International School in Spain: What to Expect

If you’re moving to Spain with children, there is a wide range of international school options where you can send your child.

International school

In an age of cheap flights, flexible working and ever-expanding global commerce, millions of people are moving abroad in search of a better lifestyle. Nowhere is the influx greater than in Spain, the eurozone’s fastest-growing economy and a country renowned for its food, weather and blissful Mediterranean vibe.

Spain’s population grew by over 250,000 last year, many of the immigrants arriving from northern Europe. This has created huge demand in the international school sector: Spain was one of the first countries in the world to build a dedicated international school network and has since established separate education pathways for British, American, French, German and Swedish-speakers, to name just a few.

We knew that schooling is an essential consideration for any family moving to Spain, so in this option we’ll lay out the most popular international school options in each of its major ex-pat communities, while giving you an idea what to expect from the international school experience. As an added bonus, we’ll share some of the gorgeous family homes you can find within walking distance of each international school zone.

Internationals Schools

Barcelona

The Catalan capital is one of Spain’s economic powerhouses, not to mention its trendiest municipality. The international school quarter, located in the leafy ‘Zona Alta’ at the foothills of the Collserola mountain, is a hive of activity; the barrios of Sarria, Pedralbes and Esplugues are home to an ever-growing number of international school campuses, catering for all languages and nationalities.

Many of the schools are geared towards British families, who have long been a pillar of Spain’s community. Perhaps the most famous British international school in Barcelona is Kensington, which was founded over 50 years ago and is renowned for outstanding marks at GCSE and Advanced Levels. Others include Oak House and St Paul’s, which prepare students for a variety of qualifications and are distinguished nonetheless by the high standard of tuition, and St Peter’s, which teaches towards both British and American qualifications. Each of these institutions prides itself on being a global international school, blending pupils from a variety of countries and giving them a solid foundation in both Spanish and Catalan.

For those searching for a specialist American international school, there are two standout alternatives. In addition to the Benjamin Franklin International School, a hub of over 50 nationalities named for America’s founding father, they can choose the American School of Barcelona, distinguished by its proficiency in sport, technology and the arts as much as its core educational excellence.

If parents are looking for non-English education, they may want to check out the Lycee Francais, the most famous French international school in Barcelona and in fact one of the oldest international schools in Spain, which will soon celebrate its centenary. There are also schools for German (the Colegio Alemán) and Italian (the Scuola Italiana), as well as the Escuela Suiza de Barcelona, which offers double Swiss-Spanish accreditation.

As well as being a global international school hub, the Zona Alta offers an outstanding range of amenities to its residents who can run, hike or cycle along the surrounding mountain paths, or take the funicular railway up to the summit of Tibidabo, which boasts its own theme park. Lucas Fox offers an array of glamorous properties in the neighborhood, providing easy access to the international school quarter. 

Some of these properties are literally round the corner from the schools, like our 5-bedroom family home on Carrer d’Anglí boulevard, which leads right up to both Benjamin Franklin and Oak House. The portfolio boasts several properties at the cutting edge of modern design, including a chic three-floor apartment with oaky interiors and a 5-bedroom avant-garde villa which is flooded with natural light thanks to its smart use of glass. But there’s something for everyone; the Lucas Fox range also includes a brick-built seven-bedroom mansion perfect for larger families, two roomy penthouses with modern interiors and vast terraces and a six-bedroom villa which sits proudly in the middle of a huge, verdant garden. Those looking for rustic design will particularly love our rambling six-bed, which could be situated in the Italian mountains with its pergola, wine cellar and 1,000-year-olive tree.

 

Marbella

Since the first tourist bungalows were built in the 1940s Marbella has been a playground for the rich and powerful, drawing emigrés to its beaches, hotels and golf courses. Now it’s becoming a business hub, its polyglot coworking spaces buzzing with entrepreneurs seduced by its sun, sea… and schools.

The international school sector reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Marbellan life, with all bases covered. Those looking for a British international school with a strong local flavor will find what they’re looking for at the Aloha College, which also offers Spanish qualifications, and the Laude San Pedro, which is offers a range of excellent extra-curricular activities. Then there’s the English International College, which has placed students in some of the world’s most prestigious universities, and the Atalaya Colegio, a completely bilingual school for those who really want a Spanish immersion for their kids.

Each of these schools will tell you that theirs is a global international school, accommodating dozens of different mother tongues. However, if non-English speakers prefer their children to learn their native language, there are a couple of stand-out options. The Deutsche Schule Malaga, a German international school located in dreamy village of Ojen, was the first foreign school to be given an excellence ranking by the country’s authorities. Scandinavian expats may also be interested in the Svenska Skolan, a Swedish international school which is subsidized by the Stockholm government.

The Malaga international school cluster is slightly more dispersed than its Barcelona counterpart, but Lucas Fox has plenty of properties for easy access. Golf-lovers will enjoy our demure three-bed with its own plunge pool, on the verge of the Guadalmina course; those who prefer something more edgy might prefer our apartment on the New Golden Mile or our villa in the rugged hamlet of Elviria, both of which are characterized by their glass openings, airy minimalism and capacious swimming pools. We’ve also got several properties available in an exclusive development above Puerto Banus, one of Marbella’s most enduring enclaves.

 

Girona

Even in Spain, a country defined by its quality of life, Girona stands out for the sheer variety its people can enjoy. Gironese residents can ski in the Catalan Pyrenees, surf the windswept waters of the Med or soak up the history of a region which has provided a key backdrop for Game of Thrones (the old Roman coastal outpost of L’Escala, just a short car ride away, is an absolute must-see). It’s no surprise that Girona is home to an-ever growing international community, including notable British and American clusters.

