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Schools in Marbella Costa Del Sol

Guide to Costa Del Sol Schools

There are so many articles about moving to Spain with Kids, Education and School Reviews.  Whilst we do recommend you do as much research as possible, you may well find yourself more confused than ever before.   If you cannot afford or don´t want to put your child into Private Education, then your choice is quite simply Spanish State Education, which is a bit like the UK, where you do need to live in the area, and there is also a point system. So you may not get your first choice or there maybe a couple for you to look at, it all depends on the area.

If you are looking at a Private School, then you have much more choice and this is when it gets a little bit confusing.  Our advice is to narrow your choice down to a handful of schools, and go see them for yourself. We believe that you will know which one is for you after you have walked around, seen the other kids and spoken to the teachers.

The choice of Schools here are, Spanish State, English Schools, Internationals Schools, Montessori Schools, Finnish Schools, German Schools, Swedish Schools, a Boarding School and even a Norweigan School.  There are also Universities here, a fantastic Design College and also Les Roches School of Hotel Management, so there really is education for every age here

You need to think about the following…

  • How old are your children?
  • How long are you staying for?
  • Can you afford Private Education?
  • Do you want your child to be Bilingual?
  • What other languages spoken in the home?
  • What sort of child do you have?  Confident, outgoing, timid?
  • How would your child feel being put directly into a Spanish School?
  • Do you expect your kids to go to UK for Secondary or University?

Spanish System

Legally a child doesn´t have to start school until the year they become 6 , however many start from as young as 2 years 9 months to ensure a place.  Spanish School System runs from January to December.  In Public Schools, if the kids do not pass all their exams they will be held back to repeat.  So this can mean, in secondary school (Institutos) you could have kids of 12 years with kids of 14 in the class.  This can also happen in Spanish Private Schools too if the teachers feel it necessary.

  • Guarderias Private & Guarderias Municipal (Private & State Nurseries)
  • Colegio Primaria (Primary School 3 until 11 years)
  • Institutos (Secondary School 12 till 18 years)
  • Universidad Privados y Publicos (Universities, Public & Private)

Spanish Public Schools generally start around 9am and finish at 2pm with extra activities available.  Private Spanish Schools generally start 9am to 9.30am and finish around 5pm, slightly earlier in the summer months.   We know many people with kids in the Spanish Primary Schools that are more than happy, but their worries come at Secondary where Institutos unfortunately don´t have a great reputation so they often switch to the Private System.  Most subjects are taught in Spanish with English being taught as a foreign language.  In some Private Spanish Schools you may find other subjects like Art and Science are taught in English too.

British / International System

The year runs as in the UK, September through to August.  There can be some negotiation, as we have seen, if you want your child to be the oldest rather than the youngest, but sometimes the kids do struggle and often end up repeating the first year.  We have also seen that sometimes Spanish kids enter the British System, but using the Spanish School year, so for example, if they are born between September and December, they will be pushed up to the class above.  This is because should they swap to the Spanish System later on, they will continue at the same level..  It is a bit confusing, but basically the Spanish System runs a year ahead of the British System.

Most of the British / International Schools take kids from 2/3years right up until 18 years old.  There are a couple of schools on the coast that are Primary only, which you can see in the list below. The British Curriculum is taught and in some schools the  Spanish Curriculum too, however it will be only a few hours a week.

Secondary / Instituto

In secondary schools  kids can do GCSE,  A Levels and then you also have the IB, International Baccalaureate depending on the school you choose. Some people like the IB, some hate it. Its a personal choice for you and your child. Its not unusual for kids to change schools here,  we know some people that have been to practically every Private School in Marbella, especially when it comes to choosing options.  It all depends on what and where they want to study in the future.

We have lived here many years and whilst we know many kids that have been to these “International/Bilingual Schools” we dont know any that have gone onto Spanish Universities, unless of course they are Spanish.  Most seem to go back to the UK at 18.

