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Education in the Costa del Sol

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The scope of this guide

This guide is about the education system in Spain - state schools, Spanish private schools and international schools. It does not cover tertiary (university) education.

It pays particular attention to the arrangements in the Costa del Sol.


Education in Spain is often very good, but can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Whether your child receives a good education will be, in the main, down to the school you choose for them. Whether you go down the route of private or state education, there is a good selection of schools available on the Costa del Sol.

How to choose the right type of school for your child on the Costa del Sol

You have, in effect, three choices: the standard Spanish state education system, private Spanish schools (many of which will be subsidised by the State) and fully independent private schools. These fully independent private schools would include most international and foreign-language schools.

There is, at least in theory, a fourth choice. This is to educate your child at home. But it is rare that a foreigner will want or be able to do this and the few people that Guides.Global knows who have tried to go down this route have met with considerable resistance and many obstacles.

Pros and cons of state schools on the Costa del Sol

Choosing an ordinary Spanish state school has many advantages and a few - sometimes serious - disadvantages.

The first problem is that, depending upon the catchment area in which you live, you may find that 'your' school is of good, bad or indifferent quality. If you're thinking of going down the road of state education, you need to make sure that you buy or rent a property in an area within the catchment area of a good school. The best way of finding out about the reputation of local schools is to ask people in the area who have young children. Establishing which school your child should attend is one of the main purposes of making sure that you spend some time in Spain before you commit to the purchase of a house and a good reason for starting your time in Spain in property that you've rented temporarily - say, for a period of three months.

The second big problem with sending your child to a local Spanish school arises, mainly, where your children are already well advanced in the educational system. You will find that the curriculum in Spain is totally different from the curriculum in your own country. Your children will not have covered many of the things that children of their age will be expected to have grasped - and, of course, they will have studied many things that the local children will not have studied.

This can mean that your child is allocated to a more junior class - i.e. a class for children younger than its years. This can be demoralising and it can cancel out one of the great advantages of going to a local Spanish school: the ability to quickly make friends with children in the area.

It is quite a challenge for your child to take on learning about life in a new country, a new language and a new curriculum all at the same time.

You will often also find that you will not be able to assist your child nearly as much as you could 'back home'. If they are set homework, it will be in Spanish and - quite possibly - related to a subject about which you know absolutely nothing.

Spanish schools are often something of a social hub. Many offer extensive extracurricular activities - sports, art, drama, music etc - but they do not usually offer nearly as many as you would find in private schools.

Despite all of these drawbacks, there are four overwhelming benefits to attending a good local state school on the Costa del Sol.

  1. Your child will be mixing with 'ordinary' local Spanish children from the area in which you live. He or she will make friends quickly and learn the language in the matter of a few weeks. This is especially true if they are still young - say, eight years old or younger.

  2. They will become totally immersed in Spanish society. Attending a private school, particularly one with lots of international children, can leave them a little on the sidelines as far as Spain is concerned. There is no greater gift to your child than to make them completely and seamlessly bicultural. This is more than just speaking the language. It is understanding about the history and mindset of the people where you live. It is being intimately familiar with the politics and the football and the religion and the local social activities. Being totally bicultural also offers huge range of well-paying job opportunities.

    Remember that, if you want to take advantage of this, you will need to make sure that your children do not lose contact with their own roots. You will want to make sure they spend time speaking their own language, reading about and discussing their own culture and meeting many people from that culture. However, for most people this is not a problem.

  3. Having your child attend a local Spanish school helps you integrate into Spanish society. They will tell you what is going on. They will help you learn the language. They will introduce you to the parents of their friends.

  4. Of course, a final advantage of using a state school is that it is free!

It definitely helps put your child through local Spanish school if you already speak at least a little Spanish but many newcomers manage to do so without understanding a word of the language. Indeed, in places like the Costa del Sol, schools with large numbers of foreign children will often have specially trained teachers with good language skills in the most important languages in their area.

The main reason you might want to rule out a local school is if your children are older. This can make it more difficult to adapt to a new curriculum and can lose them the possibility of taking the exams for which they have been studying 'back home'.

Pros and cons of private schools on the Costa del Sol

There are a wide range of private schools available on the Costa del Sol. See below for more details. Some of them offer pretty much the same facilities and opportunities as an ordinary Spanish state school but possibly have better teachers, smaller classes or a more ambitious educational programme.

