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Spain:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

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Spain:Political and Economic Situation

Spain:Organisation and Governance

Spain:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Spain:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Spain:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Spain:Organisation of Private Education

Spain:National Qualifications Framework

Spain:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Spain:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Spain:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Spain:Funding in Education

Spain:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Spain:Higher Education Funding

Spain:Adult Education and Training Funding

Spain:Early Childhood Education and Care

Spain:Organisation of Early Childhood Education and Care

Spain:Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Education and Care

Spain:Assessment in Early Childhood Education and Care

Spain:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Spain:Primary Education

Spain:Organisation of Primary Education

Spain:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Spain:Assessment in Primary Education

Spain:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Spain:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Spain:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Spain:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Spain:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Spain:Vocational Lower Secondary Education: Basic Vocational Training cycles

Spain:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Spain:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Spain:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Spain:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Spain:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Spain:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Spain:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Spain:Higher Education

Spain:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Spain:First Cycle Programmes

Spain:Bachelor

Spain:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Spain:Second Cycle Programmes

Spain:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Spain:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Spain:Adult Education and Training

Spain:Distribution of Responsibilities

Spain:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Spain:Main Providers

Spain:Main Types of Provision

Spain:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Spain:Teachers and Education Staff

Spain:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Spain:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Spain:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Spain:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Management and Other Education Staff

Spain:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Spain:Management Staff for Higher Education

Spain:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Spain:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Quality Assurance

Spain:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Spain:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Educational Support and Guidance

Spain:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Spain:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Spain:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Spain:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Spain:Mobility and Internationalisation

Spain:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Mobility in Higher Education

Spain:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Spain:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Spain:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Spain:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Spain:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Spain:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Spain:National Reforms in School Education

Spain:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Spain:National Reforms in Higher Education

Spain:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Spain:European Perspective

Spain:Legislation

Spain:Institutions

Spain:Bibliography

Spain:Glossary

Schools providing compulsory secondary education

Schools providing compulsory secondary education can be:

  • publicly-funded (public schools and publicly-funded private schools). Public-sector schools are known as secondary schools
  • exclusively financed with private sources (private schools). 

Public schools providing compulsory secondary education may also teach Bachillerato and vocational training. Private schools, whether publicly-funded or not, normally provide compulsory education as well.

Characteristics of schooling in publicly-funded schools:

  • it must be free, since all pupils’ access to education, with no discrimination on social or economic grounds, must be guaranteed
  • under no circumstances may schools receive contributions from families for the compulsory secondary education received
  • the education authorities are responsible for the funding of schools so that education, which does not include extracurricular and complementary activities and school services (that must be voluntary), can be free
  • schools offering compulsory secondary education teach the four years of the stage and have at least one class unit per year
  • all schools across the country, regardless of ownership and source of funding, must meet a series of minimum requirements regarding facilities and teacher/student ratio per unit.

For more information, see Organisation of private education.

In the academic year 2014/15, a total 7 355 education institutions taught compulsory secondary education at State level, 4 153 of which were publicly funded, 2 788 were publicly-funded private schools and 414 were private schools. The total number of educational institutions indicated above varies significantly from one Autonomous Community to another.

Geographical accesibility

In order to guarantee the principle of equality as regards the right to education recognised by the 1978 Spanish Constitution, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport determines the necessity of developing preventive and compensatory actions in disadvantaged regions, and providing the economic resources and all the necessary support. Inequalities on geographical, social and economic or other grounds are thus avoided and families’ choice of their preferred educational option, regardless of their place of residence, is facilitated.

The education authorities are responsible for guaranteeing pupils’ progress in basic and compulsory education as well as access to further studies.

The particular characteristics of rural areas must be considered. In those areas where it is deemed suitable, pupils may enrol in the school of a municipality close to their place of residence. In the case of schools with a very limited number of students, groups with pupils of different ages can be created. For more information, see Rural schools.

If that proves not possible, students may stay in residences and go back home during the weekend. Residence facilities, as well as transport and meals, are provided free of charge. For more information, see Early childhood and school education funding.

Pupil admission and choice of institution

Compulsory secondary education is one of the two educational stages basic, compulsory and cost-free education comprises. All children between 12 and 16 years of age are thus obliged to be enrolled.

Requirements governing access to compulsory secondary education:

  • pupils finishing primary education are automatically eligible for direct access
  • every publicly-funded primary school –in the case of publicly-funded private schools, only if the owners so desire- is assigned to a secondary school, so that its students may gain access to the secondary school without a new admission process
  • those students coming from the assigned primary school have priority to enrol in the secondary school when there are not enough places
  • parents or legal tutors are entitled to choose the education centre that they wish for their children, whether it is public or private
  • the only requisite for accessing schooling is the year of birth: the calendar year in which they reach the age of 12
  • private education centres are free to set the admission criteria they find more adequate to select their pupils.

The Autonomous Communities regulate pupils’ admission to public schools and publicly-funded private schools, in order to guarantee the right to education, equal access and parents’ or guardians’ freedom of choice of school.

The objective is to achieve a fair distribution of pupils, with no discrimination on ideological, religious, moral, social, gender or racial grounds or due to conditions of birth. Gender segregation in the classroom is not considered to be discrimination.