A few more tips & advice

  • Deposits…many schools will ask you for a deposit.  Some are refundable, some aren´t so be sure to read the small print!  Most schools will ask for a whole terms notice in order for you to have your deposit returned, make sure you get everything in writing.
  • Bilingual Schools…. sorry, no such thing!  But there are schools that are doing their best to incorporate more Spanish or English.  But if you want your child to be bilingual you cannot rely solely on the school, unless you have put your child into a Spanish School of course.  You need to put some effort into it too with either Spanish TV, books, extra Spanish Lessons or even a Spanish Aupair.
  • Want your child to be totally Bilingual?  Then you have to go to a Spanish School, or spend all their free time in Spanish Classes or get a Spanish Aupair.
  • People talk about the two systems in the way that the British System is very free-thinking and creative, whilst the Spanish System, well isn’t.   The Spanish System works for many kids and we would personally say the level is higher.  However, it is learn, revise, exam, learn, revise, exam, and each year they do exactly the same just in more depth.  But the kids really do take everything in they have learnt.  The atmosphere of Spanish Schools is far more warmer too as teachers are still allowed to give the kids a hug.
  • Respect your child.  So many people arrive here and literally chuck their kids into Spanish State Schools when the child cannot even say hola!  This can have devastating effects on your child’s self esteem.  It´s bad enough for a child to change school let alone change to a school in a foreign country speaking a completely different language.  How would you feel?
  • Keeping up the English.  If you do decide to put your kids into Spanish Schools, be sure to keep up the English as much as you can.  English is generally taught by Spanish people here and sometimes they do get things wrong and their accents are quite strong.  Many schools do the Cambridge Exams here so its a good idea to keep an eye on your childs level and do extra work in the holidays.
  • School Buses are a big thing here with many travelling up and down the Coast everyday, so dont worry too much you don´t live near the school of your choice, there is probably a bus stop close by.
  • School Holidays, The English & International have slightly different holidays to the Spanish Schools, taking longer at Christmas, 2 weeks at Easter and also mid term breaks.  Spanish Schools generally have 1 week in February, 1 week for Easter, the long Summer Holidays from 23rd June until 10th September and Christmas from 24th until 7th January, plus the odd local holiday.

Private English/International Schools

Aloha College, Marbella

International School accepting children from 3 to 18 years old.


Formerly Kings &International School of San Pedro.  International School accepting children from 2 to 18 years old

Swans School, Marbella

A very popular International School for 3 to 18 years old

EIC English International College, Marbella

A popular English School for 3 to 18 years old 

Calpe School, San Pedro

A small school following the British Curriculum kids 2 to 9 years.

St Georges, Cortijo Blanco, San Pedro

A small, bilingual school for 3 to 8 years

The British International School of Marbella

British International school accepting children up to primary age & year 7.

Mayfair Academy, Marbella

An international school that takes kids from 4 until 18 years old

The International School Estepona

International Primary School for children from 3 to 12 years

Sunny View School, Torremolinos

International School for kids from 3 until 18 years old.

The British College, Benalamadena

British Education for kids from 3 until 18 years old

The Benalmadena International College

International School for kids from 3 until 18 years old

Colegio International Torrequebrada

International School for kids from 3 until 18 years old

Sotogrande School, Sotogrande

Private School with boarding from 3 until 18 years old.

Private Spanish Schools in Marbella

Alboran College, Marbella

Alboran College is a Private Spanish School for 3 to 18 years old

Atalaya, Benahavis

A new Spanish / Bilingual School for kids from 3 until 18 years old.

San Jose, Guadalmina & Estepona

San Jose have 2 sites, Guadalmina & Estepona Children from 3 to 18 years old.

La Latina, Marbella

Spanish Private School for 3 to 18 years.

Ecos Boys Schools, Marbella

Private Spanish School for 3 to 18 years old, quite religious.

Las Chapas Girls School

Private Spanish School for 3 to 18 years old, the girls school of Ecos above, quite religious

Spanish State / Public Schools

If you are looking at Spanish State & Public Schools you need to find the schools within your area as in the UK. If you go to the Town Hall you can pick up a list of all the state schools in your area, or you can find all the Public/State Schools in Andalucia here.

Still need some help or advice on Moving to Spain with kids?  You can come and chat with us on our Facebook Page.

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