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Arenal School in Javea???

Arenal School in Javea???

Old Dec 16th 2007, 6:33 pm
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Default Arenal School in Javea???

Hi,

We're a young family with a 2-year-old girl and a 7-month-old babyboy. After having been talked into it by my parents I recently registered our toddler at XIC's foundation stage, but have since had serious doubts. Personally I would prefer my kids to fully integrate into Spanish society, but have been told so many bad things about the local Arenal state school (80% foreign kids, poor teaching aka rote learning, lots of bullying etc.). Plus (this is my parent's angle) as I don't speak a lot of Spanish yet I would find it difficult to support our children academically and/or talk to the Spanish teachers.

So I would really love to hear from anybody who has any experience with the Arenal school in Javea (or any other spanish state school). Is the school really as bad as everyone says? If you don't speak good Spanish, do you find it a problem conversing with the teachers? Also, if you don't mind, could you tell me a little bit about Spanish state school in comparison to schools in the UK. Is it very strict with lots of exams and rote learning (I don't like the sound of being held back a year)?

Thank you all a million times for any responses!!!
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Old Dec 16th 2007, 11:14 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Originally Posted by gembo View Post
Hi,

We're a young family with a 2-year-old girl and a 7-month-old babyboy. After having been talked into it by my parents I recently registered our toddler at XIC's foundation stage, but have since had serious doubts. Personally I would prefer my kids to fully integrate into Spanish society, but have been told so many bad things about the local Arenal state school (80% foreign kids, poor teaching aka rote learning, lots of bullying etc.). Plus (this is my parent's angle) as I don't speak a lot of Spanish yet I would find it difficult to support our children academically and/or talk to the Spanish teachers.

So I would really love to hear from anybody who has any experience with the Arenal school in Javea (or any other spanish state school). Is the school really as bad as everyone says? If you don't speak good Spanish, do you find it a problem conversing with the teachers? Also, if you don't mind, could you tell me a little bit about Spanish state school in comparison to schools in the UK. Is it very strict with lots of exams and rote learning (I don't like the sound of being held back a year)?

Thank you all a million times for any responses!!!
Firstly, we're not in your area, and like the UK schools vary dramatically from region to region and town to town. However, our two (aged 2 and 5 when they started) have been attending Spanish state school full time since September.

IN GENERAL
Maybe we're the exception, but our children go to a great school - with around 15% non-Spaniards made up of English, Dutch, Germans, Belgians, Swedes, etc. The children are friendly, well behaved, well mannered and clearly well brought up by hard working Spanish families / European expat families. Discipline is excellent, yet the teachers are much more open, warmer and friendlier than in UK schools that are hamstrung by political correctness.

Other than that, Spanish state schools are much like the UK. Our children attend structured lessons, they do PE, they study Art and Music, they go on school trips which they have to write up about afterwards, they study ICT and use computers during lessons. They come home with homework most evenings (which could just be reading a very simple book to the 2 year old) and parents get roped into the usual functions and PTA type activities.

COMMUNICATION
Anyone who says it's easy to communicate when you don't know a lot of Spanish is lying, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Furthermore, even though you're having a tough time, your children will quickly learn the ropes (and probably know them anyway if they attend some form of nursery / kindergarten prior to starting school).

If you're stuck, there will be plenty of other parents who've been there themselves and they'll be more than happy to help you out. We find the parent / teacher meetings quite tough - where matters such as school outings / events are planned - it can be really difficult to keep up especially as other parents can be nattering away and the teacher is talking over everyone at 100kph!

But as I say, there are always other parents who will be more than willing to help you out.

HOMEWORK
At this early stage (your eldest is just two) you won't have to wade through much in the way of homework. Seriously, they get a lot but by the time they do, they'll be fluent anyway and probably won't need much help from you, and by that time you'll be better at Spanish anyway.

AND FINALLY
For us, the move has been fantastic. Our five year old was bullied in the UK, and for the first time has confidence and is outgoing in a way we've never seen before. She has so many friends - we only have to walk through our village on a Saturday for a choir of voices to call out their names, wanting them to join in their games.

Just as there are loads of schools to choose from near us, I'm sure that there will be loads of other schools in your area to choose from - I'd go and see them all and find the one that suits you and your family best.

Hope this helps!
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 9:58 am
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

"As I don't speak a lot of Spanish yet I would find it difficult to support our children academically and/or talk to the Spanish teachers."

