Preschools in Spain: Expat guide to nurseries, kindergartens

From free kindergartens to English-speaking preschools, read everything you need to know about preschool education in Spain as an expat parent.

Jale

5 minute read
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Updated on 1 Aug 2023
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Most parents send their children to a preschool in Spain before compulsory education starts. In fact, with a countrywide 97% enrollment rate, preschools are more popular in Spain than in most other countries.

Preschools help working parents return to work after their 4 months of maternity/paternity leave. Aside from taking care of children, preschools also support families in the development of their children.

But departing from your child's already difficult, let alone doing it in a foreign country. So it’s only natural to have many questions. But fear not, we’ve gathered all the information you’ll need about preschools in Spain.

Types of preschools in Spain

In Spain, preschools or infant education's (educación infantil) divided broadly into 2 age groups:

  1. Nursery schools (guarderias): for children up to 3 years old
  2. Kindergartens (escuela infantil): for children between 3 and 6 years old

Nurseries in Spain

Nurseries are childcare facilities that help look after your children. Until recently, the purpose of nurseries wasn’t to function as an education center; it was to attend to a child's basic needs when their parents are working. But in 2022, the government approved the new law for Early Childhood Education and Care. With this law, nurseries will start focusing on developing child’s physical, social, and emotional competencies as well.

Nurseries can be either state governed (public) or private, but they’re not free in either case. Barcelona has the most expensive public nurseries, followed by Valencia.

Like all public education in Spain, public nurseries are in Spanish. But you can also find private English-Speaking nurseries, especially in more international cities like Barcelona and Madrid. Explore rental homes in Barcelona or Madrid if you want to live in Spain's most international cities.

Characteristics of Spanish nurseries

  1. Prices: State governed public nurseries are lower in fees than private nurseries. Fees for public nurseries are between €150 to €200 and private ones from €300 per month.

On top of the tax relief that all parents get, parents who send their children to pre-school get an additional €1,000 per year as well. The government also offers discounts on income tax for low-income working parents with infants.

  1. Schedule: Generally, public nurseries will take care of your child from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Some of them will allow your child to stay for a longer period. But in that case, you’ll need to pay extra.

    Private nurseries usually open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and offer more flexible schedules like staying open the whole evening.

  2. Activities: Traditionally, while private nurseries offer small activities for a child’s development, most public nurseries only help with daily basic needs like feeding and looking after the child while they nap. But, with the new Early Childhood Education and Care law, this's changing. Nowadays, more public nurseries have started to help with child’s development.

  3. Transportation: Some Spanish nurseries provide transport between home and the nursery.

  4. Quality of care: While both state governed/public and private nurseries offer good quality of care for your child, you might opt for a private nursery if you want extra upkeep. Private nurseries are smaller in group size, allowing them to give more individual attention.

Kindergartens in Spain

From age 3 to 6, you can enrol your child at a kindergarten. Even though kindergartens aren't mandatory, they're free in Spain.

Kindergartens are an excellent opportunity to develop your children's social, emotional, and physical skills. Kindergartens prepare children for their future– from learning the fundamentals of writing, reading, and counting to becoming part of society through various activities like games, theatre, and sports.

Kindergartens prepare you and your child for primary school. Leaving your child in primary school can be scary. But enrolling your child in kindergarten will help them transition to primary school and adjust to being separated.

Characteristics of Spanish kindergartens

  1. Prices: All public kindergartens are free of charge. But private kindergartens are also available.

  2. Schedule: All public and most private kindergartens work from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. At noon you’ll have approximately 2 hours of lunch break. Your kid can have lunch at home or at the kindergarten, depending on your preference.

  3. Activities: All kindergartens will teach your child the basics of reading, writing, and mathematics. There’ll be other important activities for the development of your children such as painting, dancing, playing instruments, sports, and many more. Some of the kindergartens even teach English or other secondary languages.

  4. Transportation: Most of the time, kindergartens provide bus services for transportation.

  5. Quality of care: Both public and private kindergartens take good care of children. But like in nurseries, the child-to-teacher ratio's less balanced in public kindergartens than in private ones.

Consider the benefits of attending a Spanish preschool

As a new expat parent, it’s natural to feel intimated by the local education system and lean towards an English-speaking preschool. However, this option's best for those parents who’re in Spain for a very short time. For those who’re here for longer, the benefits of attending a Spanish-speaking preschool far outweigh the alternative.

First of all, your child will integrate quickly and easily if exposed to the Spanish language and culture at a young age. Not only do children pick up things much faster than adults but also being bi-lingual or multi-lingual has a positive impact on brain development. So even if you speak your native language at home, your child can only benefit from learning Spanish at preschool.

Secondly, private preschools and high schools are expensive. If you want to benefit from free public education and send your child to a public school in the future, they’ll need to be fluent in Spanish to not fall behind. This means the earlier they pick up the language, the better.

Enrolling your child at a Spanish preschool will also be beneficial for you. For instance, attending the shows and competitions put up by the preschools offers a perfect opportunity for you to socialise with the local community.

How to choose the right preschool in Spain

Before deciding which school you’ll enrol your child in, make sure you’ve done your research.

Visit all the prospective schools and don’t hesitate to ask them any questions you may have. Learn about all their activities, how they discipline the children, and whether their approach fits your parenting style.

Some schools offer transportation while others don’t. If they don’t, you might want to look for schools nearby your home. If you live in big cities like Barcelona or Valencia, you can use extensive public transportation to drop off your child before heading off to your job.

It might be a good idea to bring your little one with you too. It’s essential that your child likes the environment and gets familiar with it; after all, they’ll be the ones spending time there.

Private preschools

If you decide private preschools are the right choice for you, there’re many options, such as Montessori preschools or Waldorf-Steiner Schools.

Montessori preschools are one of the most popular preschools in Spain. What sets aside Montessori preschools from most other international schools is that they offer a Spanish immersion program as a part of their standard curriculum. There're 28 Montessori preschools in Spain, spread throughout major cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, and other big cities.

You can find more than 200 international kindergartens in Spain, most situated in Madrid or Barcelona. Generally, these schools teach in non-Spanish languages, but sometimes they also offer Spanish. International schools are a great choice if you’re in Spain for a short period or later want to send your child to an international school.

Comparison of private and public preschools

Public preschools:

  • Registration date: From May to September 1st
  • Fees: 1) nurseries-from €100 p/m, 2) kindergartens-free
  • Schedule: 1) nurseries-9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2) kindergartens-9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m
  • Student-teacher ratio: 15/1

Private preschools:

  • Registration date: Possible after the academic year begins
  • Fees: 1) nurseries-from €300 p/m, 2) kindergartens-€500 to €2,000 p/m
  • Schedule: 1) nurseries-9 a.m. to 7 p.m., 2) kindergartens-9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m
  • Student-teacher ratio: 11/1

How to register at a preschool in Spain

To register at any preschool in Spain, you need to ensure that you’ve already registered your whole family at the Town Hall.

Public Kindergarten registrations start beginning of May. But slots in good public schools can be limited, so we advise you to start looking early.

You’ll need the following documents for registering your child to preschools:

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