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Discussion Starter #1
We are planning a move to Zaragoza in summer of 2016 with 4 kids, who will then be ages 3-11. I am hoping to connect with people familiar with the city, especially since we will need to find a public school for our kids (they already know Spanish, so should do fine in a public school). I have done a lot of reading about the process but haven't found any information about the registration process if you do not yet have a permanent address as of the school registration season, which appears to be in April. We are probably going to have a temporary rental when we move and then will look for a permanent place once we arrive (most likely in the Delicias area). I am fine with limited choices as long as we can find something all 4 kids can attend together, ideally within a reasonable walk of wherever we end up.
 

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:welcome:

I'm also from the Boston area, but it's been a long time since I've lived there because I've been in Spain for many years now.

It sounds like you've been doing your homework since you've seen that the school registration process is in the spring. Because you'll have missed the official registration time period you'll need to either go to the city hall or go to school board offices and ask how to sign your kids up. Among other papers they will require you to have a 'certificado de empadronamiento' for the whole family, which is a paper from the city hall which states that you are residing at such-and-such an address. To get that paper you'll need a rental contract. So until you have a place to live you won't be able to register your kids in school.

I realize that you are trying to plan everything out well ahead of time and of course arranging for your children's education is a priority. But unfortunately this is something that just can't be arranged ahead of time.

Good luck with your visa! Sorry that I can't hep you with that.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks so much for the info. I am obviously a bit "Type A" since I am planning so far in advance, but I am also willing to be more flexible when necessary. I am fine with a last minute registration as long as my kids end up in the same school and it is near our home.

From some data I found online, it looks like there are many schools in the area where we hope to live that are less popular, so hopefully we can land at one of them. I am not concerned about going to a less popular school. I work in education myself and know that popularity is not the same as quality, and this is a short term move for us so as long as there are nice teachers and kids speaking Spanish, we will be happy. :)

My main concern about a late registration is that I've heard a lot of things shut down in the summer, so I'm wondering if it will be difficult to register in July or August. I may try making a call to the school department tomorrow, though get nervous speaking Spanish on the phone, even though I'm pretty fluent.
 

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You should be fine if you try to register them in July. But I have my doubts that you'd find the school department open in August - maybe a skeleton crew? The schools themselves would definitely be closed tight. At any rate on September 1st everything is always back to running full force, and you should be able to register your kids in just one day.

Somewhere there should be a school where all 4 of your kids can go. They usually do their best to keep siblings together. Good luck!
 

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If you fancy letting the children learn to ride then I can recommend the ponyclubaragon.com at Utebo.
We took our horses to and from Murcia and had them overnight there. The facilities are superb, the horses well treated (not always the case in Spain), the kids who had lessons whilst we were there had fun,and their parents were able to enjoy a drink and meal at one of the two club bars.
By sleeping in our lorry on site we were able to see much more of the routine than a normal visitor as we wandered around on our own to the showers etc. and all we found was good.
At least a couple of the instructors speak English and everybody we spoke to (in very poor Spanish on the way down) was very friendly.
 

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Thanks so much for the info. I am obviously a bit "Type A" since I am planning so far in advance, but I am also willing to be more flexible when necessary. I am fine with a last minute registration as long as my kids end up in the same school and it is near our home.

From some data I found online, it looks like there are many schools in the area where we hope to live that are less popular, so hopefully we can land at one of them. I am not concerned about going to a less popular school. I work in education myself and know that popularity is not the same as quality, and this is a short term move for us so as long as there are nice teachers and kids speaking Spanish, we will be happy. :)

My main concern about a late registration is that I've heard a lot of things shut down in the summer, so I'm wondering if it will be difficult to register in July or August. I may try making a call to the school department tomorrow, though get nervous speaking Spanish on the phone, even though I'm pretty fluent.
I'd be surprised if you could contact any school during August. Some stay open in July because they run summer camps, but I don't think this is usually the case with state schools.

Also if the 11 year old is going to start secondary education (ESO) in a state school next year then it will be in an "instituto", which are separate to primary education schools ("colegios"). So it is unlikely that the kids will be able to attend the same school.
 

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Also if the 11 year old is going to start secondary education (ESO) in a state school next year then it will be in an "instituto", which are separate to primary education schools ("colegios"). So it is unlikely that the kids will be able to attend the same school.
Yes, if your oldest turns 12 in 2016 (regardless if s/he is 12 at the time of registration) then s/he will be placed into the first year of secondary (1st of ESO). As Chopera says, in state schools primary and secondary are separate schools.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I got up the nerve and placed a call in Spanish to the education office in Aragón. It does sound like we need to find an apartment and then go and register, but they said that the offices are open during the summer, so I'm a little less worried now. And this way it will be easier to find a school close to home.

