How to gain admission to schools in Spain (private, state, and partially state-funded independent schools)

Presently, there are three educational models in Spain: 


State schools and partially state-funded independent schools (charter schools in the US system)

These two models are funded by the state and are attended by children from ages three to eighteen. Education is free and secular. In the case of partially state-funded independent schools/charter schools, because of their private ownership, any extra services are provided at a cost that is similar that of private schools. State schools are run directly by the local education authorities. 

The requirements for admission to these schools are that you must be resident in our country and in order to enrol, this has to be accredited by presenting a series of documents.


Private Schools

Private schools do not receive any government subsidies and have greater autonomy as well as different curricula and educational projects. 

Admission and enrolment can be carried out any time during the school year provided that the school has free places.  Private schools can determine their own rules of admission and fees and they inform families individually, on a person-to-person basis.

How private Spanish schools make admission decisions

Private schools have total freedom of management which means that each individual centre establishes its admission and access processes.

For the majority of international schools, language and academic exams are necessary, in addition to a certificate of official recognition of studies in the case of older pupils. 

What are the counterpart courses in the Spanish educational system?

In Spain, different international and foreign educational systems are recognized, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), American and British curricula. All are validated and have equivalences in the Spanish system, so they are fully compatible and the student can change from one to another without prejudice or loss of course.

Infant education (3º Infant to 5º Infant) in the Spanish system, which ranges from 3 to 5 years old, has its equivalent in the American system with Pre-School (Pre-kindergarten, Kindergarten). In the British curriculum, we have Foundation, Nursery, Reception (for 3 and 4 years) and Primary (Key Stage 1) with year 1, which complete the period up to 5 years.  With regard to the International Baccalaureate system, Primary Years (PYP) ranges from 3 to 10 years old, divided between PYP Infant (3,4 and 5), which corresponds to Infant Education in the Spanish system, and PYP Primary (1 to 5), which corresponds to up to 5 years of Primary Education.

Primary Education (from 1st Primary to 6th Primary) includes from 6 to 11 years old. Equivalent in the American system to all Elementary School courses (Grade 1 through Grade 5) and the first Middle School course (Grade 6). The same applies to the equivalence to the British system: Primary Education covers the British Primary (Key Stage 1 & Key Stage 2) period from Year 1 to Year 6 and Year 7, the latter the first year of Secondary.

In Secondary Education (1st ESO to 4th ESO), in the American system it corresponds to Grade 7 to Grade 10 (from 12 to 15 years old) integrated in Middle School and High School. In the British system, it corresponds from Year 8 to Year 11 of Secondary. In IB, it is equivalent to Middle Years Programme 2 through MYP 5, with the first year MYP 1 being equivalent to 6th grade of primary school.

Finally, the Bachillerato (1st year of high school and 2nd year of high school, 16 and 17 years old) corresponds to the last two years of high school in the American system (Grade 11 & Grade 12), and to the British Sixth Form (Year 12 & Year 13). At IB, it is the IBDP 1 & IBDP 2 Diploma Programme (DP).

Curriculum equivalency table.

What is the age of beginning education in the Spanish system?

The Spanish education system is divided into four stages:

  1. Nursery school and pre-school (early learners education): from 4 months to 6 years old. This stage is not compulsory.
  2. Primary education: From 6 to 12 years old. Compulsory.
  3. Compulsory secondary education: from 12 to 16 years old.
  4. Baccalaureate (“A” levels/High School Diploma): Optional. From 16 to 18 years old.

There is also the possibility of vocational training courses (Formación professional de grado medio) from 16 to 18 years of age. 

At what age do children begin schooling in Spain?

In Spain, schooling is compulsory for ages 6 to 16. It is a universal right of children that includes the Primary Education (E.P.) from 6 to 12 years old and the Compulsory Secondary Education (E.S.O.) from 12 to 16 years old.

Infant education (E.I.) is not compulsory and is offered in two cycles: the first cycle of early childhood education, from 0 to 3 years old, also known as nursery school, usually offered in private schools, and the second cycle of early childhood education, from 3 to 6 years old, offered by all schools.

