In Madrid, international schools may be thin on the ground at least compared to the number of cultural gems or fabulous fish restaurants (unusual for a landlocked city) but there are more well-established educational options to choose from, than you can find in many European cities.
Public transport is brilliant in Madrid, so there’s more flexibility about where you can decide to live, knowing that you won’t need to get out the compass and draw a tiny circle, round where you work or where your children go to school, in order to avoid daily, travel meltdown.
Salamanca is the Upper East Side of Madrid, the avenues are broad, the shopping is seductive, the financial district is next door and the prices are high. Largely home to rich Madrileños, they are joined by successful expats, pulling down large salaries, as well as diplomats. This is a great option for the latter, as the area is full of embassies, including the US, Canada and Switzerland. Fuente del Berro, with its park and neat villas and townhouses, appeals more to families than the other five barrios that make up the quarter, unless you want the poshest, which is Recoletos.
Marginally cheaper and less chic but with bigger houses and good for young families is next-door Chambertin, which has the advantage of having two of the best known infant schools (the British Council Infant School and King’s Infant School) on its doorstep.
On the opposite side of the Plaza Mayor (the hub of ancient Madrid), on the western edge of the city, is the district of Los Austrias, whose name harks back to the Habsburg rulers of Spain. If you want to live amongst some of Europe’s most beautiful buildings and prefer more traditional Spanish restaurant experiences, this could be the place for you.
Unfortunately, the quid per quo for being surrounded by magnificent architecture, can be time spent on the school run, as only three of the international schools that are reasonably close to the centre are those in northwest Madrid. These consist of the main campus of the British Council School, interestingly founded in 1940 (surely a brave move), Kensington School and the American School of Madrid. The group of SEK International Schools has several campuses, Colegio Internacional SEK - El Castillo is in northwest Madrid, but one of its other divisions, Colegio Internacional SEK - Santa Isabel, is bang in the middlle, a stone’s throw from the Prado, whilst the campus for Colegio Internacional SEK – Cuidalcampo, is further out to the northeast, beyond Alcobendas. The only school due west of the city, in Villaviciosa de Odón, is the bilingual Agora International School, part of a group of privately owned Spanish schools.
Nearly seventy years after Joseph Bonaparte’s brief rule, the French renewed their link with Madrid, by opening the Lycée Francais de Madrid, originally with only 50 pupils, but now the world’s largest French international school outside France. On two campuses, one in the northeast of Madrid and one further outside the centre, at Alcobendas. This town also boasts the Urbanization La Moraleja, known as the Beverley Hills of Madrid, with its flashy houses, complete with exorbitant price-tags.
The cost of housing is not a deterrent to the wealthy, so Alcobendas has attracted other international schools to set up there, including, King’s College School (at present, teaching up to the age of 16) which is conveniently on the spot in La Moraleja, the International College of Spain (owned by Nord Anglia) and Runnymede College, which (like the International School of Madrid) only offers A Levels as a final qualification. Other international schools to the east of Madrid are Hastings School (in fact a group of five schools for different ages) the International School of Madrid and St George International, the newest of the popular international schools in Madrid.
When it comes to curricula, almost all the schools offer IGCSEs and then the majority go on to A Levels, including KIng's College, (the only school in the group to go through to 18), with one IB Diploma school (Agora International), In addition, several of them provide the alternative leaving qualification of the Spanish Bachillerato.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Madrid 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 and it is easier to move from state to private than vice-versa. 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 third of Spanish families.
Hard to find fault with Madrid as a fantastic posting. What’s not to like about amazing architecture, delicious food and fantastic culture and the schools on offer both state, private and international rarely let the standard down.