My oldest will be at the age for secondary school since he turns 12 in October, but I am really hoping we can keep him in 6th grade since needing to transition to a new country and a middle school environment would be disastrous for him (he's pretty shy and not happy about this move). I asked when I called and it sounds like we can ask to keep him in 6th grade. My other kids will all be bumped up a grade as well but I'm not worried about them since they are strong students and attend a bilingual school here, so have a good base in Spanish.
 

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If you are open to considering "concertado" schools as well as state schools then they often provide education all the way through from primary to secondary. Concertados are private but they are state funded, so they end up being pretty much free.

I did a quick google and found this list (most seem to offer both primary and secondary education)

Colegios Concertados en Zaragoza

Many (but not all) concertados are catholic so some might ask for evidence that the kids are catholic before offering a place.

Also it's not uncommon to drop down a year so keeping him in 6th grade shouldn't be a problem if that turns out to be the only option.
 

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If you are open to considering "concertado" schools as well as state schools then they often provide education all the way through from primary to secondary. Concertados are private but they are state funded, so they end up being pretty much free.

I did a quick google and found this list (most seem to offer both primary and secondary education)

Colegios Concertados en Zaragoza

Many (but not all) concertados are catholic so some might ask for evidence that the kids are catholic before offering a place.

Also it's not uncommon to drop down a year so keeping him in 6th grade shouldn't be a problem if that turns out to be the only option.
Sorry, but this just isn't true. The admission criteria for a concertado is exactly the same as it is for a state school, and concertados must admit children of any race, creed, gender, etc. However, it is true that many concertados are Catholic and as such will impart obligatory religious instruction.
 

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Sorry, but this just isn't true. The admission criteria for a concertado is exactly the same as it is for a state school, and concertados must admit children of any race, creed, gender, etc. However, it is true that many concertados are Catholic and as such will impart obligatory religious instruction.
Yes I should have worded it differently. The concertados don't offer places, but they can make it harder for some pupils to enter than others. For example in some regions the points system for entering a school allows each school to add an extra point to a child at their discretion. For the concertado my son goes to, they offer the extra point to pupils who have attended the kindergarten next door (conveniently run by the Head Mistress's daughter). Others will ask you to come for an interview, and based on that they will award a point or tell you not to bother because "the school is full".
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for the info. When I found a map of schools in Zaragoza according to spaces available, the concertados showed up, but generally were in high demand, which probably makes it unlikely all 4 kids could be placed at one. But there may have been one in lower demand so I'll check into it.

A question on the religion piece -- we are a non-religious family. My husband was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic/Protestant (one parent of each) but my kids have no religion in their lives other than celebrating holidays with extended family. It sounds like we can "opt out" of religious education, but it is unclear to me what happens to those kids during that time. I wouldn't want them to miss out on time with their peers and the Spanish exposure, so I am wondering if I should let them go ahead with religion classes, but it would feel totally wrong to check a Catholic box, and they'd definitely be pretty far behind in terms of understanding what the teacher was talking about. Is there usually a group of kids not in religious ed doing something meaningful during that time? One school I looked at had teachers for 3 different religions, Catholic, Islam, and Evangelical, which makes me think there are few kids not participating.
 

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Yes I should have worded it differently. The concertados don't offer places, but they can make it harder for some pupils to enter than others. For example in some regions the points system for entering a school allows each school to add an extra point to a child at their discretion. For the concertado my son goes to, they offer the extra point to pupils who have attended the kindergarten next door (conveniently run by the Head Mistress's daughter). Others will ask you to come for an interview, and based on that they will award a point or tell you not to bother because "the school is full".
Wow, that would never happen in Andalucia. There are no discretionary points here. The individual schools (both state and concertado) have no say whatsoever over who gets admitted. If there are too many applicants for a school and they all have the same number of points, there's a public drawing to decide who gets in.
 

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Thanks for the info. When I found a map of schools in Zaragoza according to spaces available, the concertados showed up, but generally were in high demand, which probably makes it unlikely all 4 kids could be placed at one. But there may have been one in lower demand so I'll check into it.

A question on the religion piece -- we are a non-religious family. My husband was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic/Protestant (one parent of each) but my kids have no religion in their lives other than celebrating holidays with extended family. It sounds like we can "opt out" of religious education, but it is unclear to me what happens to those kids during that time. I wouldn't want them to miss out on time with their peers and the Spanish exposure, so I am wondering if I should let them go ahead with religion classes, but it would feel totally wrong to check a Catholic box, and they'd definitely be pretty far behind in terms of understanding what the teacher was talking about. Is there usually a group of kids not in religious ed doing something meaningful during that time? One school I looked at had teachers for 3 different religions, Catholic, Islam, and Evangelical, which makes me think there are few kids not participating.
There were always a fair number of kids who opted out of religious education when my kids were in school. But I have to say that it depended on their age. There tended to be more kids taking religion when they were younger and as they got older it got to be less and less. By the time they were in their last years of high school there were literally zero kids taking religion. (I guess we're not a very religious town!) So at least around here no child would feel strange or isolated for not taking religion.

