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Spain:Organisation of Primary Education

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Spain:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Spain:Historical Development

Spain:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

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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

Geographical accessibility

In order to avoid inequalities derived from geographical, social, economic or other kind factors, and so that families can choose the preferred educational option for their children, regardless their place of residence, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport has historically developed preventing and compensatory actions in underprivileged areas, providing them with the necessary economic resources and support.

The education authorities are responsible for carrying out these actions. During primary education, they guarantee a free school place and the most favourable conditions for the schooling of all the children whose personal conditions mean an initial inequality for progressing in the subsequent levels.

In particular, these actions are aimed at specific schools or geographic areas and, mainly, at rural schools, ‘the education authorities shall take account of the particular nature of rural school in order to provide the necessary organisational means and systems to address their specific needs and ensure equal opportunities’:

  • provision of the necessary economic resource and material support in order to guarantee pupils' cost-free education either in their own municipality or area of schooling, as well as in neighbouring areas. For more information, see Organisational variations and alternative structures in Primary Education
  • regulation of financial assistance aimed at covering school transport service and, if any, free canteen and board facilities for pupils enrolled in neighbouring areas. For more information, see Early Childhood and School Education Funding
  • authorisation for the creation or closure of Primary Education units.  

The aspects to be considered when planning the education provision in a specific geographical area are:  

  • urban areas: the birth rate, the increase in the number of foreign pupils and the growth of population in emerging areas
  • rural areas: the difficult access to geographical areas, birth and death rates, the ageing of the population and the number of seasonal workers.  

In addition, territorial cooperation programmes take into account the following criteria for the territorial distribution of economic resources:

  • depopulation
  • the geographical dispersion of the population
  • insularity
  • the specific needs of schooling in rural areas.

(2013 Act on the Improvement of the Quality of Education).

Admission requirements and choice of school

Primary education is one of the two educational levels constituting basic, compulsory and cost-free education: every child between 6 and 12 are thus entitled and obliged to be enrolled. Pupils begin primary education in the calendar year in which they reach the age of 6.

  • schooling of pupils with learning difficulties: it is governed by the principles of normalisation and inclusion, ensuring non-discrimination and equal access to and continuance in the education system
  • highly gifted pupils: their schooling can become more flexible by teaching contents and skills of upper courses or by increasing the contents and skills of the current year
  • pupils of foreign origin within the compulsory schooling age: attention is paid to their circumstances, knowledge, age and academic background.

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

The education authorities are responsible for regulating pupils' admission to public schools and publicly-funded private schools. This regulation has two objectives:

  1. guarantee the right to education, equal access and parents or guardians' freedom to choose the school
  2. achieve a correct and balanced distribution of pupils with no discrimination because of ideological, religious, moral, social, gender, racial or birth reasons.

Parents or legal guardians can choose the preferred school for their children, either public or private. There is only one access requirement: the year of birth of the pupil.

Regarding publicly-funded schools, only if public schools and publicly-funded private schools do not offer enough places to meet the demand, a series of priority admission criteria are applied, which are common and applicable throughout the State:

  • having a sibling(s) already registered at the school or parents or legal guardians working at the school
  • proximity of the parents or legal guardians' home or of their workplace (of either parent)
  • yearly family income, according to calculation specificities applied to large families
  • disability of the pupil or of either of his/her parents or sibling(s).

Still, if there are not enough school places, students coming from pre-primary schools that are attached have priority. In addition, students attending public or publicly-funded private schools due to forced mobility of either parent or change of residence in cases of gender-based violence are given priority in the schooling area corresponding to either of the parents or legal guardians’ place of residence or employment.

The Autonomous Communities and schools themselves can establish some complementary admission criteria.

Admission is the responsibility of the education authorities of each Autonomous Community. To this end, they constitute commissions or bodies of admission guarantees and establish the corresponding ways for the families to complain against the decisions taken in the said procedures.

The School Board is in charge of admission in public schools, while in publicly-funded private schools the person in charge is the owner.

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

Age levels and grouping of pupils

Primary education caters for children from 6 to 12 years old. The stage is subdivided into six academic years.

Class groups are usually made up taking into account the year of birth:

Distribution of primary education students according to age and academic year

Age                   
Academic year
6-7 years old
1st year
7-8 years old
2nd year
8-9 years old
3rd year
9-10 years old
4rd year
10-11 years old
5th year
11-12 years old
6th year

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice Spain-Spanish Network for Information on Education (National Centre for Educational Innovation and Research, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport) on the basis of current regulations.

