SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION IN TENERIFE
UPDATED: 4th August 2021
1. State School or Private School
2. Stages of Schooling In Tenerife
3. School Hours
4. School Terms
5. British Schools in Tenerife
6. Other Considerations
7. University Education in Tenerife
Are you thinking of moving to Tenerife but are concerned about your children’s education needs? Or perhaps you are already living in Tenerife and have recently started a family?
Research suggests that whilst a move abroad can be initially stressful for children, they are far more adaptable than adults and usually acclimatise to their new environment faster. Children of primary school age also tend to have brains which soak up languages and accents like a sponge, whereas adults find it much harder to learn a new language, particularly when they only know one language to begin with.
1. State School or Private School?
Provided you are legally documented and resident in Spain, Tenerife’s State Schools are free to attend. However, parents are expected to pay for all required books and materials, a list of which is available to parents at the beginning of each school year. State schools in Spain do not require uniforms, but may still impose certain dress-code restrictions.
In addition to the State Schools, there are also various private schools most of which are religiously affiliated. However, all of these charge fees, which depending on the school can be paid monthly, yearly or per term.
Universities and other further education establishments in Tenerife also charge fees.
There are several factors that may affect your choice of schools, often beyond what the particular schools can actually offer your child. For instance, are you willing or able to pay substantial fees for a private school? If not, your choice of state school will be automatically limited to the schools available in your catchment area. On the other hand, choosing a private school that is even just 30 kilometres away could prove a regrettable decision, given the morning and evening rush-hour traffic congestion that is now common in certain areas of Tenerife.
Another factor is that if you want your child to go on to sit UK style exams (e.g. GCSE or ‘A’ Levels), then naturally they will need to follow a UK curriculum.
There are also private schools that teach exclusively in Spanish (Concertados). These are partly funded by the government (grant maintained) but dictate their own curriculums. As such, they are broadly similar to ‘Grammar Schools’ in the UK, but anybody who can afford the fees can apply as there is no exam or aptitude test for entry. However, Tenerife’s Concertados don’t have a particularly strong academic reputation within Spain as a whole. According to national ranking tables compiled by newspaper El Mundo in 2017, the best school in Tenerife, ‘La Salle San Idelfonso’ (https://www.lasallesi.com/index.php/es/) only ranked at no. 66 nationally. Below that was ‘Hispanico Britanico’ at no. 77 (http://www.colegiohispanobritanico.es/) and ‘Luther King’ at no. 80 (https://www.lutherking.com/en/).
About 30% of children in Tenerife attend Concertados.
Fees are charged by Concertados, but are typically around half the price of fees at an independent private school. As a rough ballpark figure, Concertados in Tenerife charge fees of between €250 and €300 per month. Unsurprisingly, places for these schools are over-subscribed, so parents are wise to make an application as early as possible.
With all private schools, parents are encouraged to visit a school before enrolling their child. Matters to investigate obviously include fees, levels of discipline, character of the school, class sizes and facilities. State schools do not typically entertain visits from potential parents and unlike Concertados, there is no public league table from which to compare schools in your catchment area.
2. Stages of Schooling in Tenerife
Nursery School (Jardin de Infancia)
Nursery Schools generally accept children up to 3 years old. However, these facilities usually charge fees.
Pre-School (Educación Infantil)
Commonly known as ‘preescolar’, these establishments cater for children between 3 and 6 years old. Attending Pre-School is not compulsory, but seeing as they are state-paid, it makes sense to give your child a head-start in interacting with other children. Approximately 90% of children attend Pre-School.
Primary School (Educación Primaria)
A Primary School is colloquially known as a ‘Colegio’ and takes students from ages 6 to 11. This is the first compulsory part of a child’s education and the years spent in a Colegio are referred to as ‘Years one to six’.
Compulsory Secondary School (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria – commonly known as “ESO”)
Also known as Instituto, these cater for students from ages 12 to 16, consisting of years ‘one to four’. Once this stage of education is successfully completed, the student obtains a Certificate of Secondary Education, which is a prerequisite for most further education options.
Further Education (Bachillerato)
This is a voluntary stage of education available to students aged 17 and 18. It is obligatory for any student intent on going on to university or other higher education establishments.
For this non-compulsory two-year option, students have a choice of subjects from five specialised categories:
- Arts (Painting; Sculpture; History of Art)
- Nature and Health Sciences (Biology; Chemistry; Physics-Earth Sciences-Maths)
- Science and Engineering (Physics; Maths; Chemistry-Technical Drawing)
- Social Sciences (Applied Maths; Economics; Geography; Sociology-Psychology)
- Humanities (Latin; Greek; History of Art-Psychology)
Once successfully completed, students may apply to university, technical college or other further education options. Often, Tenerife students seek to continue their studies elsewhere in the world, perhaps due to the wider options available, or simply due to a desire to spread their wings and experience what life has to offer beyond Tenerife.
