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Support for expat parents on the Costa del Sol

If you are a parent, thinking about moving to the Costa del Sol, a big factor will be your kids and their education. The Costa del Sol is a total paradise for families, offering an excellent lifestyle for everyone and lots of opportunities for kids of all ages. Check out our 5 reasons to live on the Costa del Sol to see why we love it so much!

However, if you don’t speak the language, some things can be a little daunting and Mums in particular can stress a lot about getting it right for their kids. So in this post, we wanted to share a few excellent sources of advice and support for expat parents before and after your move. Don’t worry, you are not alone!

International and Bilingual Schools on the Costa del Sol

The easiest option is to enrol your children in one of the many, excellent international schools on the Costa del Sol. Many of these teach in English, following either the UK curriculum of the International Baccalaureate. There are also schools which teach in German, Swedish and French and follow their curriculum, so you’re likely to find a good option for you. These schools offer parents lots of advice and support on moving over, know how to cater for international students and of course speak your language, so it’s very easy to fit straight in and get started.

Alternatively, there are a number of bilingual schools, such as Colegio Atalaya and San Jose in Estepona, which give kids a strong base in Spanish, but teach a lot of classes in English. There has been a move to increase bilingual schools in the state system as well, so research the areas well, to make sure that you have access to these specialist schools, if you want to be able to communicate well with the teachers and make it easier for kids to settle in.

Spanish Public Schools

If you want your kids to be totally bilingual, then immersion in a Spanish school is a great way to do it. Younger children find it easiest to make this move, but we’ve seen even older ones cope very well with good preparation before they arrive and some extra tutoring. Some schools are more set up to handle expat parents than others, so ask around and see if there is a more internationally minded school near to where you want to be.

Kids are amazing with learning a new language and will get to grips with everything quickly. In fact, it tends to be the parents that struggle more in the Spanish state system. This is being recognised, which is why we were so pleased to see that the Estepona Town Hall has introduced a network of volunteer interpreters in schools to help parents. These interpreters speak 10 different languages, and are available to communicate better with teachers and school staff. This is a pioneering scheme, which only launched last year, but hopefully if it is a success, more towns with large numbers of international parents will follow suit and give expat parents a helping hand.

Online support

On the Costa del Sol there is a great network of expat parents who help each other out. Take a look on Facebook for groups such as Costa Mums & Little Ones, Marbella Mums and Dads and Schools Noticeboard. These are really excellent resources where you can post your questions, learn about events and avoid mistakes by reading about other people’s experiences.

We hope this has been helpful for you and allayed some of your fears. You can read more information about education in Spain on our website and also read our tips for moving children to the Costa del Sol.

To get you and your family settled, you can count on us to find a perfect long term rental property for you all. Let us know if you want a pool, or garden, how old your children are, how many bedrooms you need and if you have any preferred areas and we can send you a list of properties that would fit the bill. Alternatively, you can browse long term rental properties on our website.

Best of luck with the move!

Tips on going back to school in Spain

Tips on going back to school in Spain

September means the end of summer and the start of school. Most parents and kids look forward to returning to the routine after 11 weeks of holidays, but if you’re new to the area and don’t speak the language, it can be hard to know what to do. The HomeRentalontheWeb team are experts in life on the Costa del Sol and of course long term rentals, but we also have experience of all aspects of education in Spain. We have parents who have sent their kids to Spanish state school and those who have chosen international schools within the team, so we wanted to share a few tips and tricks to get you ready to start.

When does it all begin?

The school term in Andalucia starts on Monday 10th of September for primary and Monday 17th for secondary students. International schools tend to follow the English terms more closely and start around the 5th of September. Some Spanish private schools start the Friday before (7th), to give information to kids and parents before the official start on Monday 10th.

The most tricky years are the first year they begin a new school. There are also more daunting stages when they change from infants to primary school and primary to secondary. This can leave you unsure what to do and nervous whether you’re doing things right. If you’re feeling like this, don’t worry, even in your own language it’s hard to learn the ropes, but you’ll get there!

Getting information

We find that most non-Spanish parents want to have information a lot earlier than they provide it, so that they can plan. Sadly, you’re unlikely to know much before the beginning of September, so there’s no point fighting against the system. However, if you want to get ahead, have a look if the school has a website, or check the AMPA (PTA) Facebook page to see if anything has been posted.

