The school system in Spain at a glance:

  • Pre-school (Educación Infantil, segundo ciclo) – 3 to 5 years of age
  • Primary School (Educación Primaria) six years of schooling – 6 to 11 years of age
  • Compulsory Secondary Education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria) four years of schooling – 12 to 15 years of age
  • Post-Compulsory Schooling (Bachillerato) two years of schooling – 16 to 17 years of age

If you are a resident of Spain, your children not only qualify for the free education provided by the state, they are legally obliged to go to school. There are some home-schoolers in Spain but the process is quite difficult.

Children from 3 to 5 years old in Spain have the option of attending the pre-school stage (infantil or preescolar), which is non-compulsory and free for all students. Although it is officially “optional”, it is viewed as a real and necessary part of schooling and there are infants’ classes in almost every primary school.

State schools in Barcelona conduct all of their classes in Catalan. The exception to this is language classes, obviously, and English is usually one of the most common languages taught.

If your kids are young, try sending them to a state school. Not only are they free, but they will have a much better chance of learning Catalan and Spanish in an environment of total absorption. For expat-rich cities like Barcelona, many state schools offer a kind of Catalan Boot Camp – an intensive language school for English-speaking children to attend before the school year begins. The school in your catchment area will be able to tell you more about this.

In general, however, if they can afford it, most locals send their children to private, semi-private, or concertadas, schools. This is not to say the overall level of public schools is poor, but most people prefer private or, at least, semi-private options for a wider choice of extracurricular activities and a smaller student to teacher ratio. Most importantly, if you want your child to be able to learn in a language other than Catalan, it will make more sense for you to go the private route.

The application process:

State school enrolment will depend on your catchment area. If that school is full by the time you enrol, the government is obliged to find an alternative. However, there is no guarantee it will be convenient or desirable. Get in early. There is literally a lottery system for those who delay (see schedule of dates at the bottom of this page).

Dates for pre-enrolment are usually around Easter/May time. Forms can be obtained from from any of the state or concertada (semi-private) schools or from your local town hall. Parents need to list schools in order of preference and hand the form in to the first choice school. Along with the pre-enrollment forms, a number of documents (original and photocopies) need to be attached.

Priority will go to pupils moving from a state funded primary school (CEIP) to an associated secondary school (ESO) and also for those pupils moving from a secondary school to Batxillerat at the same Instituto (it is obligatory to complete the forms even if the schools are connected). A points system comes into force when there are not enough places available. This is based on where you live, work and whether your child has siblings at the school. Parents find out whether their child has a place normally a couple of months later.

For parents bringing children into the state system from abroad, you need to present your original, and photocopies of your, passport, child´s birth certificate, parents and children’s city hall registration (Certificado de Padroniment), parent’s job contract or company letter (if the school is close to the place of work) to the town hall (´Ayuntamento´ Plaça Sant Jaume 08002, Phone 934 027 000). The OIE will provide a list with different school vacancies (according to the town hall`s registration) and parents can choose the school they prefer. After this, parents need to formalise the enrolment at the school, which may include handing in validated copies of your child´s school reports.

Pre-enrolment and registration dates for Infants, Primary and Secondary schoolers (these are for the 2010/2011 dates ).

  • Period for application submission (pre-enrolment): 2nd to 16th of February
  • Publication of the lottery lists: 24th of February
  • Term for claim against the lottery lists: 25th-26th of February and 1st of March
  • Publication of the revised lottery lists after any claims have been solved: 24th of March
  • Publication of the admission lists: 9th of April
  • Registration period at allocated school: 7th to 11th of June

You will need to register again each year. Once your child is enrolled in school, if you are continuing with that school the re-registration is a formality (your school will give you the form you need).

If your child is moving from one school to another (for instance if they are moving from primary to secondary) you will need to go through the full application process again.

Useful addresses and numbers:

Barcelona Ajuntament (Town Hall)
Pl Sant Miquel, 4
Barri Gotic
Ciutat Vella
08002 Barcelona

Municipal Education Office
C. Bruc, 90-92.
08009 Barcelona
Tel: 93 467 73 50