The Costa Blanca, has plenty of hidden treasures (as well as international schools) to choose from - it’s definitely, not just blue sea, Benidorm and Brits. Remember though, this is a long stretch of coast, so maybe, it’s international school first, house second. Alternatively, there is the more laid back, easily available (and free) Spanish system if it’s not just a case of ‘hola’ and ‘adios’.
Along this 120 mile stretch of coastline, Alicante is the only city with an ancient history, although the stratospheric growth of Benidorm and Torrevieja have made their names more familiar to the average foreigner, heading for sun and paella. Further inland lie Elche and the university city of Murcia, the centre for the hugely expanded ‘second home’ industry in this part of Spain.
Naturally, if your job is tied to an office, getting to work will be the priority but if you can be more flexible or work from home, the choice of school may determine which bit of this coast you live on. Starting in the north, Javéa (more often spelt Xàbia in Spain), has two all-through schools, Laude Lady Elizabeth School and Xàbia International College. The latter is in the town, whilst the former is 20 minutes’ drive to the south. They are also both within reach of the attractive port of Denia and the surrounding area and have the added advantage of being only a three hour boat trip away from Ibiza.
Benidorm and its bars may not be your idea of the perfect, permanent home but the visually stunning site of Elian’s British School La Nucia, only a short drive away up into the mountains, could, at least, make you go to admire the view. Another option, just outside the town to the north, is the bilingual Costa Blanca International College, which teaches both Spanish and Valencian languages as well as IGCSEs and A Levels.
In terms of charm of location and buildings, King’s College Alicante also known as the British School of Alicante, falls short compared to the alternatives further north. On a rather dreary campus, on the southern outskirts of Alicante, it does have the advantage of having great facilities and being easily accessible by car and train, particularly if you live in the popular, central Ensanche Deputation or in Babel, and still perfectly doable by car if you live in Vistahermosa (another expat favourite) on the northern edge of the city. The teachers are British and the curriculum is an English one leading up to A Levels.
About 20 miles south-east of Alicante, lies the old town of Elche, known for its world-famous annual Mystery Play, held in the blue-domed Basilica of Santa Maria, and for the startling number of palm trees, one of which is nearly 175 years old. The added bonus: once you’ve dropped your child pff at Laude Newton College you can spend the rest of the day buying shoes at Europe’s biggest shoe shop.
At the southern end of the Costa are both the inland city of Murcia and the seaside resort of Torrevieja. Here, there are more options, the most obvious one, probably, being the two ELIS (El Limonar International Schools), El Limonar International Murcia and one outside Torrevieja, El Limonar International School Villamartin. They belong to the Cognita education group, also currently building another entirely new school in Murcia.
Another school in this area, offering English and Spanish curricula is King’s College at La Torre Golf Resort, also known as The British School of Murcia, perhaps to suggest a less sporty vibe. Just don’t try to reach it by train as it is a jaw-dropping six hours from Torrevieja, despite being only 25 miles away. Alternative options include the bilingual New Castelar College, in San Pedro del Pinatur (teaching up to 13) and the tiny family school Phoenix International School, in San Miguel de Salinas.
Finally, there’s a curve-ball, Catholic, American boarding school for boys, Shoreless Lake School Totana, offering a college preparatory education in the country (and by the sea), south of Murcia.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools on the Costa Blanca and Costa Calida considered by expats'.
Escuela pública is probably a less popular option for expats (unless Spanish is already part of daily life) as there is no guarantee that the teachers will speak English. Smaller children tend to adapt and become integrated more easily and it is a good solution (particularly at the primary stage) if you intend to stay for a long time and want your child to speak fluent Spanish (remember that although the teaching language is Castilian, Valencian will be part of the programme). Also, be aware that the standards of these schools can vary dramatically but will probably be higher, if in an area favoured by expats and wealthier Spaniards.
In addition, and probably more appealing to expats, are private Spanish schools (escuelas privadas), which are mainly co-ed, day schools used by about one Spanish family in three.
You may have come here for the life-style but there are also several choices for educating your children, both in international and local schools. Your decision will almost certainly be made, based on curricula and will therefore tend to be the international option, if this is just a short stay. However, the local schools are worth investigating if you intend to spend a long stretch in the sun and want your children to be more involved in Spanish culture.