The kids not in religious ed took 'alternativa' - which consisted of virtually nothing in my kids' school. It was basically study hall. The kids were told to do homework, or sometimes they were just left to goof around. Hopefully things have changed and that time is put to good use nowadays.

I would never stick my kid in a Catholic education class if it "felt wrong". But that's me...
 

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Thanks for the info. When I found a map of schools in Zaragoza according to spaces available, the concertados showed up, but generally were in high demand, which probably makes it unlikely all 4 kids could be placed at one. But there may have been one in lower demand so I'll check into it.

A question on the religion piece -- we are a non-religious family. My husband was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic/Protestant (one parent of each) but my kids have no religion in their lives other than celebrating holidays with extended family. It sounds like we can "opt out" of religious education, but it is unclear to me what happens to those kids during that time. I wouldn't want them to miss out on time with their peers and the Spanish exposure, so I am wondering if I should let them go ahead with religion classes, but it would feel totally wrong to check a Catholic box, and they'd definitely be pretty far behind in terms of understanding what the teacher was talking about. Is there usually a group of kids not in religious ed doing something meaningful during that time? One school I looked at had teachers for 3 different religions, Catholic, Islam, and Evangelical, which makes me think there are few kids not participating.
To my mind "catequesis" is more of a religious indoctrination than a religious education, but I get the impression that many non-Catholic kids do go along for the reasons you point out, and also to keep on the good side of the school head!

The school should provide alternative classes, perhaps involving general education on values and other religions, etc, but I've heard stories of kids being left to "read a book". It depends on the school really. As I mentioned above, not all concertados are religious - the one my son goes to isn't, but it offers catequesis and most pupils take it. I got the impression that many parents weren't religious but since nobody else was opting out, and they didn't want their kids to be the "odd one out", all the kids went along.
 

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The kids not in religious ed took 'alternativa' - which consisted of virtually nothing in my kids' school. It was basically study hall. The kids were told to do homework, or sometimes they were just left to goof around. Hopefully things have changed and that time is put to good use nowadays.

I would never stick my kid in a Catholic education class if it "felt wrong". But that's me...
My husband and I only have a fetus for now, but when time comes around to make the choice about putting him into religion or not, my husband and I have already said we will not be choosing religious education in a public school. Both of us believe that religion as it is taught here has no place in the public school system, DESPITE the fact that every religion teacher we have worked with has been the best and kindest teacher in the school. (This is why I have a hard time being so vocally against religion in schools.)

(Disclaimer: DH and I are both teachers and have both worked in the public system. DH is a very strange Catholic: confirmed and adamant about being married and baptizing our son into the church, but VERY burnt out after his years in Catholic school. I am a UCC protestant.)

Depending on the teacher, religion can mean coloring pictures of Jesus or it can be one of the most difficult classes that one has. I taught in a Catholic school one year and would find my kids stealthily studying for Religion during my classes. I had to bite my tongue from saying "Is it really that hard!?" because I knew the nuns made it tough on them.

Ok, so a few important things about "reli" in Spanish schools:

1. Depending on the region, plenty of kids choose not to take religion.
2. The new law governing the Spanish education system, LOMCE, has changed the importance of religion in a child's academic record. YOUR RELIGION GRADE IS NOW CALCULATED AS PART OF YOUR GPA.
3. "Alternativa" no longer exists. While what Kalohi said was very true ("Alternativa" was goof off time), the class is now called "Social and Civic Values" in Primary and "Ethics" in Secondary.


If you speak Spanish, take some time to read: ¿Catequesis en la escuela pública? La polémica está servida con el currículo de Religión - 20minutos.es

In summary, although I adore my colleagues who teach religion, I will NOT be putting my son into religion class if it still exists when he reaches school age. If the class was more like World Religions that I took in high school I would be all for it. Unfortunately, it's just an intense form of Sunday School that counts for a kid's GPA and takes up an academic hour that could be dedicated to something else, like arts education (which is being cut).

I'm sorry. I'm passionate about this issue. Please read the article from 20minutos
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for all the info. I'll look at that article later when I have more time. I attempted to skim it, but it was a bit dense.

As long as there's likely to be a reasonable cohort of kids opting out (which seems likely) then I'd be totally fine opting out. Though once we get there I may give my kids the option of joining in if they want to or are curious. For my older kids, it would give them some exposure to what religious education is like and a sense of what religion is. Since it's a temporary move for us I'm OK with a bit of Catholicism exposure as part of understanding the culture of Spain, even though it would otherwise be uncomfortable for me.
 
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