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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!

Five steps to preparing for the new school year in Spain

Five steps to preparing for the new school year in Spain

Are you and your family ready to return to school after the 12 week summer holiday? We hope you’re all feeling rested and happy and that you enjoyed summer on the Costa del Sol. Renting long term is such a treat over the summer, as you are getting an amazing deal to be in one of the best holiday locations in the world. This is the time you can afford to feel smug knowing you have the pool and beach on your doorstep, as well as gorgeous warm weather and you’re paying the same per month as someone per week short term – it’s a great feeling.

However, September heralds the start of reality again when things need to be organised and you need to get prepared for work and school to begin again in earnest. Despite the length of the holiday, this always seems to come round fast and believe it or not, there’s only a week to get everything in order.

As Costa del Sol long term rental experts with years of experience of bringing up families on the coast, we wanted to share five things to do to prepare for the new school year to help you get ready.

  1. Get the books – For kids 3-5 years old (Infantil) there will be a book list for your year, which is often posted outside the school gates one week before the start of term. However, ordering the books can take longer than this, so to be organised, go along to the bookshop close to your school and ask whether they know the books for your year group and if you can order them. If your child is of primary age, books are free and you should have received a book list and document which shows that you do not have to pay for them (Cheque Libros), take this to your local bookshop and find out if they can accept it.
  2. Restart the normal bedtime routine – Summers on the Costa del Sol are full of late nights and lazy mornings and you need to break this habit and get back into the normal routine to make getting up for school easier. Ease it in slowly, half an hour earlier each evening so the kids don’t feel punished, but they are used to going to bed earlier and waking up earlier too.
  3. Do some homework – As boring as this sounds, kids get out of practice with reading, writing and maths over these long summer holidays, so it’s good practice to do something every day for the last week, so they get back into the swing of things and it’s not such a shock on the first day of term.
  4. Check the school gates or Facebook page or ask questions on the What’s App group – Notices of books, meetings and things to know are posted at the school gates in many schools, but can also be shared online. If you have questions, ask the AMPA (PTA) or in your classes’ What’s App group – there’s lots of great knowledge out there if you’re not afraid to ask.
  5. Enjoy the final week together, rest and create memories – Think about what you haven’t done enough this summer and use this week to tick them off the list and really enjoy your family time together. Once you’re back on the school and work treadmill you’ll have too much to do and too little time, so this last week is precious and should be enjoyed.

If you have any doubts, read our advice for going back to school on the Costa del Sol where we share more tips and insider knowledge. We also have useful information about education in Spain on our website and are always here to help you to find a place to live, answer your questions about long term rentals and offer advice and practical help so you can settle into your life here. Enjoy the final week of summer – see you the other side!  

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.

Schools on the Costa del Sol

Schools in Marbella

Here in Spain we are in our final month of the very long school summer holidays, which begin around the 20th of June and end around the 10th of September and preparations for the new school term are beginning, so we thought it would be a good time to look at the education options for international families living on the Costa del Sol.

The first one is the Spanish state system, which is a free and a great idea for young children to allow them to become bilingual and really embrace the culture of their adopted countries. People often worry that the children won’t be able to cope with the change or the language, but our experience is that children under the age of 6 are super-flexible and take everything in their stride, between 6 and 8 more is required of them at school so they may need some extra help, but can still do it with support. Older than that it is tricky f them, but not impossible if you are all committed.

Please note that the normal admissions period for the September start is between the 1st and the 31st of March each year, so if you wish your kids to start next September you need to get prepared early! Here’s the Junta de Andalucia Education website with all the information you need. If you need your child to start mid school year, it is possible, but it depends on available places, so you’ll have to go and visit your local schools and find out the options.

When you’re making a decision, what we would suggest is that you consider yourself as a parent and how you would cope with the education system in a foreign language first, as this tends to be more of an issue than the kids. You need to have a pretty good level of Spanish, or be committed to developing the language fast in order to be able to handle it. If you can manage it, your kids will be able to, and for both parents and kids, it’s a brilliant way to integrate yourself into the community.

If your Spanish isn’t at a high enough level, you have older children, or your move to Spain may be temporary then the international school system would be better for you and there are loads of really great options here. There are over 20 international schools here which follow different curriculums including UK, German, Swedish and the International Baccalaureate. There are also a number of bi-lingual schools, which can be an excellent option if you want to make sure your child develops Spanish.

Here’s a list of some of the best known International Schools on the Costa del Sol and we’re lucky in that here the costs of private education are a lot lower than in the UK or elsewhere, so it can be an affordable option. As there are so many options, we’d suggest touring the schools closest to you, arranging meetings with the head and then putting your child in for a trial day with your favourites. This will give the whole family the most information possible and allow you to make the right decision for you. These schools are very flexible with when you start at the school and the applications process is shorter and less complicated than the state system and of course you are doing it in your native language, so it’s a lot easier. However, now that the economy is improving, the international schools have all seen a big increase in admissions, so there may not be spaces in all, so be prepared.

The Costa del Sol is a wonderful place for bringing up a family, with a wonderful lifestyle, great access to sports and outdoor activities, the chance to learn a new language and grow up in a place where they love kids. If you want to try out the lifestyle for a year and see how the family settles in, then renting long term on the Costa del Sol and trying an International School for an academic year is a great option.

We are here to help you find the perfect long term rental property and support you with our local knowledge. Browse our website for information on living in Spain as well as information about renting long term and of course an excellent selection of long term rental properties on the Costa del Sol, or contact us for any advice or information you need to make the move.

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.