Attending a private school in Spain is very common. Across Spain, nearly half of all pupils attend such a school.

Others - particularly the international schools - cater to a different market. They are aimed squarely at the foreign parents of children living temporarily in the area or the parents of Spanish children who are likely to be travelling and working internationally.

These schools offer a much wider range of study options. You are likely to be able to find a school that can offer or adapt to the curriculum and exam programme that is already being followed by your child.

They will almost always offer less integration into 'normal' Spanish society than you will get in a Spanish state school, but can balance that by giving a very broad understanding of the cultural background in many different countries.

For example, if you attended an English medium (language) international school you may find that the other students in your class came not only from the US, the UK and other English-language countries but also from places such as France, Germany, Russia, the Middle East, Singapore and China. In addition there is likely to be a significant number of Spanish students.

Compulsory education on the Costa del Sol

In Spain it is a legal requirement for children to attend school between the ages of six and 16. This covers primary education and compulsory secondary education.

Before the age of six there is often the opportunity to attend preschool/nursery school (Guarderias). See below.

After the age of 16 there are opportunities for further secondary education, graduate and post-graduate education but this is subject to the child's ability.

School hours on the Costa del Sol

School hours across Spain can vary. Some schools run from 9:00-17:00 (with a two-hour lunch break). Others may begin and end as early as 7:00 and 14:00. Check the school's website or call them up to find out.

School uniforms on the Costa del Sol

School uniforms are not compulsory for schools in Spain. They are uncommon in state schools and far more common in private schools (especially religious schools).

State education on the Costa del Sol

The Spanish curriculum

The Spanish Ministry of Education has details of the Spanish curriculum from pre-school through to the end of secondary school. You can view it here. Use the drop-down list in the top right-hand corner to select your language.

Catchment areas

Your child is unlikely to be able to attend a school outside of their catchment area. You can ask your local town hall for a list of schools within the catchment area. If you're considering a move to the Costa del Sol, this is an important factor when deciding where to buy or rent a house. Check out the local schools before commiting.

You can also use this search tool to find schools in your desired area. Just type in your town name or postcode.

Registering for a state school on the Costa del Sol

To register your child, you may need to show the school your child's passport, proof that they've been vaccinated and proof of your address (a utility bill or rental agreement).

You can find your local state schools on this web page (it's in Spanish - but just enter your postcode).

Every school is limited as to the number of children it can register and applications are taken on a first come, first served basis. It is therefore important that you allow adequate time to arrange your children's education.

The quality of state education in Spain

State education in Spain has improved dramatically in the last couple of decades, although it still sits below the OECD average.


It's compulsory for children to attend school from the age of six, but most parents in Spain will take advantage of the preschool system available.

Preschool in Spain is split into two cycles: 0-3 years old (which is not free) and 3-6 years old (which is free).

Guarderias are nursery schools for children aged 0-3. It's not unusual for Spanish children to attend these institutions from just a few months old.

Spaces in guarderias can be difficult to secure, so it's advisable to start the process before you move (or before your child is born).

Bi-lingual nurseries have popped up across the Costa del Sol in response to the huge population of expats. Angloinfo has compiled a good list of the English-speaking guarderias available in the region. Most towns and even villages will have a nursery/kindergarden, but not all will have a bilingual institution.

Spanish preschool isn't heavily focused on academia - their main advantages are allowing parents to return to work with minimal childcare costs and, in the case of foreign children, integration into the Spanish culture and language.

The curriculum for pre-school students focuses on:

  • Language and communication

  • Self-knowledge and personal autonomy

  • Knowledge of environment and surroundings

See more details here.

If there aren't enough free places in a pre-school, priority for admission can be boosted by the following criteria:

  • Previous enrollment of siblings in the school, or a parent or guardian working in the school

  • Close proximity of the home or workplace of a parent or guardian

  • A low annual income for the family (calculated keeping the size of the family in mind)

  • Disability (in the case of the student or a parent or guardian)

Primary school

Primary school, from the age of six to twelve years old, is where compulsory education in Spain begins. A child will start school in the calendar year in which they turn six years old.

Students will get a grounding in Spanish, mathematics, foreign languages, culture and physical education.

See more details on the Spanish primary school curriculum here.

Students will be continuously evaluated so that poorly performing children can be given additional support.

