Moving abroad with your children is an exciting opportunity for them to learn a new language and experience a different culture. Finding the best international schools in Costa Blanca may not be such an exciting task.
Making sure your children receive the best education is an important part of this big adventure.
Many expats enroll their children in the local state schools but this may not always be the best option.
Spanish state schools are generally very good, but classes can be large and your child will need a good level of Spanish to follow the lessons, particularly from age 6 upwards.
For many young children, this is not such a problem as they seem to find it easy to learn another language. Older children may struggle as they adjust to life in a new country, try to make friends, pick up another language and keep up with their studies.
There are many great, private international schools in Spain which is another option, if you can afford it.
Find out all you can about the international schools in your area. Get their prospectuses and syllabuses. Find out which educational system they follow – British GCSE and A-levels, international baccalaureate or Spanish bachillerato, for example.
The Good Schools Guide International also independently reviews the top independent schools. (www.gsgi.co.uk
Make a wish list of the schools which seem the best to you and arrange to visit them. Talk to the head teacher about the school, size of classes, subjects taught, number of pupils, special needs and whether classes are streamed or mixed ability.
If you can take a tour around the school to see the classes in action and ask if you can talk to some of the other teachers or pupils. The school may hold open days which you can attend.
Find out if the schools have a PTA and, if so, ask what they think are its good and bad points. If there are expat groups in your new area, ask their members for advice about schools. Many towns also have Facebook groups where you can get advice too.
- Do the teachers make the grade?
Research the teachers at the school and find out how long they have been there. A high turnover of staff could be a warning sign. Find out about their qualifications and how long they have been teaching. You can also look them up on LinkedIn to find out more about them. You don’t want to send your child to a school with a lot of inexperienced teachers or poorly qualified ones.
- Does the school have any specialist subjects?
If your child is gifted or talented in a particular subject or sport, such as football, tennis, science or languages, you will need to see if the school can nurture that talent. Some schools will specialise in certain fields such as drama, arts, sciences or sports, so it is worth finding out which is the best one for your child.
Schools should be able to provide the number of pupils who go on to university and what they study. It’s also worth finding out which universities they go on to. Also, ask what the other pupils do if they don’t go on to further education. It could be reassuring to know the school has such a good reputation that its pupils find it easy to get work.
As your child will be new to the area, it would be a good idea to encourage them to join groups as a way of meeting new people. See if the schools in your area have after-school clubs or Saturday clubs. Many will have sports groups but they may also have music, dance or drama groups. Finding a shared interest could be a good way to make new friends quickly.
If the school has a PTA or fund-raising group, sign up. This is another good way to find out about the school and you can also make new friends while you’re helping out. The school may need volunteers to supervise children on school trips, which means you can get to know the local area at the same time.
Some schools start in the morning and work through until 2pm or 3pm while others have a split day with a couple of hours off for lunch before returning mid-afternoon. If you work or have to travel a fair way to school, you need to make sure you aren’t going to spend half your day behind the wheel of a car.