitled to financial assistance at state run facilities.

Pre-school education (escuela infantil)

Although education for children under the age of six is not compulsory, many parents choose to enroll their children in pre-school when they are three, or are in their third year (a child born in November could start school at age two years and ten months). Children usually stay in pre-school until they are five or six years old.

The aim of early childhood education is to contribute to the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of a child.

Pre-schools are often located within the same complex as a primary school. Nursery schools are usually separate (although facilities vary greatly depending on the area).

  • For further information from the Spanish Ministry of Education about pre-school education: Click here (in Spanish)

Primary education (educación primaria)

Compulsory primary education begins at the age of six and lasts for six years. There are three two-year cycles. The first cycle (primer ciclo) is for children from age six to eight years of age. During these two years the child is assessed every term and parents are issued with a report. At the end of this cycle a child may need to repeat a year if they have not reached the education level needed to carry on to the next cycle.

The second cycle (segundo ciclo) is for children aged eight to ten years.

The third cycle (tercer ciclo) is for ten to twelve year olds and serves to prepare them for secondary education. A child may be asked to repeat a year if they have not reached the education level needed to carry on to the next cycle.

Children are graded in the following manner:

  • Insuficiente (IN) - Insufficient
  • Suficiente (SU) - Sufficient
  • Bien (BI) - Good
  • Notable (NT) - Very good
  • Sobresaliente (SB) - Outstanding
  • For further information from the Spanish Ministry of Education about primary school evaluations: Click here (in Spanish)

The primary curriculum includes natural and social sciences (conocimiento del medio natural, social y cultural), the Spanish language (Castellano) and literature, an autonomous language and literature if applicable (lengua cooficial), mathematics, physical education, plastic and visual arts, and a foreign language and optional Catholic religion (when a child starts school the parents will be asked whether they want their child to attend religious classes). Another foreign language may be added in the third cycle.