Schools – Part 1

The efforts of parents to get their kids into a good school has been well publicised in the UK. But nothing could prepare me for the Spanish system…

It’s up to the Parents…

Parents seem to go to any lengths to get their kids into the “right” school in the UK. At least if you believe the media coverage – and on this subject, mostly I do.

From moving to a house with the right postcode to applying for every scholarship that is on offer. I even know people who have miraculously (no pun intended) “changed their religion” in order to get their kids into faith based schools.

There is a kind of panic associated with finding the right school that I never fully understood before. Now I have to think about it for my own son. To be honest though I still don’t quite get it. We have been looking at schools for Dani – mostly private – and the whole process is wearing me down. I really don’t know where to begin.

Spain versus UK

In Spain school starts at 3 year olds. But it is a calendar based thing. So, if the child is 3 years old by end of December of that year then they start school in the September of that year. For Dani who was born in November this means he will still be 2 when he starts school. It is not exactly school at that age of course. It is still very much like nursery and indeed the early years are referred to as nursery and reception. Then it becomes year 1 etc… “Aha” I hear you cry. “But that is no different to the UK system”.

Well in the UK, even though many do so, it is not compulsory to send your child to nursery at 3 years old and reception class at 4 years old. Whereas in Spain it is. From 3 years old it is considered full time compulsory “school” (although they still refer to the first two years as nursery and reception classes).

Also the early years classes are not necessarily full school days in the UK. In Spain they are.

In Spain the tax credit assistance for nursery costs stops when the child is 3 years old. This is the time they have to go to full time school so nursery costs no longer apply. From what I can gather, in the UK, half day for 3-4 year olds is free and parents pay if they want their children to stay the extra half day. Then most of the nursery sessions are free from 4 to 5 years old.

Private versus State School

In the UK there are still many state schools that are considered OK or even “good”. In Spain state schools were not even an option I was told. I have no experience of the state schools in Spain so I need to investigate that one. Surely they cannot be that bad?

This is all very difficult for me. Having been educated in the state (comprehensive) system I find it hard to come to terms with paying for my boy’s schooling. Why pay when it is there for free? Or at least already paid for by taxes. This is the mentality I have and I need to lose it quickly. The clock is ticking and the deadlines for school entry fast approaching.

The private schools are not cheap either – no surprises there. It is between 6k and 8k (Euros) per year and that is just for a (not quite) 3 year old. Could I not send my son to an excellent private school in the UK for those prices?

Reality check…

But you know the biggest problem I have with all this? At this rate I will need to go back to work sooner than I thought. My short term plans derailed. My new non-working lifestyle shot down in flames before I have barely had the chance to settle into it. Woe is me (and so on…).

And so the search is on for the right school. A good school – no, make that perfect! – that he can possibly stay with for the next 16 years. It is seriously starting to freak me out.

To be continued…

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