Your children are so young that they are perfect candidates for Spanish state schooling - remember they will be in pre-school from 3-5 (not compulsory) and will start primary school speaking the language fluently.

As for talking with teachers, of course there will be a language barrier, but you can always ask for the English language teacher or a Spanish speaking friend to be present when required. And as your own Spanish improves it will become easier.

"Also, if you don't mind, could you tell me a little bit about Spanish state school in comparison to schools in the UK. Is it very strict with lots of exams and rote learning (I don't like the sound of being held back a year)?"

State schooling in Spain generally is of a higher standard than in the UK presently - I say that as a former teacher and am quite embarrassed to do so. I know a lot of Spanish teachers and I've been told too many times that British children struggle not just because of the language but because they are behind in core subjects. Of course there are some fantastic schools in the UK and some poor schools in Spain, but I'm speaking generally. I don't have any specific knowledge of the Arenal school (can't even remember seeing one by the Arenal).

As for being held back a year, that only happens if the child has not reached a standard that would allow them to continue to progress in the next year. It is for the child's own benefit. Better that than being pushed through school and leaving without even basic numeracy and literacy.

Given the age of your children, have you considered putting them into a Spanish nursery (Guardaria) for a few days a week? That would let you test the water and really benefit your children (and you!) language-wise.
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 10:13 am
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

I can only echo the sentiments above!
We are further north than you in a very Spanish area.
We have a seven year old who started the local state school when he was 4 and a three year old who started in September just gone.
They are both doing extremely well and enjoy every minute, to the extent that if our youngest misbehaves, we threaten him with not being able to go to school!
As for the language, the younger they start, the easier it will be.
It is very hard at first to leave a three year old at the school gate to face a full day of school, but they soon adapt, and ours even go to school on the school bus as we are more than 3 km from the village!
Good luck
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 10:13 am
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Originally Posted by Joe King View Post
State schooling in Spain generally is of a higher standard than in the UK presently - I say that as a former teacher and am quite embarrassed to do so. I know a lot of Spanish teachers and I've been told too many times that British children struggle not just because of the language but because they are behind in core subjects. Of course there are some fantastic schools in the UK and some poor schools in Spain, but I'm speaking generally. I don't have any specific knowledge of the Arenal school (can't even remember seeing one by the Arenal).
Totally agree with you Joe. The teachers here are doing a wonderful job bringing our 5/6 year old up to speed - but the fact that she couldn't do something as simple as a sheet of 30 sets of three figure additions (e.g. 364 + 215) at age 5 is a complete shock to the teachers here! At first she struggled, but she is catching up rapidly - but totally agree having come from first year reception in the UK the standards and level of work do seem much higher here than at my daughter's old UK school.

Homework in the UK was rare and usually involved colouring in. The teachers explained at the time ("oh, they never get assessed on homework, not for some years"). In Spain, she gets four lots of homework most nights - Maths, Reading, Writing plus other subjects e.g. Musica - and the teachers ALWAYS check it the following day.
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 10:58 am
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Thank you all for your replies! I think that's settled it...I'm going to follow my gut instinct and enroll my 2-year-old at our local school (plus I think I might take your advice and get her attend guarderia for a couple of afternoons a week). It really sounds much better than the international school alternative!

One more question...I gather from your posts that public school provides even for 3-year-olds (although it's not compulsory). Does that mean I can enroll my daughter by May time to start next September (she'll be 3 in June)?

Thanks again for all your time and effort!
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 11:01 am
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Yes, Our youngest was 3 in June and started in September!
Regards
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 11:43 am
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Yes Pre School from age 3 until 5 is free and voluntary in the state system (primary school starts at age 6 ie your child will be 6 during their first year of primary school).

It isn't available everywhere and places may not be available at schools with pre-school classes, but it gives children a fantastic start to their education.