Parents choose to start their children’s schooling according to their needs and family situation: nurseries accept children from the age of 4 months (when maternity leave ends in Spain), or even earlier, but parents may decide to delay schooling until the age of 1 year, 2 years, etc. From the age of 3, 95% of children are enrolled in school in Spain.

How to validate and homologate foreign studies in Spain

1.-  Students who have carried out studies  within  education systems in other countries can request the official approval or recognition of their foreign qualifications or study certificates by the Spanish authorities. This official recognition is not required for pupils who enrol for primary school or compulsory secondary education.


Certificates or studies must fulfil various requirements to obtain official recognition: 

–  The certificates or studies must be valid according to the education system of the country of origin.

– The certificate must guarantee that the studies undertaken have been passed. 

–  There must be sufficient equivalence between the foreign qualification and the corresponding Spanish qualification. 

– The studies undertaken must have been completed and passed in the education system of the country of origin. 



2.- If you need to provide official recognition of  A level certificates/High School Diploma, you will need to fill in an application form and present the following documents:


1- Proof of payment of required fee.

2- Notarised photocopy of a document of identification (Id Card./ Passport/ Foreign resident’s card (NIE)/ other document)

3-Notarised photocopy of the certificate or diploma for official recognition, or if required, official accreditation certifying that the corresponding final exams have been passed.

4- Notarised photocopy of certification of the courses completed, detailing the different subjects studied, the marks obtained, and the years in which each course of study took place.



It is very important to remember that not all enrolment deadlines are the same throughout Spain.


3.- The following are the competent authorities for processing and deciding on the foreign qualifications and studies included in the equivalency charts approved by the Ministry of Education.

– High Inspectorate of Education in the Autonomous Communities

– Departments of Education of the Spanish Embassies abroad

The Ministry of Education is responsible for the process of officially recognising and approving the rest of foreign qualifications and studies.

When study applications are carried out in the Autonomous Communities in Galicia, Catalonia or the Basque Country, applicants should address their requests directly to the corresponding Departments of Education.

For more information, click on the following link: https://goo.gl/s8Atkn

How to access university in Spain

To access university in Spain, the essential requirement is to pass the Selectividad exam, which is given to all students at the end of their high school studies. However, if the International Baccalaureate Diploma is obtained, the grade obtained grants access to the university, without having to be presented at the general or specific selectivity stage. If you want to access a degree with a limited number of places, you will have to apply for the specific stage of the selectivity.

There are other types of admission for those who have completed a Higher Degree Vocational Training or have studied in Higher Degree Special Education Institutions. Adults over the age of 25, on the other hand, must take an entrance exam similar to the Selectividad, while those over the age of 40 will only have to pass a personal interview, without the need to take any type of exam.

What is the school calendar and timetable in Spanish schools?

The Spanish school year begins in the month of September and finishes at the end of June. 

Private schools tend to start the academic year in the first week in September, whereas state schools usually start a few days later.

During the school year there are various holiday breaks. The first holiday period is the Christmas break which lasts until after Epiphany (6th of January). The second holiday period is at Easter which falls on a different date each year, some years occurring in March and others in April. Lastly, summer holidays begin around the end of June and last until the beginning of the new school year in September. 

In general schools have end of term exams prior to the holiday break. Often pupils also have exams during the term to monitor their progress in each subject.  Lastly, with regard to school hours, the most frequent timetable at private Spanish schools is from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Many schools offer extracurricular activities during the lunchtime break or after school.

Are students required to wear uniform in Spanish schools?

Although uniforms are not obligatory in Spain, they are generally the option chosen by private schools. In Best Schools you will find a number of schools where pupils are allowed to use casual wear. In general, state schools do not require uniforms, although there are some exceptions. 

Which religious education is provided in schools in Spain?

As the Spanish Constitution indicates in article 27, “The public authorities guarantee the right of parents to ensure that their children receive religious and moral instruction that is in accordance with their own convictions.”  What this means is that each pupil is entitled to receive religious education in accordance with the beliefs of their family, however it does not mean that it is mandatory for a child to enrol in a religious course at school. Schools often offer alternative options for pupils who do not wish to take part in religious education.