How to apply for a school place in Spain

(and a bonus trick)

Applying for a school place in Spain may not be a straightforward process. It’s easy enough to deal with private schools, but the public ones have very specific requirements, such as NIE, Padrón and observation to the enrollment schedule – and enrollment happens only in the beginning of the year. For these reasons, foreign kids mostly end up going to private schools at the start of their lives in Spain, but can change to a public one on the following year. Not all is lost, though; in the end of this post I’ll share the experience of a couple of friends of mine that actually managed to enroll their kids out of the time!

You see, foreigners probably won’t have the full documentation required by a public school when they just arrive in Spain, and these documents can take months to get ready. On top of that, the public schools follow a calendar where you can only enroll in March (in Andalusia) or maybe July (if there are empty places), so be ready to have them in a private school for a year or at least a semester. Please notice that each Autonomous Communities follow their own calendars; but as far as I’ve noticed, they tend to enroll between the months of February and April.

How to apply for a private school place in Spain

If you are going to enroll your kid in a private school, the best way to find out what documents they require is writing an e-mail to that school and asking them directly. Generally speaking, you can expect the school to require some form of ID document from both kid and parents (even if it is just your passports) and the school records of the child.

They are more likely to request school records for older kids (say, teenagers) than from the very young ones. My kid, that arrived in Spain when he was 7 years old, did not have to present these papers, and was placed straightaway in second grade, despite not speaking Spanish.

From my experience, private schools do reply such e-mails in one day. Make sure you inform where your family is coming from (they may have different requisites depending on whether you are coming from an EU country or from a Spanish speaking country, for instance), the ages of the children, what grade they are currently on and when you intend to arrive. The better the information you give, the better their answer will be.

If the school replies to you saying they will need the school records, ask them if they need it to be translated to Spanish and if they need these records to be official, meaning if you need to have them apostilled. It is good to know this some time ahead, as you need to prepare the apostille before leaving to Spain.

Kids going to school. Art by MamaMálaga, because taking pictures of kids in school would be awkward.

How to apply for a public school or concertado place in Spain

Both public schools and concertados follow the same enrolling procedure. They only accept new students through their own process of enrollment, which happens between February and April for most of the Comunidades Autonomas (Autonomous Communities), and they require NIE and Padrón from the parents.

You can find specific information about each autonomous community by searching junta de [name of the community] on google. It should give you the official website of the government of that region, and there should be the updated information about their enrolling procedures under a tab called educación (education) or something related to it – estudiar (to study), enseñanza (teaching)… look for something that starts with ‘e’. Or translate the page (better).

For Andalusia, the local government website is simply, and there you can find the area for education. Choose the age gap where your child fits and… you can usually see information about the enrollment of the last year. So you have to keep coming back often, to see if there is indeed some updated information for the current year (one month before of the expected start process you can have real hopes). The good news, though, is that this process doesn’t change much from one year to the next, so you can get a lot of useful information from the official site, even if it is outdated.

In Andalusia, public school enrollment happens in March – from March 01 to March 31 – for the school year starting in September. You should fill a form (as usual, right?) that you can download below, but please note that the form may change from one year to the next; I include it here more so that you can have a reference and the information that is in the form itself. This was the form for the 2022-2023 school year.

Then present the form, the NIE, padrón and school certificate from the previous year (probably more relevant for teenagers than for small kids) in the public school where you want to enroll your child. The form allows you to choose multiple centers, so use this opportunity, because it is often the case that you don’t get a spot in the first school you choose. But don’t present the solicitation to more than one center; this can disqualify your requests altogether. So, it is one form, many school options in this one form, one presentation only of this form.

As soon as information is released for the current year, it should also inform when the results will be available. On that date you should go to the school where you delivered enrollment papers, and check there, probably on their main board, the results for your kids. It will state the school where your kids got placed. The next step is to go to that school and present a few more documents, including a document picture of the kid. That is when the real enrollment takes place; the previous part was for ensuring your kid would get a spot; this part is the confirmation that you want to keep this spot.  

In our case, we chose to enroll Kiddo in the colegio concertado de Benalmadena, and chose a public school that is very close to our home as second option. We didn’t get a spot in the Concertado, but got a spot in the second option and now we are quite glad that this was the result for us. Check our experience with schools to have an idea of what you can expect from a public school in Spain.

Enrolling out of the schedule in the public school

If you want to enroll out of the schedule, there is one thing you can try. It is not an official information and it is certainly not guaranteed; but if you are already in Spain, it is worth the shot – it worked for a couple of friends of mine.

Here is what happened: as soon as they got the Padrón, they asked the Ayuntamiento how they could enroll their kids in the public school; the Ayuntamiento pointed them towards the school that covers the area where they lived, and so they went to that school, carrying their Padrón, naively saying that the Ayuntamiento had sent them there.

They not only enrolled their two kids in the middle of the school year (in Febrauary) to start studying that same week, but also got all the information regarding school communication, hours, schedules and materials from the secretary and even a school tour from the director himself!

Next: Our experience with schools in Spain

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