Childcare and Pre-primary Education

Understand the choices you have as a parent of pre-school children in Spain...

The overall education in Spain is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Science (Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia). Control of the  establishments is managed locally and differs according to the regional education authority. Local bodies specify minimum amounts of educational activity (as opposed to pure play time), guidelines for opening hours, adult/child ratios, basic safety regulations, and parent/teacher consultations.

Pre-school (escuela infantil)

Pre-school education is available in Spain up to six years and is divided into two groups:

  • up to three years
  • from three to six years

This stage is not compulsory although the government guarantees there will be sufficient places in state schools to ensure schooling for those who request it free of charge. Children usually attend local schools.

Normally there are between 20 and 25 children in each class. Although traditionally a very family orientated society with many mothers staying at home or sending small children to grandparents for care, the numbers of children enrolling in Spanish pre-schools is on the increase.

For most Spanish children, school starts with nursery or pre-school (preescolar/escuela infantil), in the September of the year that they turn three. Compulsory education (escolaridad obligatoria), begins at six years of age in a primary school (escuela primaria).

The teaching medium is Spanish at all levels. Parents who wish their child to be educated in English will need to look at pre-schools in the private sector. There are a number of foreign and international schools in Spain, many with nursery facilities.

  • For more information see website International Schools Worldwide: Click here

Enrolment

In general, enrolment in a pre-school takes place in the first half of May, but this may vary from one province to another. Application forms can be obtained from the school itself or from the Education Department, check with the Town Hall (ayuntamiento) of the place of residence.

The following documents will be required:

  • Filled in application form
  • Child's birth certificate
  • Medical certificate and proof of vaccinations
  • A certificate of registration at the Town Hall (certificado de empadronamiento)

The certificado de empadronamiento is issued by the Town Hall and is the proof that the child's family is registered on the Padrón Municipal des Habitantes, a register of all the persons living in the town. To obtain the certificate a utility bill, proof of identity of all members of the family and a rental contract or Title of Deeds will be required. The Town Hall usually issues the certificate on the spot. It is valid for three months.

Childcare in the Private Sector

Childcare in the private sector is available and in the larger cities and towns there is normally a good choice of facilities. There are nurseries (known as Guarderias or Casas de ninos) and pre-schools (often known as Escuelas Infantiles). Those in larger towns and cities frequently have English- and Spanish-speaking staff. It is common for there to be regular visits from medical personnel as part of the services on offer. Meals are usually provided and many schools place a strong emphasis on healthy eating from a young age.

It is also common for pre-schools to be registered with the Ministry of Education or with the local authorities and to publicise this as a guarantee of quality.

  • As the Spanish can work long hours, many nurseries stay open into the evenings all year round. Typical hours are from 07:00 to 21:00 with actual activities running between the hours of 10:00 and 17:00
  • Some nurseries provide bus services to pick up and drop off children
  • It is quite normal to request a visit to a nursery or facility to look round and ask questions before enrolling a child

For residents in the resort areas there are often good facilities within the holiday developments that are also available to people not living there. Some resorts are happy to open their children' clubs and facilities to non-residents all year round.

Nannies/Au Pairs

As many students come to Spain to study there is a good supply of au pairs available. It is common to place adverts in local papers for jobs wanted or offered.

There are also a number of agencies who place au pairs internationally and these are easily found on the internet. Website Europa-Pages has addresses for au pair agencies in Spain.

Many people prefer to use an agency from the point of view of negotiations over duties and payment as well as knowing that references have been checked.

Babysitters and other childcare

Where a child is not regularly enrolled in a nursery or crèche, some facilities will take children on an ad-hoc basis or even provide home babysitting services.

Some of the resort areas also have multilingual babysitting services, originally aimed at holidaymakers. These are usually advertised in the local media, hotels and tourist offices or even online.

Babysitting is also popular among older children as a way of earning extra cash.