Childcare in Spain: Choosing a nursery for your little one
Choosing a nursery that suits your child can be a tough choice wherever you are. Here’s a guide to help you make the right decision for your family.
Post maternity and standards
Statutory maternity leave in Spain is four months long and the majority of women go back to work at the end of this period. Therefore it is not uncommon to see babies as young as four months at guarderias.
The standard of daycare institutions is usually excellent.
They can be roughly divided into “guarderias” which take children from three months upwards and a nursery, which have three age groups: P.0 (infant to one year old), P.1 (one to two years old) and P.2 (two to three years old).
In 2013 the average enrolment rate of children under three years of age in formal childcare was 38%, and children ages three to five years old in pre-school educational was 98%.
State run nurseries and subsidies
The state nursery usually provides childcare for the whole day, and the cost is roughly €250 per month (including lunch).
In many cities and towns in Spain, there is a shortage of state run nurseries.
The main criteria for a child to be accepted in a state school nursery is low income, proximity between home or work and the nursery, and if your child already has siblings at the institution.
Additional registration requirements vary depending on the region and the municipality.
There may be some advantages for large families, lone mothers, or children with disabilities. Regional and local regulations also control the organization of the application procedure, as well as entitlement to childcare support.
Since obtaining a nursery place is subsidised by the state and places are predominantly given to the low income families, many parents turn to the private sector instead.
Nursery schools are available where English or other languages are spoken, as a result of Spain’s sizeable expat community. English-speaking guarderias have grown up in response to demand, particularly in the major cities or the Costas and Islands.
Private sector nurseries charge monthly fees from €400 upwards. There is normally also an enrolment fee to reserve your child’s place.
The monthly fee varies in private nurseries depending on several factors: i.e. time spent in the nursery and whether they stay for lunch.
Caregiver to child ratio
The child care ratio also appears to be essential: where Scandinavian countries have three adults for just ten children, in Spain one staff member care for 10 to 15 children.
Spanish regulations specify a ratio of 1:8 for babies less than a year old, rising to 1:20 for two- to three-year-olds.
Word of mouth recommendations are always the best
A parent’s best policy is to ask other parents for recommendations and, if Spanish is limited, use the English language media to provide lists of nurseries (including English-speaking ones).
It is probably advisable to visit several nurseries to get an idea of what is available.
Keep in mind that the average weekly hours for childcare among children under 3 years are 28 hours a week. With most nurseries you are able to choose between morning (8.30 to 14.00) and afternoon (14.00 to 18.30) “periods”, apart from the full time service.