Which is the best school for your child?
Living in Tenerife with children can be the best choice you have ever made. The outdoor lifestyle, the hours of sunshine, and the low crime rate make this the ideal place for them to grow up in. Most parents however are faced with the difficult choice of which is the best school for their children, and as things are quite different here, and with the international community inherent in these islands, the choices are much more varied than back in the UK. Choosing the right school can be a little daunting, especially as the parents own personal experiences and that of friends back home has little relevance, we have decided to create this little guide to help you make the right decision.
There are 5 different types of school to chose from in Spain, and when you are trying to decide on which is right for your child remember; there is no correct decision. It is merely a personal preference based on several important factors; whether you are sure you want to stay in Tenerife long term and that your children probably will too, the academic level and future aims of your children, and the financial situation you are currently in. All these contribute to varying degrees on the best choice to make, and the importance of each depends very much on you.
The Spanish and English Curriculum differ to quite a large extent and for this reason many people feel that it is important to get this decision right. It might be that one school is better suited to one of your children and another to the other; if your child is really good academically, you might want to consider a private school to boost their potential qualifications or an English environment so that more Universities are available to them all over the world, or if your child is going to be happy in Tenerife indefinitely, then completely integrating them into society might be your preferred choice.
The 5 types of school available in Tenerife are:
Public School, Private English school, Private Spanish school, Private German school and “Colegios concertados” (which are a private school with government funding). Each have their advantages and disadvantages.
The main choices you have to make are Public vs Private and English vs Spanish. They are separate concepts, but as the two main decisions for most parent are Public&Spanish or Private&English, they are heavily intertwined.
Public Spanish School
Advantages: Free. Close to where you live. If you speak a language other than Spanish at home, your child will grow up totally bilingual. Integration into Canarian society. Local friends.
Disadvantages: Large class sizes (these are increasing with the new government spending cuts). Less choice of where to send your children as you are limited to the schools near where you live. Your child’s written/reading English will not develop at the same rate as children in the UK. Government institution; therefore quality and enthusiasm of staff may not be guaranteed. No admissions policy. Discipline may be poor. If you dont speak Spanish maybe communication with your child’s teachers is a bit limited.
Private English School
Advantages: Small class sizes. Learning in an environment your child is used to. Greater range of academic possibilities after leaving. As they are businesses they are highly accountable for the quality they provide. Strong values and expectations, and the ability to refuse entry or remove children who are disruptive to other children’s learning. Larger social circle: Two sets of friends; local friends and school friends. If a language other than English is spoken at home, the child will become fluent in 3 languages; English, Spanish and the parents mother tongue. If you speak English then communication with your child’s teachers is much easier. A’levels are fully recognised and accepted by Spanish, European, UK, American and other Universities all over the world. If you decide sometime in the future you no longer wish to stay in Tenerife, then your child can integrate seamlessly back into the UK system.
Disadvantages: Fee paying. Less integration in Canarian society. Will take longer to learn Spanish. Smaller schools maybe result in smaller groups of friends. Local business may not understand what the grades achieved refer to, but this would require simple explanation of the equivalent grades in Spain. (IGCSE = BUP, A’level = COU, A = Sobresaliente, B= Notable etc)
Note: Not all private schools are the same; it is important to ensure that the school you are thinking of sending your child to is fully authorised and acknowledged by both the Spanish and British systems. If this is not the case, the qualifications obtained will be invalid.
Private Spanish School
These have a mix of advantages and disadvantages of the above systems. Fee paying and controlled admission resulting in a higher quality of education in theory. Your children will learn Spanish at the same rate as in a public school, and faster than in an English School. There are many Private Spanish schools that advertise intense English in their curriculum, which would help children keep their level of English up if you decide on the Spanish system, but it is important to check whether this is really the case in the classroom.
Semi Private Spanish School, Colegios Concertados
These are semi private schools which get a government grant. The benefits are that you should be paying less than an equivalent private school, and getting a better education, in theory, than a public school. The government does put certain restrictions and obligations to these types of school, so sometimes the number of children in the class means the quality of the teaching is slightly compromised. The installations tend to be of great quality.
Private German Schools
The Private German schools on the island have a high reputation and with Germany demanding a lot of highly skilled workers at this moment in time, many local families are putting their children in these schools. It could be advantageous to English families to send their children there as they could in theory become fluent in three languages. The disadvantages of these schools is that they are in the area close to Santa Cruz which may be a little far for some people living in the south of the island.
At the end of the day a good school is a good school irrelevant of the language the lessons are taught in. There are many ways to help you recognise a good school; number of children in the classroom, teacher to child ratio, facilities, discipline in the classroom, but the main question you should ask is; is this the correct learning environment for my children? Do the staff care? This applies to the teachers looking after your children directly up to the decision makers at the top. The only way to really assess this is to visit the school itself, look into the classrooms while lessons are in place. Is the teacher actually teaching? Are the children paying attention? Whilst the academic side of schooling is important, attitude is what gets people to where they are. Does the school teach respect? Are the children polite and well behaved? Do they look happy? If a child is content then they are more willing to learn, and socially more capable of interacting with their peers. If a school can achieve this, then you can rest assured that you have made the right decision.