The grades are as follows:

  • Infufficient (Insuficiente) - IN

  • Sufficient (Suficiente) - SU

  • Good (Bien) - BI

  • Excellent (Notable ) - NT

  • Outstanding (Sobresaliente) - SB

Learning disabilities or other mitigating factors are taken into account.

At the end of the third year and the end of the sixth year of primary school, students will be more formally assessed and graded. Only an Insuficiente grade will mean that your child will have to repeat a year at school. This is not a common outcome.

When your child graduates primary school, their school records (including evaluation grades, average scores in individual subjects etc) will be passed on to the school they are graduating to. You can request a copy of these records.

If there aren't enough places available in a primary school, priority for admission can be boosted by the following criteria:

  • Previous enrollment of siblings in the school, or a parent or guardian working in the school

  • Close proximity of the home or workplace of a parent or guardian

  • A low annual income for the family (calculated keeping the size of the family in mind)

  • Disability (in the case of the student or a parent or guardian)

  • Coming from a preschool that is attached to the primary school

  • If the family has moved to the catchment area as a result of 'forced movement' or domestic violence

Secondary school

Secondary school (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria) is for children between the ages of 12-16. It is divided into two 'cycles' - from 12-14 and 14-16.

Throughout compulsory secondary education, students will study the 'core' subjects - Spanish language and literature, physical education, mathematics, history, geography and a foreign language. There are also optional subjects such as natural science, technology and religious education. See this page for a more detailed look at the curriculum.

Students in secondary education are also regularly tested and assessed and may find themselves repeating a school year if they are not deemed up to standards - this means failing three or more subjects, or failing both Spanish and mathematics.

After these four years, compulsory education ends. Students are awarded either a graduate certificate of secondary education, (Graduado en Educación Secundaria), or ESO, which allows them to continue onto their bachillerato from 16-18 and then onto university; or a school certificate (certificado de escolaridad/escolarización), which allows students to carry on into vocational studies.

If there aren't enough places available in a secondary school, priority for admission can be boosted by the following criteria:

  • Previous enrollment of siblings in the school, or a parent or guardian working in the school

  • Close proximity of the home or workplace of a parent or guardian

  • A low annual income for the family (calculated keeping the size of the family in mind)

  • Disability (in the case of the student or a parent or guardian)

  • Coming from a preschool that is attached to the primary school

  • If the family has moved to the catchment area as a result of 'forced movement' or domestic violence

High school/bachillerato

Education from 16-18 is not compulsory, but is necessary if your child wants to go to university. A bachillerato course will continue teaching 'core' subjects, but focus on one of three areas:

  • Arts

  • Science & technology

  • Humanities and social sciences

You can see more details here.

Vocational studies

You can view some options for vocational studies here (page in Spanish but translates well through Google Translate).

Private education on the Costa del Sol

As in most countries, Spanish private schools hold advantages: smaller class sizes, better support for special needs, a better reputation (and therefore an easier ride getting into the university of your choice).

Spanish private schools are state-subsidised and can thus be much cheaper than international private schools (see below). They can cost less than €1,000 a year. However, remember that these fees will have to be supplemented by meal costs and school supplies, which can quickly mount up.

They will teach the Spanish curriculum, entirely in Spanish. They are therefore perhaps not the best idea for older children - but can be a fantastic learning environment for younger children, who will soak up the language relatively quickly and easily.

Many private schools are Catholic, though most will be mixed-gender (unlike in, for example, England - where religious private schools are often separated by sex). Most are day-schools, though you will find some that accept boarders.

International schools on the Costa del Sol

International schools will teach the curriculum of the country they cater to.

The international schools on the Costa del Sol are numerous, of a high standard and very popular with expats on the Costa del Sol. They may be a particularly good choice for your child if they are already a while into their education (and may therefore struggle with an entirely new environment in a new language).

They are, however, pretty expensive - although still cheap compared to international schools in Northern Europe. Fees can range from around €4,000 per year to closer to €10,000 per year.

Applying for a private or international school

Do this as far in advance as possible. Most good private schools will have waiting lists.

You will probably have to provide previous grades and school reports, as well as identification and proof of residence.

Expats' Tips

It can be hit and miss in the standard Spanish state schools. You try to enrol your child into School A or School B, because you certainly don't want them going to School Z. The standard of education there is not what you would want. That would appear to me to be less common in Ireland, where the standard doesn't vary tremendously.

