Moving to a new home abroad with children is always worrying, but sometimes the worry is unnecessary; Spain is a friendly country and they welcome children and adults from abroad.
Kids are often able to settle into a new routine must faster than adults, and can pick up new languages extremely quickly at a young age.
Although you may be concerned about how the move will affect your children, there are ways to help make the transition to your new home in Spain easier for the whole family.
Before your move, research your new Spanish town’s local amenities and events. This is especially important with older children who will be feeling that they are leaving their life behind. Discover what there is to do that matches their interests, so they will have something exciting to enjoy when they arrive.
You will also want to find out about the schools for your children in your new area. If you can communicate in Spanish, talking to the local parents is an excellent way to find out about the possible schools you could send your children to. Although the performance of schools in Spain is not publicised, each area has a central office where you can ask which schools in your area are performing the best.
Our tips for how to move abroad with your children offers advice to help make the transition to a new home abroad easier for you and your family.
Moving to Spain with younger children
The best time to move abroad with children is when they are still at a young age. If you move to Spain while your child is still acquiring their language skills, they will be learning the language with other Spanish toddlers, so it won’t seem as foreign to them.
In Spain, school starts the calendar year your child turns 3. They attend nursery classes until they are 6 and then transfer to the junior school. Junior classes cover similar subjects as British schools, such as maths, science, history and geography.
If you are moving to Spain after your children have started junior school they might need additional Spanish lessons and, depending on their age, may be put into a class with children a year younger, to enable them to catch up. They will soon adapt to the language, and you can practice your Spanish together.
Moving to Spain with teenagers
Once your child has started higher education, it will be much more difficult for them to pick up their studies if you don’t intend to send them to an international or an English school. They will make new friends, but learning Spanish and keeping up with their school work might be overwhelming.
Children start secondary school at age 12 and study for a school certificate. They can then go on to college at 16 to study the Spanish Baccalaureate, which is comparable to A Levels in the UK.
If you intend for them to carry on their education in an international or English school, they should be able to adapt to education in Spain, however, it may be a good idea to enrol them in Spanish language lessons.
When your children are in their teenage years, they are likely to have made their own friends, social life and plans for the future, so it is important to discuss with them the implications of the move abroad to Spain, and allow them to voice their concerns about moving to a new country.
Finding a school in Spain
The education system in Spain offers three options of schooling:
Spanish state schools
You can get a list of the state schools in your Spanish town from the Town Hall or Local Education Centre. Be sure to ask about the requirements and process of enrolling your child, as this can differ between regions. Enrolment usually occur in May, so it is advised to visit the school early in the academic year.
If your move to Spain is permanent, then a state school will help to ensure that your children become Spanish speakers and integrate into the community. Popular expat areas such as the Costa del Sol will have a high number of British kids, and often offer extra Spanish lessons for English speaking pupils.
It is important to note that, if you are moving to Barcelona or another Catalonian town, the teaching in the state schools will be in Catalan. Castellano is taught as a language subject.
Spanish private schools
In private schools in Spain, you have the option of either Spanish speaking schools or bilingual schools which have an emphasis on English. Prices for private schools differ between schools, but you should find the fees lower than those of British private schools.
Spanish international schools
International schools in Spain generally have smaller class sizes and will work to the English curriculum, helping your child settle back into their studies. Your child will also learn Spanish as a foreign language. You may find an international school more appropriate for your older children.
As international schools are usually based in large towns, you may need to consider the costs and convenience of travel to and from the school.
For more information about finding a school for your children when moving overseas, view our guide to choosing schools when moving abroad.
When is the best time to move to Spain?
Try to organise your move to Spain before the next school year begins, so they can begin school in Spain at the start of the semester.
Moving during the holidays allows you to spend time with your child, exploring the new area and visiting the local park or children’s recreation centre. It’s a really great way to meet the local parents, and your children will get to know other children before starting school.
If you live in a village, let them off the leash and don’t be afraid to let them out and about on their own once you have got your bearings in the local area. Spanish children live outdoors, so encourage your children to do the same and they will make friends much more quickly.
Whatever their age, they will manage to pick up the language and when you start to appreciate the Spanish way of life, you won’t regret bring your children to Spain.
page last updated July 2018
Please note: as we are awaiting information about the UK’s exit from the EU, this information is only correct up to September 2019. As soon as we have more information, we will update these pages. In the meantime, please refer to the government's 'Get Ready for Brexit' page.