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International Schools in Barcelona, Spain

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Families moving to Barcelona have a number of great schools to consider. There are several American and British schools plus foreign children are allowed to attend public school. In this article we highlight several of the more popular English schools and expats' advice with regard to public vs. private English schools.

Expats in Barcelona - International Schools in Barcelona

American School of Barcelona

The American School of Barcelona (ASB) is an independent, coeducational day school, which offers an educational program from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 for students of all nationalities. The School was founded in 1962. The school year is comprised of two semesters, extending from early September to late June. Located in an attractive, residential area just 15 minutes from the center of Barcelona, ASB overlooks the city and the Mediterranean Sea. The School is housed in two main buildings that include classrooms, science laboratories, a media resource center, computer laboratories, art rooms, a music room, and a spacious modern lunch room with full kitchen. Physical education facilities include two outdoor sports courts, a soccer field, and several playgrounds. The early childhood center has its own self-contained facility with purpose-built play areas. "I am moving to Barcelona to teach at the American school of Barcelona. It is an English speaking school although students receive additional instuction to learn Spanish. I have been really impressed by the elementary principal, the school director, and the administrative staff. I have been in contact with some of the teachers working there already and they love it," said one teacher who was moving to Barcelona to teach at ASB.

The British School of Barcelona

The British School of Barcelona has programs for early years through secondary and 6th form. It is located in Castelldefels, a quite residential area about 30 minutes by car north of central Barcelona and about 10 minutes from the airport.

Kensington School in Barcelona

The Kensington School in Barcelona receives a tremendous amount of praise from parents on Expat Exchange. It is located in Pedralbes and is one of the oldest British curriculum schools in Spain. "Our boys have been going to Kensington school for over 3 years now. We are happy with it, but of course it's expensive now over 10K euro a year. They have both been sitting UK exams. The classes are small so they get plenty of help from the teachers. The teachers work them quite hard to keep the standard up," said one parent with children at Kensington. Another parent said, "our kids went to Kensington school for 4 years. We were very happy with it. Very good academically. They do some sport at school but for team sports the kids have to join local clubs, which is quite challenging. It's in Pedralbes, which has good access by local busses and not too far from the Metro. Families live all around. We lived near the centre of Barcelona and the boys went by bus to school." Yet another parent who chose Kensington said, "my children (6 and 7) go to Kensington school. Being small it is very friendly with over 20 nationalities. My children are half Japanese and there are currently 6 Japanese families at the school. I understand that the only other school with a Japanese connection is the full Japanese school in Sant Cugat. We chose Kensington initially because unlike EVERY other school including American, German and French, it is not subsidised in some way by the Catalan goverment and so does not teach in Catalan unlike ALL the other schools which can have a high Catalan content, to the detriment we feel of the national language and Spanish. The school GCSE and exam results are good at the top of the school. The school caters largely for families from embassies and executives of big foreign companies who are posted to Barcelona and so the average stay is 3-4 years and is designed for children to be able to slip in and out of an English type education."

Benjamin Franklin International School (BFIS)

The Benjamin Franklin International School (BFIS) is an independent, coeducational day school, which offers an English language college-preparatory program from nursery (age 3) through grade 12 for students of all nationalities. Founded in 1986, the School offers a differentiated, American curriculum, fully accredited with strong academic programs, including learning support and foreign languages. Graduates receive an American high school diploma, a Spanish high school bachillerato certificate or an IB Diploma. To maintain its global community, the School has a unique admissions policy, which strives for 1/3 of the students to be American, 1/3 Spanish, and 1/3 international. The School also has a highly involved school community and strong Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The School moved to its present location in a residential area of Sarrià, Barcelona in 1991. In September of 2011, the School expanded by opening its new middle and high school building at Torras i Bajes, with library and common area, including state of the art technology. The elementary school includes an early childhood center with its own patio and a separate building for grades K-5, with playground, art facilities, and garden. In 2012 BFIS inaugurated a new library for elementary school, and in 2013 the school inaugurated a completely new auditorium and new fully equipped science labs. The entire campus has wireless Internet access.

Oak House School in Barcelona

Oak House School in Barcelona is located in a residential area 15 minutes northwest of central Barcelona. It welcomes students from ages 3 to 18 years of age. The school has over 800 students.

Attending a Public School In Spain

"Yes, foreign children are allowed to go to the public schools in Spain. Once you arrive and have an address, you have to "empadronar" -- that is, register at the nearest Ayuntamiento. Even illegal immigrants can do this. You will then go to the "scholarization office" and be assigned to a school close to where you live (we got to pick our top five choices), so keep that in mind when finding an apartment. Since your son is older, you may also need to get his transcript from his current school. I'm not sure if it will need an apostille (certification from the state where the school is located). I would contact the Spanish consulate to find out for sure. In Spain, there are public schools and also concertados. Concertados are publicly subsidized private schools (mostly Catholic) where parents pay a supplement (though not too much per month). To go to one of these schools, you also have to follow the above process (empadronamiento then Comision de escolarizacion)," explained one expat.

Another said, "if anyone else is relocating to Barcelona with children then yes it is correct that they may attend state/public schools. As long as you are renting a property and register yourself at the local town hall, your children can be registered for one of the schools in your district. Places are hard to come by, however, and if you are applying during term time, the department of education will let you know which schools have places in or outside of your catchment area. Remember that schools in Barcelona are Catalan. This is the main language with Spanish being taught as a foreign language for approx. 2-4 hours a week. Your other school option is concertada schools that are semi-private so more affordable."

"We moved to Barcelona from New Zealand 4 months ago with two boys aged 14 & 11 (now 15 & 12). We wondered where to send them to school but decided on an English Private school in the end (luckily my work agreed to pay the fees). People have said that if they go to a Spanish school that they lose a year of education but they become very fluent in Spanish (and its pretty hard to start with so they need to be kids that can cope). Our oldest boy he didn't want to lose a year of school when he was heading into examination years. Also it is harder here in Bcn to find a school that speaks Spanish not Catalan. We decided it would be better if they were both in the same school. They have both settled into the school well, although the work is harder (they have skipped half a year each because of the season difference and the syllabus is different). I think if they had been a couple of years younger we would have considered a Spanish school more seriously," said one expat who chose English schools for her children.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

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Comments about this Article

Apr 28, 2017 10:28

Hi! I personally recommend Hamelin-Laie International School in Montgat, Barcelona. We have relocated there 5 months ago. The location is increible and the beaches are great. Hamelin-Laie is a very good school, for students from 0 to 18 years old, and offer National Baccalaureate and International Baccalaureate. My concern was that my daughter doesn't speak Spanish, but the school has also a Language School and they offer extra spanish lessons, and also for parents! The school has a really international feel, there is more than a half of international students for sure.

First Published: Oct 14, 2014

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