Good luck!
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 12:05 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Originally Posted by gembo View Post
Hi,

(I don't like the sound of being held back a year)?
I have three children aged, 10, 9 and 7 and in their second year atending a Spanish state school. The eldest two have had to repeat the year and even though they did not want to they have settled into the 2nd year of 3 and 4 exceptionally well. The school kept us informed all the time about their progress with twice weekly meetings. I fully agreed with the teachers' view about repeating the year. When they started at the school they did not attend science and history lessons but had extra Spanish lessons. Without these extra lessons they would not have been able to cope with the technical lessons like science and history and hence would have failed these subjects. Seeing that our children were the first non-speaking Spanish children to attend the school it was a learning curve for the school as well as myself. I must add that the English teacher at the school is fantastic and always attends the meetings that I have with the teachers.
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 2:07 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Originally Posted by gembo View Post
One more question...I gather from your posts that public school provides even for 3-year-olds (although it's not compulsory). Does that mean I can enroll my daughter by May time to start next September (she'll be 3 in June)?
When we first took our daughter to see the school in January 07, the director of studies asked us how old our son was. We were surprised when he told us he could start at age 2! Because he will be three this week, he counts as a three year old, the cut off date is December 31st here, not August 31st.
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 6:05 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Thank you all so much for your answers. You really are all a great help!

...just one more question...

I gather from some of your answers that you actually visted the school and spoke to the director of studies or similar admissions personel. Is that always the case? I was going to contact my ayunamiento first thing next year to find out about admissions. Would you say that's the best thing to do or should I somehow contact the school directly? (The school I asked about is the school in our catchment area.) Also in case there are no places left for my daughter to start next year, do you know if they have such a thing as a waiting list so she can start the following year or would she have to go to private nursery?

Thanks again! I'm sorry I just seem to have millions of questions...
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Old Dec 17th 2007, 7:21 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Originally Posted by gembo View Post
Thank you all so much for your answers. You really are all a great help!

...just one more question...

I gather from some of your answers that you actually visted the school and spoke to the director of studies or similar admissions personel. Is that always the case? I was going to contact my ayunamiento first thing next year to find out about admissions. Would you say that's the best thing to do or should I somehow contact the school directly? (The school I asked about is the school in our catchment area.) Also in case there are no places left for my daughter to start next year, do you know if they have such a thing as a waiting list so she can start the following year or would she have to go to private nursery?

Thanks again! I'm sorry I just seem to have millions of questions...
We just contacted the school directly in January - we wanted to check out the schools before committing to buying in the area. Then we came back briefly in May to confirm everything, and sort out the paperwork (including NIE numbers for both ourselves and the children).

There doesn't seem to be an official 'catchment' around here - several coming from the nearby villages and visa-versa. I suspect this all varies from area to area, though - as would available places.
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Old Dec 20th 2007, 12:46 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Originally Posted by gembo View Post
Thank you all so much for your answers. You really are all a great help!

...just one more question...

I gather from some of your answers that you actually visted the school and spoke to the director of studies or similar admissions personel. Is that always the case? I was going to contact my ayunamiento first thing next year to find out about admissions. Would you say that's the best thing to do or should I somehow contact the school directly? (The school I asked about is the school in our catchment area.) Also in case there are no places left for my daughter to start next year, do you know if they have such a thing as a waiting list so she can start the following year or would she have to go to private nursery?

Thanks again! I'm sorry I just seem to have millions of questions...
The Ayuntamiento / Ajuntament allocates the school places - quite often if there is a choice of schools you will be asked to rank them in order of preference. And they do operate waiting lists because people do come and go.

If you want to see a school beforehand though you can ask at the secretary's office and I'm sure they will be delighted to show you around - either there and then or when possible. Teachers in Spain are generally very proud of the schooling they provide.

One other great thing about primary schools in Spain - or at last the ones I know of. Sweets and fizzy drinks are banned. Kids take bocadillos (baguette-like sandwiches) and water for break-time.
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Old Dec 20th 2007, 1:16 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

Thank you for the great info! I will contact the school closest to us in the new year and ask for a tour. From what you've said I'm convinced that the spanish state school route is the right one for us. THANK YOU ALL A MILLION TIMES!!!
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Old Dec 20th 2007, 7:43 pm
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Default Re: Arenal School in Javea???

You will definately be doing the right thing by your kids. Mine were 4 and 6 when we came here 13 years ago. Into Guadaria then into state school. I was advised from the 2nd year of secondary school (instituto) to consider placing into private spanish school which I did.
I have the highest praise for the system - very comprehensive and my two now are fluent in spanish, english and have french and german under their belts

My daughter who chooses to study hard is in Bachillerato 2nd year and is on course to enter spanish university to study bio-chemistry!

She has been told if she caries on with her grades as they are at a 9 out of 10 overall, she will qualify for the 1st year free in uni - but annual fees are only about 800 euros anyway!

I do not regret a moment of them being in the schools here and apart from the language and higher standards than the uk, they learn discipline and social interactive skills - seemingly sadly lacking in the UK!
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