A question I am often asked by families looking for schools in Barcelona is what the difference is between public schools and concertades. I have heard and read many differing ‘facts’ and opinions about these two schooling types and in this post, I will attempt to clarify a few things.
To start off, public schools and concertades are, to varying degrees, publicly-funded and, in their various manifestations, provide an education to children from 3 – 18 years old.
In the September of the year that a child turns three, every child living in Catalonia has the right to a school place in one of these schools. Education is not compulsory until the year that a child turns 6, but most families choose to send their child to school when they turn 3.
What is the difference between concertades and public schools?
They share many characteristics in common but also have some distinct differences.
Characteristics that public schools and concertades share:
Both public schools and concertades receive different levels of government funding and are therefore subject to certain curriculum requirements. One of these being that the main language of instruction is Catalan. Officially, they both follow the Spanish national curriculum in the Catalan language although some concertades (and the occasional public school) will teach some of the subjects in English and consider themselves trilingual schools (Spanish being the other language). The fact remains however, that the predominant language in a public school or concertada in Catalonia is Catalan and if you want a higher proportion of the school day taught in English or Spanish, you will need to enrol your child in a private or international school.
Public schools and concertades are subject to the same enrolment process. The application process starts in March or April for a September start. This process is run by the Consorci, who are responsible for education provision in Barcelona. Families are expected to list 10 schools in priority order on their application forms and these can be a mixture of public schools and concertades. Every child will be assigned a school place, but whether you get a place at the school you put at the top of your list is determined by certain priority criteria, such as catchment area, then by the number you are assigned in the public lottery. The process can seem confusing and is often nerve-wracking, but which school application process isn't?
How public schools and concertades differ:
Public schools are tuition-free, while concertadas rely on families paying a contribution to cover the costs of running the school. The amount that parents are expected to contribute varies from school to school but you can expect to pay from about 100 - 500 E per month. Usually families with children attending public schools will need to pay a small termly fee to cover the cost of materials. There is some controversy surrounding the parental contributions in concertades since in theory the fees are voluntary, so parents could choose not to pay them. However, the reality is that if families opt out of paying the fees, the schools would not be able to survive financially and would most likely have to close down.
Concertadas have more say in the staff members they can employ, whereas public schools are subject to a lottery system in which teachers are sent to schools that need them. Headteachers at public schools therefore, have very little say in who they can employ at their school.
Public schools are only allowed to employ teachers who have passed the official public teaching exams, concertadas are not subject to this requirement.
There are some concertadas that teach children from 3 years old up until 18 in the same school (although usually not in the same building). Whereas in public schools, primary school pupils will move onto a different secondary school at 12 years old, which is run by a different governing body. However, public primary schools usually feed into specific secondary schools and have priority access to these schools, which is also the same for those concertades which only take children up until 12. These partnerships, however, do on occasion change with time, which is something that parents need to take on board when applying at P3.
Generally speaking, the timetables are slightly different with concertades having on average an hour extra of school per day, with the typical timetable being 9-5. For foreign families who are used to a much shorter school day, this can seem inexplicably long. Local families on the whole however, appreciate it for the extra hour of childcare that it offers.
These are the main points that I can think of at the moment. If you can think of any more or have any questions, do write a comment below!