At present, the international school sector is less mature than it is down the coast in Barcelona, so Girona’s ex-pats have fewer choices. The stand-out option is St George’s School, a British international school which covers the full academic journey from infant to baccalaureate and is spread across three modern buildings, complete with outstanding sports grounds.

There are plenty of properties within easy reach of St George’s. Many of them are dotted around the PGA Catalunya golf course, which was shortlisted to host the 2022 Ryder Cup, although we also have one huge villa, with prime views of the Els Angels mountain range. Each of these properties is designed to maximize the natural light through its huge windows and reflect Girona’s zesty creativity with minimalistic Bauhaus exteriors.

 

Ibiza

An island which pulses which energy and fizzes with creative talent, Ibiza draws the world’s biggest DJs (and their glowstick-wielding hordes) like moths to a flame. But it’s not all short-term holiday hedonism; the White Island is also home to a burgeoning expat community who have set down roots and established businesses, primarily to serve the tourists who arrive every year.

This community has two key international schools: the Lycée Francais International, a French international school near the stunning village of Sant Jordi, and the Morna International College, which prepares students for CIE, IGCSE and Pearson Edexcel qualifications in a huge purpose-built campus. Both institutions take in their ‘global international school’ tag (the Lycee hosts well over 20 nationalities) and in adopting modern, progressive teaching methods.

Just a short car ride from these schools, Lucas Fox offers a glass-fronted four-bedroom villa in the heart of Ibiza town, as well as a huge designer property with a 60 sq m swimming pool. For those seeking something more rustic, we also offer a wood-decked loft-style property near the Cala Jondal beach and a large villa with a 15,000 sq m Mediterranean garden within putting distance of the Roca Llisa golf course.

 

Madrid

There’s no doubt about it: Madrid is now one of the world’s most vibrant cities. Thousands of people have arrived in the Spanish capital over recent years, following the numerous foreign companies that have relocated there. An influential recent survey by ExpatInsider named Madrid the best city for expats in Europe and the third-best in the world, behind only Melbourne in Houston.

Unsurprisingly, the influx of international arrivals has created a boom in the international school sector. Of the flurry of schools set up to serve the immigrant population, two stand out: the Colegio Internacional Aravaca, a bilingual school which teaches the Spanish curriculum and accommodates students from age 2 right up to university, and the FEM school, which is located in the grand old neighborhood of Chamberi and maintains contact with schools around the world, particularly Canada and the United States. 

To serve these areas, the Lucas Fox portfolio includes a number of exclusive apartments in Chamberi, Lista and Castellana, designed for optimal use of space and total privacy — ideal for families who want to sample the rarified air of one of Europe’s sleekest metropolises. 

Maresme

For those who love the Catalan lifestyle but want a more low-key alternative to Barcelona, the comarca (county) of Maresme offers the ideal balance. Beginning at Montgat on the outskirts of the big city, Maresme stretches all the way to the bustling tourist town of Malgrat de Mar and is known for its easy-going atmosphere (not to mention the wines which flow from the local bodegas).  

To meet the educational demands of the growing ex-pat community, Hamelin International School recently combined its primary and secondary campuses in one campus in Montgat, the International School of Catalunya is currently building a new campus in Canet de Mar, renowned as one of Maresme’s beautiful towns (like Girona, it has hosted the Game of Thrones filmcrew in the recent past). The new campus is easily accessible from Lucas Fox’s local properties, which are primarily situated in the charming wine-grower’s paradise of Alella. They include both four and five-bedroom family homes and span the full range of sizes, from a single-storey villa to a large country pile with its own saltwater pool and tourist licence.

 

Sitges

Once a sleepy fishing village, Sitges has been transformed into Catalonia’s most famous tourist destination outside Barcelona and a melting pot for peoples from around the world. Many ex-pats move from the big city to settle down and start families — after all, it’s only a short journey to Placa de Catalunya, so they can continue working in Barna while enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere down the coast.

In addition to all the aforementioned cluster of schools in Barcelona (less than an hour away by car), Sitges residents would be well-advised to check out the The British School of Barcelona, which has a campus in the town. Like many of the local British international school hubs, BSB follows the English national curriculum and carries additional Spanish accreditation. El Mundo, one of Spain’s biggest-selling newspapers, consistently ranks BSB among the top 20 schools in Spain. The British School of Barcelona also has two campuses in Castelledefels with the main school hosting pupils from 3-16 years old and then also their Nexus programme is based there, for 16-18 for those studying A Levels, International Baccalaureate  and validation of the Spanish Bachillerato.

The school is just a few minutes’ walk from the village of Vallpineda, where Lucas Fox has several properties — from a brand-new ultra-contemporary home to a bucolic country villa, and even a spacious family property in its own mature gardens. We also offer a recently-constructed villa in Els Cards, a short drive from BSB.

 

Valencia

Blessed with the same Mediterranean climate of Barcelona and the easy charm of Madrid, Valencia is fast establishing itself as Spain’s third city. Significantly smaller than either of the ‘big two’, it’s also more affordable and blessed with a trove of hidden architectural treasures. Little wonder that more and more foreigners are setting up home there.

Befitting its growing status, Valencia has four major international schools to choose from, three of which specialize in English education. The British School of Valencia, located in the heart of the city, is renowned for its outstanding facilities, while Cambridge House prides itself on nurturing its students personally as well as academically, and Caxton College boasts a gleaming brand-new campus. For those who want an international school that doesn’t teach the English system, he American School of Valencia is pretty much what its name suggests — a high-class American international school which teaches both U.S. and international systems.

 

Once again, Lucas Fox offers an array of four, five and seven-bedroom properties, covering all tastes from old-world charm to daring, ultra-modern efficiency.

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