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Getting our children into primary school

The first thing for schools was to get our two older children into a school after the Easter holidays when we arrived. The challenge of getting our 3 year old into the same school is described in the next article, which looks at regular admissions

When we found our flat in February we then tried to start the arrangements for school but this didn't prove to be possible. As we learnt, there is quite a paper trail to get right before they will even give you advice about schooling.

Where to start

The first thing we had to worry about was where to go to find out about schools. Through connections at work we discovered that we needed to go to the main education centre on Bruc rather than the district council offices as everything in the city tends to be managed centrally.

In the first visit (and we went through this process a lot) we discovered that the education department closes at 2pm. So the next day we went back in the morning and through faltering Spanish discovered that even to get information about applying to schools we had to have a set of documents with us. These were passports/ID documents, a copy of a proof of address, children's birth certificates or family book and details of school vaccinations and photos of the children (with photocopies - always come armed with photocopies).

We had all these apart from the proof of address.  To get prove our address we needed a photocopy of the contract and in February just after having sorted out the accommodation, the contract was on it's way to being signed by the landlady. This meant we couldn't make arrangements to revisit Bruc until we next came back to Barcelona when we actually moved in during April.

The need for a proof of address

So one of the first things when we moved in in April was to re-visit Bruc, this time with a copy of the contract and so, we thought, proof of address. But when they say proof of address they actually mean a document stamped by a district office that confirms your address in the city - the Empadronmiento (or Padron). You have to get used to the idea that there is an awful lot of walking documents from one office to another here despite IT and ID cards you continually have to walk pieces of paper with yourself from one place to another. 

Initially we thought that to get the proof of address meant going to the one in Sant Marti (a long way from Bruc), but we discovered that any district office could issue them and the district office for Eixample is actually just up Bruc on the junction of Arago.

So that's where we went and waited in a queue. Unfortunately we got directed to the wrong desk to start with (we needed new, not change of address and that means a different person) and then they forgot us for an hour - hey we've got three noisy bored young children with us you would think it would be hard to forget us. By the time we got the right document and it was stamped correctly (and the previous occupants of the flat had been taken off the register), it was ten past two. The education centre was therefore closed.

We went back again the next day only to find the centre was closed for the Setmana Santa (Easter week) and wouldn't re-open until the start of the new school term.

We had been told that there was an administrator at Bruc who spoke English, but we never found them and in general you will have to do all transactions with officials in Spanish, so there was a lot of discovery by doing in all this.


But with the documents we were now ready and almost as if by magic the city bureaucracy seemed to open up and bend over backwards to help us. Finding school places mid-year was more by luck than anything. In the area around here (Sant Marti/Poble Nou) schools are pretty much full and there were no places in the two closest schools (there is a limit of 25 pupils per class). But, then third closest school, 10 minutes away from the flat had two places which corresponded exactly with the ages of our two oldest children which had come about because another family had recently moved away.

There and then the school was phoned and told we would be visiting the next morning (see things suddenly seemed to happen). We went to visit the school and immediately while we were waiting one of the mum's came over to talk to us and point out who we needed to talk to. We went in and spoke to the head who got one of the English teachers to act as translators and we were in.


Just one minor thing was outstanding and that was our UKI vaccinations records (medical books for the children) needed to be checked and converted into the relevant Spanish/Catalan format, but this was seen as a formality rather than a block to entry and we were directed to the public health offices in Lesseps.

So the final step for approval was to go to Lesseps where everyone was really helpful and despite having little English worked out which immunisation corresponded to the relevant one in Spain. Discovered that two children needed a couple of jabs to bring them up to date with Spanish requirements and promptly gave them the necessary injections and sent us on our way. Easy.

School started on the Monday. A cultural shock for the children to say the least and completely different from what they were expecting and certainly not the small rural English primary school they were used to.




Previous article: Introduction to the primary school system Next article: Regular admissions to schools

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