Each group has a class teacher assigned, also responsible for teaching most of the knowledge areas.

All primary school teachers are responsible for all the areas of this level. There are specialist teachers for the specific subjects of Arts Education, Physical Education, Foreign Language, or for those types of provision established by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport after having asked the Autonomous Communities.

The qualification required for teaching in Primary Education is the school teacher one, specialised in Primary Education or the equivalent Bachelor degree. 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 25 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%.

Regional education authorities are in charge of determining the ratio for those units including pupils with specific need of educational support or entering late into the education system.

For correctly attending primary education pupils, some flexible groups can be temporarily established and only for some subjects according to the pupils' competence level. Flexible groups are an organisational strategy for forming reduced groups of pupils as a measure for attending diversity. For more information, see Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Organisation of the school year

The education authorities of the Autonomous Communities, within the scope of their educational powers, establish the school year and school holidays, taking into account the minimum requirements regulated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

The school year must comprise a minimum of 175 school days, organised in terms and distributed between the first fortnight of September and the end of June, including the days established for the evaluations planned in the Act on the Improvement of the Quality of Education.

Schools remain open from September 1 to July 31 for administrative purposes.

School holidays are spread throughout the whole school year as follows: about 12 weeks correspond to summer holidays, around 15 days for Christmas, between 8 and 11 days at the end of March or beginning of April (Easter), and about 7 bank holidays established by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport or the local/regional authorities.

Schools can remain open during the days that are not a bank holiday during Christmas and Easter.

Organisation of the school day and week

Schools establish the weekly and daily timetable, respecting the minimum number of teaching hours set by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and the guidelines on school day from their Autonomous Community.

The minimum number of teaching hours corresponding to the set of core subjects must be set for the whole primary education, and shall not be less than 50% of the total number of teaching hours established by each education authority (2013 Act on the Improvement of the Quality of Education). Possible extensions of school hours which might be established are not taken into account.

Schools, in the exercise of their autonomy, can extend the timetable or increase the number of teaching hours of subjects in accordance with the regulations of the relevant education authorities, and with the possibilities under applicable regulations, including labour regulations, but under no circumstances can they ask for contributions from families or make demands to the education authorities.

The annual average of teaching hours in primary education in 2015 was 793 hours (Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators).    

The school general timetable must specify the school opening time and conditions, teaching hours and availability of school services and facilities out of school hours.

The weekly timetable is organised into 5 full days from Monday to Friday. There are 5 teaching hours per day, which is equivalent to 25 teaching periods per week. Therefore, the school day consists of 5 one-hour lessons, the only exception being the Canary Islands, where lessons are 45 minutes.

The weekly and daily timetable, as proposed by the management team, must be approved by the School Council and ratified by the competent education authority. If it does not include the scheduled teaching activities, the relevant education authority returns it to the school so that it can be revised and corrected.

Lessons are usually divided into morning (9:00/10:00 - 12:00/13:00) and afternoon sessions (14:30/15:30 - 16:00/17:00). The morning session includes a 30 minutes break in between. This half an hour is considered as part of the 5 hours of daily instruction.

Some schools, however, have implemented the morning session only school day (09:00-14:00).

Duration of the school day in primary education


Services outside

the school hours

(before lessons)1

Lessons

(starting and finishing

times in the morning)

Lunch

break2

Lessons

(starting and finishing

times in the afternoon)

Services outside

the school hours 

(after lessons)3

Monday

9h/10h - 12h/13h   14.30h/15.30h - 16h/17h  
Tuesday
  9h/10h - 12h/13h   14.30h/15.30h - 16h/17h  
Wednesday
  9h/10h - 12h/13h   14.30h/15.30h - 16h/17h  
Thursday
  9h/10h - 12h/13h   14.30h/15.30h - 16h/17h  
Friday
  9h/10h - 12h/13h   14.30h/15.30h - 16h/17h  

1Some schools provide a service for accepting pupils one hour or one hour and a half before the lessons. During this time, breakfast and games can be included.

2Depending on the schools lunch lasts between 30 minutes and one hour. The rest of the time from lunch to the start of classes in the afternoon is a rest time.

3Schools may remain open after school hours in order to stay up-to-date and provide remedial courses, as well as to develop extracurricular activities on educational issues of interest to students. Extracurricular activities are related to areas such as foreign languages, information and communication technologies, sports, the arts, reading and writing, directed study activities, etc.

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice Spain-REDIE from the regulations.