Gerry O Brien, Dublin, Ireland

Expats' Tips

Have you got experience with education in Spain? Tell us about it by emailing office@guides.global.


You've got a lot of choice when it comes to educating your children on the Costa del Sol. Whether you decide to send your child to state, private or an international school, it's imperitive that you do your research before deciding. Have a look on expat forums, ask any friends you may have in the area and, if possible, visit several schools before making a decision.

Other guides of interest

Regional Guide to the Costa del Sol
The basics of the Costa del Sol: facts and figures, tourism and culture.
Learning the Language in the Costa del Sol
The best ways to learn Spanish on the COsta del Sol
Cultural Differences on the Costa del Sol
The main differences you're likely to notice in day-to-day life.

You may also want to read:

Ministry of Education
The education system in Spain - qualifications, curriculum and what you need to apply to a Spanish state school.
Education in Spain - an overview of the Spanish education system.

Readers' Comments


Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Francine Carrel 02 June 2016


This guide was co-authored by John Howell (Email: John.Howell@Guides.Global or John@jhco.org. Web: www.jhco.org or www.Guides.Global)


+44 1284 719964



Email or call us to find out how we can work together.

Marbella Family Fun > Marbella schools > Laude San Pedro International College

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Laude San Pedro International College is a large, vibrant school with excellent facilities offering a complete British education on the Costa del Sol to pupils from 2 to 18 years of age.

Check out Laude's Summer Program from ClubsComplete

Language options: Laude International College offers an enhanced English National Curriculum with a strong focus on developing fluency in Spanish as a Second Language. It also offers - for Spanish students - a condensed Spanish curriculum.

International Students: The School's program of study is certified in Spain and in England. It's Sixth Form unit offers AS and full A levels, with provision made for entry into UK and Spanish Universities. This British co-educational school hosts over 600 students from over 40 countries.

The School: Laude San Pedro is housed in a modern campus with large indoor and outdoor training facilities. The installations and facilities for learning, sports and arts are considered to be among the finest of any school on the Costa del Sol.

The Teachers: The College acknowledges that learning is a lifelong process and that all students can achieve strong results in a environment that is both stimulating and enjoyable. Laude's teaching teaching systems recognise that children learn in different ways and that each child deserves an individualised approach to maximise their unique potential.

After School Activities: Several extracurricular activities are held once the school day has finished. They are aimed at student and adults that belong to the School community. These include all sport activities, Japanese lessons, Music lessons, Dance, Chess, Architecture, Art, Science, Cooking and more.

Check out the Laude lip dub video by senior Henry Northcote as well as the fun kids have learning outside of class at The Apple Store.

Among the strengths of the school - which set it apart from many others - are the student-centred and holistic approaches to learning that recognise and employ whole-brain, multiple-intelligence teaching methods.

Laude San Pedro International College puts the child's welfare and well-being at the centre of everything it does. It constantly reaches out to both students and parents though profiles, meetings, and regularly  scheduled and structured review sessions.

Laude takes the award for Short Film Competition

Laude took first prize this year in the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS) Short Film competition sponsored by Lenovo.  Laude won the prize for their submission in the video competition, 'My British School is Cool', which debuted at the National Conference in Malaga.  Laude beat competitors from British schools all over Spain. 

Laude San Pedro Charitable Initiatives

Laude San Pedro International College believes contributing to the community is part of its responsibility as a local representative students, parents and teachers. The school hosts an annual charity event aimed at raising awareness, funds and resources to benefit local organisations in need. In preparing for and implementing the charitable event, students gain a first-hand appreciation of the importance of being an active, supportive member of the community.

have a question or feedback on this school?

Son: "An amazing school"

Laude San Pedro is an amazing English school that I go to and I learn a lot. I have a lot of fun at the same time. There might be a lot of homework in Spanish lessons but I am strong in Spanish so that does not bother me.

Daughter: "A fine school"

I have been going to Laude since I moved to Spain and I think it is a really good school. The teachers are nice and a bit strict...

...The cafeteria food is not very good, but not to worry...I am working on that, because I am on the school council. :)I am happy with all the classes and teachers. In secondary we get lockers that are not very big but you can still fit everything inside.There are two playgrounds, one for the kids who play football during break and the other one for everyone else.In secondary there is a tuck shop at break where some year 12's and 13's sell chocolates and crisps for about 1 euro.

