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Schools and school arrangements

We'd found accommodation relatively easily on our February trip and we also wanted to start arrangements for school places. At the time two of our three children were in primary school in England (ages 5 and 6) and our move was scheduled for the Easter holidays in April. With the flat organised, and so knowing precisely where we were going to live, the next step was to get the children into a Spanish primary school.

We wanted the children to go to a normal Barcelona primary school as we felt at their age it would be better to get into the local system, get to know more local people and get the children fully immersed in the language.

If the children had been older (11 or more) we'd probably have looked more at one of the many international schools in Barcelona. Most of which are on the outskirts of the city. At secondary school age we will probably reconsider our options with a view towards international qualifications.

The starting point for the application, as is common with the system here, was to collect various sets of papers and stamps before we could actually register the children and then select or get a school allocated to us. Marshalling the red tape took quite some time - it's not difficult, but you just have to walk pieces of paper to different offices around the city.

Once we did make through the system, the school has been absolutely fabulous in terms of the support it has given us (Antoni Brusi) as have the mums and parents in terms of making us feel welcome. We have the benefit of a school which teaches English from age 3 so our originally non-Catalan/Spanish speakers have had great language support.

Indeed, there are a lot of opportunities in Barcelona for children - school trips to theatre, we have a two full school orchestras (under 8s and under 12s), school activities to the countryside, to swimming, sailing, and skiing (years 5 and 6).

But the style of education is too much rote learning for us, though the level of knowledge the children are expected to attain is high and the school does push pupils there is a risk of dullness as  there seems to be a weakness in terms of teaching principles and connecting themes (eg how science is done, rather than these are scientific words/facts) and it can seem a little dull just learning words.

Introduction to the primary school system

We only have experience of primary schools so far, and possibly some of our experiences are just related to the school we use and just to the state sector schools, but some things we're pretty sure are general to schools around the city.

Getting our children into primary school

The first thing for schools was to get our two older children into a school after the Easter holidays when we arrived. The challenge of getting our 3 year old into the same school is described in the next article, which looks at regular admissions

Regular admissions to schools

Once you have the first children at school and are starting to get settled everything else should be a regular admission, but because of the time we arrived and difficulties getting in the system to start with, this had knock on effects for the 'regular' admission of our third child.

Summer holidays (casals)

School summer holidays in Spain are long and hot. Children break up at the end of June (after a month of half days) and do not come back until the middle of September - 3 months holiday. Getting them something to do is important.

Secondary schools

Secondary schools in the city are typically about 5-600 pupils, so smaller than a typical UK secondary school which can mean that facilities like science labs look a little less impressive. Children also have short days on Wednesday's and Fridays.

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