(1985 Act on the Right to Education; 2006 Education Act, modified by the 2013 Act on the Improvement of the Quality of Education).

In order to ensure the quality of education, social cohesion and equal opportunities, the education authorities must also guarantee a suitable and balanced schooling of students with special educational needs. To this end, they establish the proportion of such students to be enrolled in each public or publicly-funded private school, and ensure that schools have the necessary personal and economic resources to provide such support.

When it comes to publicly-funded schools, if there are not enough spaces to cover for the demand, a series of priority admission criteria apply, which are the same in all the State:

  • whether they already have any brothers or sisters enrolled in the education centre or if any of their parents or legal tutors are working at the school
  • the proximity of the work post of either of the child’s parents or legal guardians
  • per capita income of the family unit
  • legal status of large family
  • placement with a foster family
  • whether the child has a disability or if his or her parents or brothers and sisters have any degree of disability
  • due to forced mobility of either parent or change of residence in cases of gender-based violence
  • before foreign students of compulsory school age enrol in any of the different years of compulsory secondary education, their circumstances, knowledge, age and academic record are taken into account so that they can successfully continue their education.

In addition, the Autonomous Communities and schools themselves may establish further criteria.

Admission responsibility in public education centres falls upon the School Council; in publicly-funded private schools, it also falls upon the owner of the school. Further the Education Authorities constitute commissions or admission guarantee bodies and establish the corresponding channels so that families may claim against the decisions taken in such procedures.

Public and publicly-funded private schools are obliged to keep students in school until the end of compulsory education, unless parents request a change of school or one of the situations laid down in the current legislation on students’ rights and duties applies.

Private schools non receiving public funds have autonomy for establishing their own admission procedures.

Age and grouping of pupils

Compulsory secondary education comprises four school years (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th), between the ages of 12 and 16.
Class groups are created according to the year of birth, although there might be students with several years difference in age in the same group, as they may continue their mainstream education until:
  • the academic year in which they turn 18
  • students cannot repeat the same year more than once, and twice as a maximum within the stage. This age limit is raised to 19 years if this second repetition takes place in the 3rd or 4th year, so that students who start compulsory secondary education with one repetition in primary education are not forced to leave basic education with no qualifications
  • as an exception, students may repeat the 4th year twice provided they have not repeated in previous years of the stage.

A form teacher is assigned to each group, but specialist teachers are responsible for teaching the different subjects. These teachers may have the same group of students during the following years. For more information, see Initial education for teachers working in early childhood and school education.

The teacher/student ratio per unit is regulated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, which establishes a maximum of 30 students per unit. To the student ratio limit mentioned above, a further 20% was added, due to the measures on the limitation on public expenditure issued in 2012. The education authorities were to determine the increase in the ratio whenever there was no further authorisation for the accommodation of new civil servant teachers in a Public Provision for Employment, or whenever there was an effective replacement rate below 50%. In 2015, the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration raised that percentage to 50%. This decision is the responsibility of each Autonomous Community.

Regional education authorities are also in charge of determining the ratio for those units including pupils with specific need of educational support or entering late into the education system. In the 2014/15 school year, the average number of students per class in Spain was 25.2, with a lower percentage in public (24.9) than in private schools (25.7).

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport delegates the regulation of measures for schools to flexibly organise education to the education authorities, which might result in different types of grouping:

  • curricular adaptations
  • integration of subjects into areas
  • flexible grouping
  • splitting groups of students,
  • offer of optional subjects
  • remedial programmes and individual programmes for students requiring specific educational support.

For more information, see Special education needs provision within mainstream education.

Organisation of the school year

The education authorities, within their jurisdiction, are responsible for annually establishing the school year, taking into account the minimum requirements set by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport for the whole State.

The academic year lasts a minimum of 175 school days grouped into trimesters and distributed between the first fortnight of September and the last fortnight of June.

School holidays are distributed throughout the academic year:

  • approximately 12 weeks for summer holidays
  • a fortnight at Christmas
  • between 8 and 11 days at the end of March or at the beginning of April (Easter Holidays)
  • 7 days declared festive or holidays by the Central Government or regional and/or local authorities.

During the summer holidays, schools may remain open until the end of July. Depending on the organisation of each school, the same may apply for non festive days during the Christmas and Easter period.

Organisation of the day and the week 

Schools are allowed some degree of autonomy to organise the day and the week. Public schools only offer daytime classes, whereas publicly-funded private institutions and private schools have autonomy to organise their timetable.

The management team, in accordance with the requirements set by the School Council and after consultation with the Teachers’ Assembly, designs a general timetable with the distribution of the school day:

  • the time and conditions in which the institution is open during non-school time available to the educational community
  • the time when ordinary school activities of the different stages, cycles and years  are carried out,
  • the shifts, time and conditions when facilities and services are available for students’ use.

In general, the weekly timetable comprises 30 to 32 lessons lasting 55 minutes each, i.e., 6 or 7 lessons a day from Monday to Friday.

The school day is between 08:30 and 15:00, with a 30-40 minute break in between.

The relevant education authorities must ratify the timetable. If it is not authorised, they return it to the school so that it can be revised and corrected.

They also determine the procedures for municipal authorities to use the educational institutions, during non-school time, in order to carry out educational, cultural, sports and social activities.