Have a look if there are any Facebook groups for other parents, such as Costa Mums and Little Ones and Costa Kids and Education. The more local the better with these groups, such as the Schools Noticeboard, which has been set up for information about schools around Manilva, Sabinillas and Casares. Getting more local groups avoids confusion between schools and areas. If you ask questions on the general ones, makes sure you state where your kids go to school, so people can give you the right information.

Often, notices are put on the school gates once the teachers are in from the 3rd of September and there are also some limited office hours during these times, normally in the morning. If you have questions, it’s worth heading to the school on the Tuesday or Wednesday in the first week of September and see what you can find out. You should be able to check whether your children have got a place at comedor (lunch and play from 2-4) in this first week of term too.

If it’s your first year, there may be a meeting the week before the start of term with the teachers and these are often on the gates, or on the AMPA pages. Look out for these to make sure you don’t miss it, as these are very useful meetings and are when you will get your book lists and information on what materials you need to buy, or whether you need to put money into a class account so that the teacher can buy the materials they need for the whole class. Books are quite expensive for infants, as they are workbooks. Expect to spend around 100€ on books and 50€ on materials and you won’t get a nasty surprise.

For primary students the books are paid for by the state and you should have got a “cheque de libros” at the end of term. This is a piece of paper with all the books your kids need with a stamp to show that the education authority is paying for these. You need to take this piece of paper to your local book store, ideally before the beginning of term, as it can take a while for the books to come.

School hours at the beginning of the term

Often the first week has reduced hours for the littlest ones, with only one or two hours the first few days, to let the kids get used to everything. This can be very tricky to handle for parents who are working, so bear this in mind and consider taking a few extra holiday days to make sure you can be flexible.

After school activities don’t start straightaway either. It was the beginning of October before these really got going at some schools, so make sure you have cover to pick up the kids earlier over this time.

We hope this information will help you settle into the new term. For more information about going back to school read our article five steps to preparing for the new school year

Best of luck!

Teens on the Costa del Sol

Teens on the Costa del Sol

If you’re already living and renting long term on the Costa del Sol, or you’re planning to move over with a family, you may be wondering what there is to do for teenagers here and if this is a good place for them.

There are some excellent international schools in the area, which are the best choice for teens who do not speak Spanish and want to get internationally recognised qualifications. There are options to study the International Baccalaureate or the UK system to A level, so getting the qualifications shouldn’t be an issue. These schools also offer a rich programme of extra curricular activities.

Outside school, there are brilliant sports facilities, so if you are interested in football, basketball, rugby, sailing, golf, rock climbing, riding or any sport, then there are teams and clubs available and this can be a great way to integrate into the Spanish community. Also, if performing is a passion then there are lots of great performing arts and music groups to join which are excellent for teens who want to express themselves.

There are also lovely hikes and trips into the surrounding countryside organised by the town hall, where families can explore this beautiful area. During the summer months, it’s great to hang out down the beach during the day and there are big parties or ferias in every town and lots of activities for teens and people of all ages to enjoy. Check out the calendar of activities in your local town hall, there is often a lot more going on than you may realise.

An important activity for teens to make the most of their new surroundings is learning Spanish and while they might not be keen at first, it’s a great way to learn a new skill and feel settled in your environment. There are group classes, or private classes and once your teen has some confidence, you can introduce them to the language exchanges, where people get together socially to practice. You can talk to your local town hall to find out if there are any language exchanges and also look at the website Meetup which has loads of interesting things going on, including language exchanges.

Another idea for teens looking for things to do and to enrich their CV is to contact the local Costa del Sol charities and find out about volunteering opportunities. These organisations are always in desperate need of help and it can be a great way for teens to increase their skills, help the community, fill their time productively and really make a difference.

Last month, there was an interesting forum organised by Nicole King and RTV Marbella Now to get community ideas on how to improve the lives of people on the Costa del Sol. The most popular topic was teens on the Costa del Sol, as there was a lot of concern about the lack of options for this sector. Held at Laude School, the kids themselves were able to have their say. The kids and parents discussed that activities such as the cinema, ice-skating, paintballing, theme parks and water parks are widely available and teens would like to do them. However, they are expensive, so for teens and their parents the costs are too high to be affordable on a regular basis. The group plan to set up a discount card to get around this issue.

The other concern was having a safe place for the teens to hang out, and the attendees discussed creating some sort of youth club concept where kids would want to go and could be supervised. They will be speaking to owners of space in the Puerto Banus area and the Town Hall to see if this could be got off the ground, to improve the life for teens in the area.

HomeRentalontheWeb are experts in living on the Costa del Sol and our website contains information about education, healthcare and practical advice about moving here. We provide quality Costa del Sol long term rentals, which are the perfect way to start your life in Spain. Please contact us to find your ideal property.

