While initially this particular thread would appear to be an open invitation to suggest different areas of Spain in which to live for a family from Scotland moving to the country, it has grown into something more detailed and more interesting than you might think. The thread itself revolves around a young family moving to the country but the focus for the thread has certainly moved from the location of their new home to the education of their children.
While the emphasis has certainly moved towards education on the thread, there are still a number of comments about regions of Spain to consider for those moving from the UK and other countries. Many people would be surprised to learn that many areas of Spain experienced severe winters and the general consensus for this particular family, looking for a warmer climate, is that north and central Spain are out of the question and they should look towards southern Spain although not necessarily the more popular holiday destinations.
However, there are many issues to consider when looking at education for children moving to Spain and many people may have their eyes opened with this particular thread. Amongst the more prominent issues covered include:-
International or state school
While in many cases this would come down to personal preference, i.e. whether you want your children to integrate quickly into Spanish society or ease them in more slowly at an international school, which would likely see them mixing with children speaking the same language. However, for those looking to integrate their children into Spanish society as quickly as possible, via a state school, they will need to address the issue of multiple local languages throughout the country.
Not only will this be an issue for the children, having to learn at least two languages, but there is also the factor that the parents are unlikely to be fluent in Spanish never mind the more local language and would be of limited assistance or support at home. A number of posters are suggesting that those areas of Spain where there are multiple languages would be a step too far for children of a young age never mind adults of an older age.
The frustration and pressure to learn one language can be frightening but having to learn two very different languages, i.e. Spanish and the local dialect, could cause serious problems.
The official schooling age for children in the UK is five years old although the exact timing will depend upon whether their birthday is before or after the March cut-off point. However, the situation for early schooling in Spain is very different with a number of optional services available as well as the compulsory schooling age of six years old.
The non-compulsory schooling age groups are 0 – 3 and 3 – 6 which offers children, both Spanish and overseas visitors, the chance to learn from a very early age and give them a very good grounding for later education. There are some who suggest a state school for the children of expats from pre-compulsory school age would give them additional time to learn the local language(s) and give them a very good start in life in their new homeland while others suggest an international school would help to “ease them in” to their new surroundings and other potential difficulties.
The Spanish education system
There is some debate on the thread about the standard of education in Spain both in the state schools and international schools. Some posters are suggesting that the standard is lower than that seen in the UK while others give examples of people they know you have been through both the state system and international school system and received a very high standard of education. As with any education system in essence you only get out what you put in and if children are finding it difficult to adapt to their new environment and language, this could seriously hamper their early years and take away their “backbone” for the future.
Parents also have a very significant role to play in the education of their children, and the fact that in their homeland they would in general be able to assist to a higher level, because there would be no language difficulties, cannot be under estimated. This therefore places the emphasis on parents to also learn the Spanish-language, hopefully starting before they move to Spain, as well as potentially introducing Spanish to their children at the same time.
Are expat groups helpful?
This is a subject which often arises when significant numbers of people move their lives to another country. In the case of children this is something of a double edged sword because on one hand you want them to feel comfortable and at home in this “strange country” but on the other hand the long-term benefits of early integration and regular contact with Spanish nationals in this instance could prove very beneficial for both children and parents. You will also see that children frequently learn quicker than their parents, because they often have no fears, and they should quickly be able to build up new friendships and social groups.
There is no doubt that in the early days the assistance of expats in the region can help any new visitors to settle in better, understand the culture, understand the authorities and the general way of life in their new land. While much of this work should have been done prior to the move it is impossible to cover every angle and needs and requirements change all the time. Having a helpful support group to depend on in the early days can be vital although overuse of this particular social network in the longer term could be detrimental to your integration into the local committee.
While this thread initially started as an open suggestion for places to live in Spain, for a family moving from Scotland, it quickly turned into one which was centred upon education which is a vital element of any move overseas, especially where young children are involved.
Many of the points raised seem obvious but facts unique to Spain such as the number of local languages which visitors will need to learn, as well as the official Spanish-language, may not be something many expats initially considered. The debate regarding state schools or international schools is also an interesting one because while wanting to integrate your children as soon as possible into Spanish life there is also a need to gradually introduce new aspects of life in Spain without frightening them or placing too much pressure on them at a very early stage.
While Spain is fairly unique on the language front many of the suggestions and comments in the thread are valid across the board.