Whether you’re thinking about moving to Spain with your family, or are already living in Spain and considering starting a family, childcare in Spain is something every ex pat needs to know about.
From early years care for infant and toddlers to wrap-around after school care for older children, many families rely on good quality and affordable childcare in order to support their children.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about choosing childcare in Spain:
When Can Children Be Enrolled in Childcare?
Spanish mothers are entitled to four months of statutory maternity leave, after which point many Spanish mothers choose to return to this point. For this reason, many nurseries and early years settings will take infants as standard from the age of around four months; this may seem very young for many British ex-pats, which many British mothers keeping their children at home with them until they are around one year old.
Compulsory education in Spain (formal schooling in either a local public school or private English-language school) doesn’t begin until children reach six years of age, but many children are enrolled into voluntary education in early years settings: according to the most recent reports, 95% of three year olds and 97% of four year olds in Spain attend pre-school.
Sending Your Child to Spanish Nursery
When it comes to choosing a nursery school, there are two options: state-run or private. In order to secure a highly-coveted spot in a state-run nursery, you will need to apply to the regional authority (comunidad) and have evidence that you are a family living on a low income. Costs for state nurseries are heavily subsidised by the government, and will vary depending on your income. These nursery schools will provide full-day childcare, including lunch, and to give you an idea of the costs involved in this option, in Barcelona the monthly family fee ranges from €50–395, depending on the income level of both parents. The requirements to be eligible for a place in your local public nursery school will vary from region to region; if you think you might be eligible, it is worth contacting the school directly to request more information about the eligibility criteria and application procedure.
SInce the criteria can be strict, and the process time-consuming, many parents choose to send their children to private nurseries instead. You will find an abundance of these across Spain, with several options in even the smallest towns, meaning that you can visit several to find the nursery school that bests suits you and your child’s needs. These facilities will cost between €400 – 600 per month depending on how many days you enroll your child for and whether the nursery will provide their meals. English language schools tend to be a little more expensive. Be prepared to pay an annual fee of around €400 in addition to the enrolment to reserve your child’s place at the school.
What to Know When Choosing a Nursery
The first question many parents ask (in any country) when choosing a nursery is what the child to adult ratio is. Unfortunately this is much higher in Spain than elsewhere in Europe, including the UK. In Spain you will find 8 children to each adult caregiver for babies under the age of 1, 9 children to each adult caregiver for children aged 1, and then this figure raises sharply to one adult caregiver per group of 20 two and three year-olds.
You should also know that all Spanish nurseries must be licenced by the local town hall, so it is worth checking that the nursery you are considering has this license in place; you may also find information about the nurseries hygiene certificate and staff training levels here. Finally, don’t be afraid to look around each facility yourself, talk to other parents whose children attend the establishment, and trust your gut instinct: it may sounds trire, but there’s a lot to be said about mother’s instinct and if you’re not sure a facility is right for you then it probably isn’t.
The average Spanish child aged under 3 is in nursery for 28 hours a week. You can choose to send your child for a morning session, afternoon session, or pay more to send them for a full-time placement, depending on your needs and your working hours.
The main take home here should be that Spanish childcare is readily available; there are plenty of facilities available to ensure your child is well cared for so that you can return to work. Whilst many expats are unable to take advantage of the informal child care their Spanish counterparts can, such as grandparents and siblings who can offer regular child care, as well as nursery schools you can also find babysitting services, and childminders in Spain.
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