Advice for going Back to School on the Costa del Sol

Back To School

It’s September and those of us lucky enough to live on the Costa del Sol can enjoy beautiful sunny days and warm nights, without the crowds – it’s one of our favourite times of year. However, it is also the time when reality returns, the kids head back to school and work begins again in earnest, so we wanted to give you some advice to manage the back to school rush.

The International Schools head back earlier, starting around the 1st or 5th of September, but the Spanish schools take longer to return, with most starting around the 12th of September.

If your child goes to a Spanish school, or will be starting this year, don’t be alarmed not to have received any information. It’s quite normal to wait until the beginning of September to know anything at all, something which causes a lot of nerves for international parents. The teachers arrive back at the beginning of the month and then a few days later you can expect to see pieces of paper outside the school gates telling you things like start times, parents’ meetings and book lists. The book shop closest to the school, may already know what books are required, so go and ask them if you want to get ahead of the game. It’s also a good idea to find your school’s AMPA (PTA) on Facebook, as they often post the important information so you don’t have to be at the gates every day.

For parents of 3 year olds starting Spanish school for the first time, you need to be prepared for shorter hours for the first week at least. They try to ease the kids in gently with just a few hours the first day, increasing it gradually over the first week. Some schools take this even further into the first month, which is tough for working parents, but works well for children who have never been away from home before. Make sure you ask as soon as you can so you can make arrangements.

There will normally be a parents’ meeting the week before the start of school, or a few days ahead of the start date. This is an important meeting as you will meet the teacher, be given book lists and information about what the children will be studying that term. The date and time for this will normally be posted in front of the school, so keep your eye out from the beginning of September.

At this meeting they will also tell you how much money you need to pay for materials for the year if you have younger kids, normally between 20 and 50€. You will be informed about a bank account to pay this into and this money enables the teachers to do their projects, decorate the classrooms and generally make the year more interesting for the kids.

Ask if there is a class What’s App group and make sure they have your number, as this is an excellent source of information throughout the year, even if your Spanish isn’t that great. There are often days which spring up when the kids have to dress up, or bring something in and if your child isn’t very good at giving you the bits of paper they come home with, this is a very important resource!

Reach out to the class representatives and any other non-Spanish parents and try to make connections, even if it’s just to say that your Spanish isn’t very good. If you show yourself to be approachable, you will have better chance of making friends, as well as getting people that you can ask if you’re not sure about anything.

This is a stressful and expensive time of year for parents, especially if it’s a new school, but don’t worry, you and your kids will soon get into the swing of things. Just know that most parents haven’t got a clue what’s going on either, so you can be clueless together. Ask your child and hopefully they will help you though it!

Have a great term! You can find more useful information about healthcare, language learning and education on the Costa del Sol on our website and we can help you settle in to your new life here, providing quality long term rental properties and lots of practical advice from experts who have been through it all themselves.

Vaccinations in Spain

syringe-417786_640If you’re living on the Costa del Sol with kids, you need to know about the vaccination programme and make sure your kids are correctly protected. Vaccinations protect your children, and your whole family, from serious and potentially deadly diseases. The schedule of jabs needs to be respected, even if you’ve recently moved over and are just starting to figure out the system.

As a long-term renter, you have put down some roots, but may be playing things by ear. This is a huge advantage of renting long term on the Costa del Sol, however can be disruptive to your children’s health care, as you may not have fully entered the system and therefore miss routine check-ups.

If you (or one member of your family) are working and paying your social security, then you and your extended family are entitled to state medical care. If you speak some Spanish, or have someone who can help, this is the most cost-effective way of getting healthcare for you and your children.

You need to apply for a social security number and card, sign on to your Town Hall register (empadronamiento) and then take your number and your padron (registration) certificate to your nearest doctors’ surgery to register. This process is pretty straightforward if you have someone who understands the system and the language, but can be difficult without, so either reach out to a friend, or consult the local foreigners’ office and ask for their help.

Once you have registered your children at the doctor, they will be entered into the “Niño Sano” (Healthy Child) programme and will have a series of vaccinations planned. They have vaccinations at birth, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 months and 3 years at the doctors’ surgery under this programme. Then jabs will be given at school at the following ages; 6 years, 12 years and 14 years. As well as the mandatory vaccinations such as Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria and MMR, you will also be offered optional vaccines such as chicken pox, which will be done through the doctor, but which you have to pay for.

