Spain’s kids head back to school this month after the marathon ten-week summer holidays. It can be a difficult adjustment, especially for those facing new schools, but here are a few ways to make it go as smoothly as possible.
Children should have been registered before the summer. If yours aren’t, you’ll need to contact a school. When contacting any school on Lanzarote, your first stop will be the secretary’s office (secretaría).
You can choose to pay for one of the island’s private schools or take advantage of the compulsory free education provided by a state school. In Spain, primary schools are colegios and secondary schools are institutos. Your child will usually be allocated to the closest school to your home, but requests can be considered for other schools if, for example, parents’ work routines make this easier.
You’ll also need to find out about school transport and meals, and places may be limited.
Most Spanish schools insist on a uniform, as well as school sports gear, which are provided by the school’s recommended suppliers. Ask the school what you need and they’ll tell you.
General school equipment such as stationery should also be bought. Again, ask the school if other equipment, such as laptops, is required.
Bags are important. Most Spanish schools expect pupils to bring all their books with them every day – there are few lockers or dog-eared textbooks that have been shared by other pupils. Add a packed lunch to that and it’s no surprise that even five-year-old kids carry heavy backpacks that look like they’re about to climb Everest.
Textbooks are normally issued a week or two into the first term, and parents are expected to pay for them – a sum which can take parents by surprise. Some help is usually available for families with limited means.
Schoolchildren in Spain spent almost well over a year under the strictest Covid measures, with bubble groups, quarantine measures, handwashing and masks worn indoors and out. That’s now over, but schools may still have rules in place – for example on school transport – and you should find out what they are.
Most schools demand vaccine certificates before admitting children and, again, this should be checked beforehand.
Although not compulsory, it’s a great idea to take kids for an eye test before they start back at school.
One challenge that the children of foreign residents can face is the language barrier. While private schools often operate bilingual policies, state schools generally don’t. The younger the child, the faster they adapt, as a rule, but parents should take extra care to support their children while they fit in.
Adolescents at important stages in their social development and education may have real problems being “thrown in at the deep end” language-wise, and we recommend private schools for these age groups.
Once your child is at school, find out about extracurricular activities as early as you can, which will help you plan your routine.
One surprise for British parents is the absence of half-term holidays. The endless Spanish summer holidays mean that there are only two main school holidays – a fortnight at Christmas and a week at Easter. There are several one-day holidays and puentes (long weekends), too.
Important dates for state schools this year (private schools may differ) are as follows:
Friday, September 9th: Start of primary school.
Monday, September 12th: Start of secondary school.
Thursday, September 15th: Our Lady of the Volcanoes Holiday, Lanzarote.
Wed, October 12th: Spain’s National Holiday.
Tuesday November 1st: All Saints Day Holiday
Tues, Wed, Thurs, December 6th, 7th, 8th: Three-day holiday.
Fri, Dec 23rd to Fri Jan 6th: Christmas Holiday.
Monday, April 3rd to Fri 7th: Easter Holiday.
Monday May 1st: Workers Holiday.
Tuesday 30th May: Canary Day.
Friday 23rd June: End of school year.
Be sure to ask the school for a full calendar, which will also include two municipal holidays.
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