Mom: "Our kids have excellent grades"

Our children have been attending Laude since nearly the very beginning in 2004. They have sailed through nearly all of primary and I cannot complain about their general education. They have always had excellent results here...

...The teachers are open and friendly and the school facilities are high in qualityCompared to the average school in the UK or the US, the turnover for teachers is high, but I believe this happens a lot in all the Marbella International schools as well as other private schools on the coast. Nevertheless, our children are doing well, plus it's very close to home so we hardly have a commute, which is a huge advantage.Laude San Pedro International School has always been a truly international school with a wide variety of nationalities. We have always considered it important to expose our children to other cultures, to be aware, understanding and acceptable of people who are different...and we get this at Laude. It is so nice to have a mix of cultures in our school.In all the years that we have been at Laude, our children have never been bullied and we understand that it is simply not tolerated here. My children have always chosen nice friends and children who come from happy backgrounds and nice families, so naturally they are very happy at Laude.

Dad: "Our kids are growing happily and confidently"

Laude San Pedro is a British school that opened only in 2004, under the name of King's college. The school went through a few changes in its corporate structure after a few years...

...That brought a level of instability to the institution, but did not have any noticeable incidence on the level of education, at least for the children in primary.The school offers new, modern and functional facilities in a friendly atmosphere. Since it is a new school, it is not easy assessing the average level of the students objectively. However, our kids enjoy their school very much and are growing happily and confidently, so it must be worth the high cost of the tuition fees...

Matthew's Family (Estepona) 

Dad: "The best decision we made"

At first we tried a Private International School in Nueva Andalucia however we have since moved all of our children to Laude San Pedro International School. The principal reason behind this was that we felt Laude offered much better value for money not just in terms of tuition fees but also in the sense that the school was purpose built and as such offered better, more dedicated facilities to its students.

I have to admit this was probably the best decision I made for my children. Laude is an excellent school that seems to have that community spirit missing from many private education facilities. My children are all very happy with their school and love going each morning, which as we all know, makes the job of the parent that much easier! Part of the reason for this can be attributed to the attitude and passion of the teachers at Laude which is second to none.

I am extremely happy with Laude San Pedro and would urge any parent who is genuinely concerned with their child's happiness, educational development and well-being to consider Laudes San Pedro as their school of choice.

Georgina's Family (San Pedro) 

Mom: "A breath of fresh air"

We have recently moved to the costa and having 3 children (2 now in college in the UK) we are most aware of the need to find a school that works with parents, children, teachers and the wider community...

...We were also concerned that the school should demonstrate a commitment to the international world that we live in. Having visited a number of establishments and listened to parents with children in these Costa schools we choose Laude for our 8 (now 9 year old).Our initial impression was a refreshing breath of fresh air. The reception and other administrators were all clearly engaged and fully understood and pre-empted our questions and addressed them thoroughly and transparently. The school immediately demonstrated that it is focused and businesslike but leaving both us and our child in no doubt that they were entirely interested in us and listened carefully. They worked hard to manage the transition for not only our child but for us the parents and they have welcomed us all with equal gusto. As with anything not everything was perfect and the purchase of uniform was far from easy and the cost was more than what we had expected, but these are things that can be addressed and resolved.In summary we feel confident in recommending this school as it is clearly setting our child up for excellence. In the short time since term began our child is excited everyday and this is demonstrated in his enthusiasm and general manner - for us a complete change from previous. The leadership at Laude although new, seems to be absolutely appropriate, pitched to encourage and grow relationships. John Foulkes-Jones tells parents that the greatest gifts that they can give their children are "Roots and Wings", well he has certainly given us them!

For many English schools Costa del Sol offers a wonderful opportunity to live in Spain, soak up the culture and still follow the British education system. Laude San Pedro's mission is to enable children of the internationally-mobile community to learn, develop, grow, and realise their potential in an environment which is child-centred, stable, nurturing and rich with learning opportunity.

For parents interested in the British National curriculum Costa del Sol families are encouraged to visit our school and become part of the Laude family!

Laude San Pedro International College references:

Have you been cyber-bullied or know of someone who has? Share your experiences in the Marbella Family Fun cyberbullying forum. Read cyberbullying articles to know how to avoid cyberbullying and what to do if you've been bullied.

Laude San Pedro International College


Avenida La Coruña, 2, Urbanización Nueva Alcántara, 29670 San Pedro de Alcántara 

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