If you don’t want to go into the Spanish health system, due to issues with the language, or convenience and flexibility, there are some excellent private health care providers. They offer affordable health plans which include vaccinations and can advise you if you feel you have missed anything whilst you’ve been getting settled.

We are here to help if you’re struggling with living and renting on the Costa del Sol and have some useful relocating to Spain information on our website as well as this blog. We also have a number of guides about living on the Costa del Sol and our team are all long term residents, so can give you their personal experiences of sending kids to school, healthcare, driving, insurance and much more. Please don’t be afraid to ask.

Moving children to the Costa del Sol

VacationWe meet hundreds of people each year looking to make the move to the Costa del Sol with their family and deciding to start by renting long term in order to have flexibility and be able to make an informed decision about where they want to settle down.

Spain is the most wonderful place to raise a family, the Spanish love kids and will make them welcome everywhere you go. Plus, the climate is brilliant for an active, outdoor lifestyle and children think nothing of popping to the beach or taking a swim in the pool after school. You can also give your kids the most amazing start to life with a second language and a high level of cultural awareness.

However, it is a daunting step to take and many of our long term renters are worried about how their kids will adapt to a new life in Spain. Here are a few helpful tips on how to make the move easier:

  • Keep the kids’ informed about the move and make them feel excited about the adventure ahead
  • Take advantage of the many social groups, websites and forums offering advice and support for newly arrived parents and get together with people to share experiences and learn Spanish
  • Don’t miss the application dates for state schools & consider the schools when you’re choosing where to live. Don’t just consider International Schools if you want your children to integrate fully
  • Don’t neglect your kids’ English – although they will keep their spoken English level if you speak it at home, their written English will really suffer if they are in Spanish school, so extra work is needed from the parents or a tutor to give them the option to study in an English speaking country at a later stage
  • Help them to get to grips with the language before you leave the UK and work on Spanish at a language school or private classes at holidays so that when they get to school they will feel prepared. Kids are like sponges and will pick up the language quickly and confidently, but it makes everyone feel better if they have a baseline
  • Don’t think any children are too old to move, but make preparations to help them settle depending on their age. Make sure you prepare them for the language if they are older and you are putting them into the Spanish system, or ensure you have enough money for the international schooling system
  • Enjoy the freedom and safety for kids in Spain and let your children explore and make friends, it’s a treat but can be hard to adjust to when you’re used to the more restrictive life in the UK
  • Learn the culture yourself and pass it on to your children by getting involved with everything around you as much as possible
  • Embrace all that is good and different about Spain, let them stay up (really) late like the Spanish kids and take them with you when you go out in the evenings and discover the restaurants and bars in Spain are all child friendly! It’ll help you all to settle in and make new Spanish friends.

Enjoy it, and don’t be afraid to ask others for help and advice, we’ve all been there and Mums and Dads are always happy to share stories, put people in touch and generally make it easier for you. At HomeRentalontheWeb, we’re happy to advise on schools, medical facilities and family friendly activities in the area you’re looking to rent. We all live and work here and so can give you the inside knowledge. 

Staying safe on the Costa del Sol

sosThe Costa del Sol is a great place to live and rent long term and feels very safe. Families notice how much more relaxed it is to have children running around whilst other families help you to keep an eye on them, and there’s a friendly and positive atmosphere on the streets.

However, sometimes we all need some help from the emergency services and should be prepared. If you do need to call the emergency services, dial 112 and this number will connect you with the police, fire and ambulance. There’s a useful post with numbers to call for other emergencies here, which also has a list of a few Spanish phrases to use and would be worth printing out and having around just in case.

In addition there is a new smartphone app which has been sponsored by Mijas Town Hall which gives an immediate alert to your location. It has been designed specifically for hearing and visually impaired members of the community and is totally free to download online for both Apple and Android phones. When the GPS facility is activated, any calls you place requesting assistance will make it easier to pinpoint your location ensuring a rapid response to your call. You can find out more by clicking here

Another danger which you need to be very mindful of is the ever present drowning hazard from being close to the sea and having easy access to pools. Children can drown even in shallow water, so be really careful, ensuring kids are constantly supervised around water, always wear buoyancy aids and are educated as soon as possible to be confident and safe swimmers. Ensure pools are safely gated off or covered when not in use so children can’t just wander in unsupervised.

Being close to water is a huge benefit of renting long term on the Costa del Sol and many of our long term rental properties have private or communal pools, but always remember that they are also potentially dangerous places and take precautions to protect children other members of the family.

Stay safe!

