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Schools and Education on the Costa Blanca

Schools on the Costa BlancaAs in any other country, there are two types of school/college for your children - public (in Spain this refers to state run schools), or private.

Private International Colleges throughout the Costa Blanca provide an english curriculum taught in the medium of english. Fees are generally much cheaper in the private schools than they are in the UK and some of them, in an effort to appeal to spanish parents, now offer the spanish speaking student the opportunity to sit the national spanish 'Bachillerato' exams in order for them to be able to enter the spanish university system.

If you are at all worried about whether your child will be able to cope with the added trauma of a new language as well as a new school and a new country, take heart from my own experience. I have two daughters who were aged 6 and 10 when we came to Spain 5 years ago. Although I considered the private route of education, I liked the smaller classes and friendly atmosphere of the local state-run village school. Now 11 and 15 respectively, both girls are fluent in Valencian (the local regional language, which is a cross between French and Italian) and Castilian (the national spanish language). It took them just 12 months to learn and my youngest is consistently the only member of her all spanish class to get full marks in her spanish exams! Generally speaking, the younger your child is when you move to another country, the easier they will integrate with their classmates and so learn the language.

Under the spanish curriculum, your child will be taught, maths (bear in mind that calculations are done in different ways on the continent, so you may find it hard in the beginning in helping with the homework!), Castiliano (like english grammar but obviously in spanish), Conocemiento del Medi (a mixture of geography, geology and biology which is studied up to the age of 12), Plastica (art), Gym - which in Spain includes a degree of theory/written course work, Religion (Catholicism - although your child can opt out of this and take Etica - which should be another subject but ends up being free time to catch up on homework), Sociales (history and geography for the older students), Naturales (natural sciences/biology for the older students), Drama, Prensa (history of journalism and print), Tutoria (an hour of student/teacher communication to discuss work or social issues), plus also languages - French, English and Valencian (the regional language). In some schools, more than half of your childs' lessons will be conducted in Valencian rather than Castilian (the national spanish language), great if your child is of an age where they will absorb new languages easily (normally up to the age of 10), more difficult for older children where the level of study is more complex. In many of the villages, Valencian is the language of choice by most spaniards, although without exception they will also speak Castilian. But if you want your child to integrate with the local village children, it would be a good idea to learn the two languages. You'd be surprised how quickly they pick it up in the playground. If you do opt for a spanish school, don't expect to be shown around by the head teacher when you go to enrol your child - for some reason, this is not the 'done' thing in Spain, so you may get faced with a blank stare if you ask !! Also, books and lunch are chargeable. Books will normally have to be bought from a local shop, and can amount to quite a lot of money. You will be provided with a list when your child starts school. Lunch will be paid by standing order from your bank account, so you will have to provide the school with your details. Each school sets it's own rate, so ask first.

To enrol your child in the spanish school you will need to provide the school with a Certificado de Empadronamiento, which is a certificate of proof of residency in your village (you can get this at the local Town Hall or Ayuntamiento by supplying your passports and title deeds to your property or a rental contract), and your childs' passport. As the school needs the paperwork for each child enrolled in the school, it is a good idea to get a Certificado de Empadronamiento for each member of the family and keep copies as they will be needed for other things aswell.

In September, my eldest daughter started at Xabia International College in order to take her GCSE's. As she is now fluent in Spanish, she will be able to sit her A level Spanish at the same time, as well as the Spanish School Leaving Certificate - ESO (Educacion Secondaria Obligatoria), giving her the option to choose between an English further education or Spanish.

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