3. School hours
Usually 9:00am to 2:00pm. In June and September, the day will finish earlier, at 1:00 pm.
Generally, from 8:30am to 2:20pm.
At all schools, there is usually a half-hour break at around 11am. Some secondary schools split this into two 15 minute breaks.
Some schools have a dining room and will provide lunches.
4. School terms
Three terms per year, similar to the English system.
Holidays consist of Christmas (Dec 23-Jan 7); Easter (one week); summer (last week in June to first half of September). There are no such things as half-term holidays, but there are many days off for religious, regional and national holidays.
5. British Schools In Tenerife
This is an easy option for English speaking parents who haven’t had time to properly assess the pros and cons of putting their child into a Spanish school, or who would prefer that their child studies in English, follows the British model and ultimately has the option to sit the standard British exams.
There are currently four British (English language) educational institutions in Tenerife:
Wingate School (Cabo Blanco) –
The British School of Tenerife (formerly ‘Yeoward’, ‘Trinity‘ and ‘La Luz’ Schools) – (La Orotava & Puerto de la Cruz)
St Andrews (El Sauzal)
Callao Learning Centre (Callao Salvaje)
It should be noted that these schools charge substantially higher fees than Concertados.
6. Other Considerations
Younger children that speak English or other languages at home will doubtless pick up Spanish very quickly at school. However, some older children in their teens have been known to struggle with the language and cultural changes. In some cases, they could be put into the year below, which might hurt their pride, but more practically, would add an extra year to their schooling. Parents can obviously alleviate some of the problems by supporting their children through this difficult time. The more Spanish a parent themselves learns will obviously help when dealing with teachers, school correspondence, homework etc.
Like most state schools worldwide, Spanish state schools are certainly not perfect. Tenerife South attracts children and families from around the world, for many of whom Spanish is not their first language. As everyone progresses at the same pace, any students not able to communicate effectively in Spanish may inadvertently hold all the students back and the class may not complete its assigned curriculum within the designated timeframe. Class sizes are also growing annually, due to the growing demand and the relatively low numbers of newly qualified teachers entering the profession.
One other potential disadvantage for students whose primary language is English is that in a Spanish state school, their standard of reading, writing and grammar is likely to fall behind. There is extensive anecdotal evidence of employers who receive C.V.s from British and Irish students who went to a Spanish state school, but which are littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, despite the student’s ability to speak English eloquently. Parents can obviously monitor their child’s progress in written English and can help fill in any gaps themselves, or with courses and home tutors where necessary.
English speaking parents with sufficient funds are sometimes recommended to put their child into an English speaking school in Tenerife at the beginning, until their Spanish is sufficiently fluent and they have reached a good level of written English language skills. At that point, there is the option of transferring them to a Spanish state school to provide them with a broader educational experience (i.e. the best of both worlds).
7. University Education in Tenerife
Once students have completed their Bachillerato (roughly akin to ‘A’ Levels in the UK) with sufficient grades, they have the option of applying to go to University. EU residents are entitled to apply to any university in Europe, provided they meet the academic criteria and can pay the applicable fees.
The main University of La Laguna (also known as ULL) – https://www.ull.es/en/
This is the oldest university in the Canary Islands and is made up of 6 campuses. In 2015, the university made it into the 500 top ranked universities in the world according to the Institute of Education in Shanghai, China. However, that glowing accolade from the Chinese was further outshone in 2016 by the award of “2nd best university in Spain” in ‘Humanities’ according to the Everis Foundation.
The full list of undergraduate degrees offered by the university can be viewed here: https://www.ull.es/en/undergraduate-degrees/
In addition, there are 3 other universities in Tenerife, namely:
Universidad Europea de Canarias – https://universidadeuropea.es/canarias
Escuela Universitaria de Turismo – http://eutur.es/en/
Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo – http://www.uimp.es/
8. Home-Schooling in Tenerife
There is nothing in Spanish law or the constitution that prohibits home-schooling. The only issue appears to be in satisfying the authorities that the child is receiving a minimum level of education in accordance with Spanish national standards / curriculum etc.
In Spain, children are legally obliged to obtain a school-type education between the ages of 6 and 16 years. There are obviously a wide variety of schools and a wide variety of parents/children with unique circumstances (e.g. disabilities), who for some it is more practical for them to school at home.
Theoretically, a home-schooling curriculum can be formulated and taught by a parent. However, some parents who home-school choose to align with the national state curriculum, or sign up for ‘distance learning’ with an accredited education institute.
For more information on home-schooling and how to avoid the main pitfalls, there is an organisation called Asociación Para Le Libre Educación that provides advice and assistance for home-schooling parents (See HERE)