Moving to Spain with your family

Family Dining Al FrescoIf you’re planning on relocating to Spain it is an exciting but daunting prospect, especially if you’re moving the whole family and have to worry about how kids and elderly relatives will cope. However, with the right preparation and planning the move can be made much easier and in our experience the stress and strain is soon forgotten when you’re sipping a cocktail on your terrace, or taking the kids to the beach to play every day.

There’s a really useful guide to moving to Spain with the family which can help you prepare for the big move which you can download for free. Prepared by a moving company it covers topics such as preparing the family for the move from an emotional and practical point of view, packing tips, advice on getting through the move day and then settling into your new home. It’s a really comprehensive guide of things to think about and do to make the move easier and better for all so is highly recommended.

We have also got loads of interesting and helpful information on our site about relocating to Spain, including a free guide to Spanish legal system  which includes getting a Spanish will, becoming a resident and buying and selling property which you can download free of charge.

Remember, we’ve all made the move ourselves, as have thousands of others and so whilst it is stressful, the rewards of family life in Spain far outweigh the stress of the move itself. You will find that Spain offers a very family friendly environment which welcomes children almost everywhere you go and puts them at the centre of the community. The kids love it as they get to play outside, enjoy a healthier lifestyle full of sports and activities and be part of the family life no matter what is happening. Plus they get to learn a second language and the younger they are the easier it is!

Keep an eye on the blog for information about schools and family life in Spain and feel free to ask us any questions by commenting on the blog or getting in touch by email, phone or online here: http://www.homerentalontheweb.com/contact.

Registering your child for Spanish state school

primaryAlthough it can seem early in the year to think about schools, the best month to register for a place at a Spanish state school is March.

Children can enter into school in the same year if they are three before the end of the year and the recommendation is to put children in at this stage if you want them to go into the state system, as after this age places are fewer and further between and so getting into the school of your choice could be difficult.

No matter what stage of education you’re at, March is the time to enter for the next academic year and there are descriptions, help and advice on the Junta de Andalucia Website.

You can search online for the schools in your area, or visit your local education office to ask your questions in person. Once you know the schools in your catchment area, ask around, post on forums and generally ask for advice on the best schools available as there don’t seem to be league tables where you can rate the school easily.

Once you know which school you want to apply to, fill in the application form which can be found online (different forms depending on the age of entry) and present it before 31st March at the chosen school to register for your place.

You need a “certificado de empadronamiento” from the town hall to prove where you live and documents which show your earnings and the hours you work such as your self-employment certificate or employment contract. You will also need copies of your identity documents such as your NIE certificates, Libro de familia and passports. It is recommended to go into your nearest centre for education to make sure you fully understand all the paperwork you need as it can get a bit complicated, especially if you don’t speak the language so well.

You apply for extras such as lunch and after school activity during the registration process when you have been allocated a school. This is at the beginning of June.

If this all seems a little daunting, there are professionals who can act as translator and advisor and guide you through the process and help avoid misunderstandings.

Alternatively there are many International schools on the Costa del Sol which are private and so have easier and more flexible entry requirements and all speak English and therefore make the process easier for you. There are schools teaching the English curriculum and also the International Baccalaureate which can be a good option if you’re not sure where you will be going next as it’s an easily transportable qualification for maximum flexibility.

For more information on relocating and renting long term on the Costa del Sol please visit our website.

International Schools on the Costa del Sol

We’re blessed with a large range of options for schooling here on the Costa del Sol, and due to the highly international population there are schools to suit all kids. Most of the International schools will either follow the English curriculum or the International Baccalaureate as it’s a more portable qualification. Many teach in English, but offer a lot of time for Spanish and factor it into the curriculum in the younger years so the kids get a good base in the language.

There’s a great list of the International schools in Andalucia on website Mum Abroad. Check out what you feel would suit your family best, many people choose the school first and then where to live to make it more straightforward, but if you’re renting long term on the Costa del Sol, you have the flexibility to move over to a preferred location, get a feel for the area, find the right school and then either decide to move closer to the school or look at transport options.

Sotogrande International School receives excellent comments for their IB education from primary to diploma, child-centred focus and outstanding sports and arts programmes. They also have transport options from Marbella and also from Gibraltar. Aloha, English International College and Laude also have good reputations, all the information and website addresses are on the Mum Abroad post.

If you want to ask questions for your specific circumstances or if your child has any individual difficulties, post a question on Marbella Family Fun or check out their list of popular schools in the area  this is an excellent resource for families moving to the Costa del Sol.