Spanish Primary Schools

spanish-primary-schoolsEducation is an intensive and fairly prescriptive experience in Spain but an indulged, privileged and enjoyable experience too.

Children come tops so although some buildings may well be run down, the morale of the school never is, which definitely beats the experience of the majority of children in England.

Life at school starts at 3 if you are well organised, but you can enter pre-school at 3, 4 or 5 so there’s no panic. Pre-school infant children normally wear a “babi” at school, a pretty little checked smock to keep them clean and their day ends a little earlier than their older brothers and sisters in the juniors.

The normal school day starts on the dot at 9 and finishes at 2 – there are two playtimes (recreos) so sandwiches, biscuits and drinks are essential items in the “maleta” (school bag). Some schools have a canteen attached to them where the kids can eat very healthily and cheaply at 2 o’clock.

The Spanish system accepts that children are ready at different ages so no formal teaching of reading or writing starts until “primero de primaria” at age 6. During the years before all children are brought up to the same standard and believe you me when the “abcedario” comes they are ready for it make no mistake!

Some children have already done three years of colouring by that time so even the dreaded reading is welcomed. Virtually the whole class is reading before December of that first year of primaria.

This is the time when parental input is important especially for the expatriate parent.

Practise the “pe,pa,po,pu,pi” with your child and he or she will learn with you. This is not the time to give up -this is the time to give them support!

By tercero de primaria life has got a lot more intensive for your average Spanish school child. Homework has crept up to at least an hour a day and Mum (or Dad, but in all truth this is still women’s territory) has to go, and I really mean has to, to a parents meeting twice a term- minimum.

The big plus points are the small class size, the friendly and professional staff and the well thought out timetable.

Children study Spanish Language, Maths, Conocimiento del Medio (this includes science geography and history), plastica (art),music, religion (a choice is provided between Catholic and an alternative general course) and PE.

From 8, children also study English as well, a much earlier start on a foreign language than in most UK schools.

Reports are provided once a term to be picked up from the class tutor. These are based on continuous assessment; the children take little exams called “controles” at the end of each theme in each subject. The pressure can be quite intense especially if there is more than one control planned for the same day!

One big difference between UK and Spanish primaries is that if the child is really not ready to move up a year they will be held back to repeat rather than allowed to move up and become more confused.

There is very little stigma attached to this as it is quite common! The most common year to repeat is “sexto” the last year when the children are 12. This helps to ensure all kids starting secondary school are more or less at the same level.

Apart from these differences Spanish schools have all the same traditions as primaries anywhere –the end of year outings on the coach to zoos or theme parks, the educational outings to museums, ruins and theatres and of course the Nativity plays at Christmas and end of school year shows in summer.

Nativity plays are a little different from UK ones, as the little children dress up as “pastoras” (shepherds)- in a traditional black, red and white skirt and bolero outfit for the girls and a cute little furry sheepskin jacket with cap, country trousers and staff for the boys.

English mums check this out first – you have to get it right!

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