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The standard of education and schools in Madrid is generally excellent, and expat parents will be spoilt for choice. While there are a range of schools in Madrid, for the most part, expats and the wealthier locals tend to send their children to private or international schools which offer higher standards and a greater variety of extra-curricular activities.
Public Schools in Madrid
Public schools in Spain are free to all citizens and registered citizens who have an NIE number and Empadronamiento. These schools have high teaching standards, but are mostly attended by locals because classes are taught in Spanish. These institutions can be good options for young expat children who are able to pick up the language more easily, but it can be challenging for older students to attend classes taught in Spanish. It is also an option worth considering for families who are looking at moving to Spain permanently.
Semi-private and private schools in Madrid
Many madrileños send their young students to semi-private Catholic schools, which are subsidised by the government and form an important part of the education system in Spain. Tuition at these institutions is often more affordable than European private schools, but subsidised schools also teach Spanish curricula in the Spanish language, and can be similarly difficult for newly arrived expat children.
Independent private schools in Madrid can be bilingual, but tend to be on the pricey side. These schools can cost thousands of euros a year, and expat parents should be aware that some of them might refer to themselves as international schools while teaching the Spanish curriculum in a foreign language. These schools tend to be more popular with the locals than the expat community.
International schools in Madrid
There are plenty of international schools in Madrid that uphold both the teaching language and curricula of countries such as the US, UK and Germany. These schools are more experienced in accommodating students who have previously studied different curricula, and act as an effective bridge between a student's home country and their new environment.
All reputable schools of this kind are registered with the embassy of their home country. Many international schools have long waiting lists, and expat families are encouraged to enrol their children well before the school year begins.
See our reviews of the best International Schools in Madrid.
Special-needs education in Madrid
While the Spanish government requires public schools to attempt to educate special-needs children, and gives grants to schools with specially trained teachers, not all schools are equipped to help these children. Children needing high levels of assistance may be placed in special-needs schools, or regular schools with special-needs teachers and specialists such as psychologists as well as speech therapists. Grants may also be given to families to assist with the cost of treatments.
Childcare and nurseries in Madrid
Expat parents with young children will have finding good yet affordable childcare and nurseries at the top of their list. Legally mandated maternity leave in Spain is 16 weeks, meaning mothers will usually start seeking childcare from when their children are four months old. It can therefore be difficult to find a suitable childminder or nursery school, as competition for spaces is tight.
Fortunately, Spain offers subsidised nursery schools (guarderias), which charge based on a family's income, and kindergartens (escuela infantil), which are free to attend. This eases the cost for families, but application processes can be bureaucratic as parents have to prove their income level to their local municipality. For that reason, most expat families opt for private nurseries, which are slightly pricier than state nurseries but offer them more choice in terms of language and location while circumventing the need to deal with the infamous Spanish bureaucracy.
Tutoring in Madrid
There are many private home tutors available to teach expat children in Madrid. Specific companies in Madrid register private tutors, and expats can therefore apply for a tutor through them. Two such companies are Preply and Apprentus. Alternatively, expats can search online for a tutor. Many tutors also offer online sessions.
Tutors generally offer school support and reinforce what is being taught in class. This can especially be helpful for students trying to adjust to a new school or curriculum. Expat children attending any of the Spanish language schools should also consider a tutor to help them adapt to learning in the language.
►International Schools in Madrid gives a list of the city's best schools.
►Kids in Madrid gives advice on keeping young expats entertained.
Are you an expat living in Madrid?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Madrid. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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