American School of Barcelona
American School of Barcelona is a co-educational, private non-profit school for preschool through to 12th grade students in the Barcelona metropolitan area since 1962. Offers the IB Diploma Programme.
- American School of Barcelona
Carrer de Jaume Balmes 7
08950 Esplugues de Llobregat
- T +34 93 371 4016
- E [email protected]
- W www.asbarcelona.com
- Lower School Ages: 3-11
- Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
- Middle School Ages: 12-15
- Middle School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Ages: 16-18
- Senior School Sexes: Co-ed
- Total School Numbers: 987 boys and girls
- Teaching Language: English
- SEN: SEN considered case by case
- Boarding: Not available
- Uniform: No
- School Year: September - June: 3 terms
- School Hours: 9:00 - 16:00
- Fee Currency: EURO
- Fee Details: Early Childhood Center: 13,304; Elementary School: 17,760, Middle School: 20,350, High School: 24,766
- Fee Extras: Application fee, Annual Matriculation fee, Capital Levy, Lunch Service, Bus Service, Life Insurance
- Religion: Non-denominational
- Memberships: BISA (Barcelona International Schools Association), ECIS (Education Collaborative for International Schools), MAIS (Mediterranean Association of International Schools), WIDA (educational consortium), Registered by US State Department Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Recognized in Spain as a Centro Extranjero (foreign school) by the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Spanish Ministry of Education.
- State/Independent: Independent: private non-profit
- Adapted or School-Developed Curriculum at Middle School Level
- Advanced Placement (AP)
- Adapted or School-Developed Curriculum at the Primary Level
- American High School Diploma (College Preparatory)
- International Baccalaureate (Diploma)
- Authorised by International Baccalaureate Organization (not to be confused as an inspection or accreditation agency)
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSACS or MSA)
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Since 2009, Mark Pingitore BA (political science, Drew University) MS MA. Previously the founding director of Tompkins Square Middle School, a diverse and progressive laboratory school, recognised as one of the top public schools in Manhattan. He worked for a congresswoman and The United States Conference of Mayors on educational policy and reform issues. Started an after-school enrichment programme for low-income families that had tutors and mentors from Howard University and this initiative inspired him to get masters degrees first in education and then administration from Bank Street College of Education in New York City (NYC).
He is a child of international schools and lived in Pakistan, Haiti and Kenya (his father was a US cultural affairs officer). He cites attending the International School of Kenya during his high school years as a transformative experience which impacted his life in such a way that he wanted to be part of an international community so moved to NYC for his graduate studies.
On relocating to Barcelona in 2008, he was keen to experience the international education he grew up with and wanted his children to have a similar experience and hence the pull to ASB (his two daughters also attend the school). Mark believes in commitment to one place and has no plans to leave anytime soon. His wife is head of science at Frederic Mistral, a secular Catalan School.
His priorities are student-centred instruction and a more progressive curriculum. Plus, professional development and coaching for teachers. Ongoing learning is key, and he chooses staff who fit a progressive model. Innovative new projects and a strong team have been cultivated over his time as director.
He is proud of the sense of continuous improvement for students and developing community - there’s no sense of complacency here. His ambition to do more for the students is constant and parents see him as the driving force behind the community spirit of the school.
At weekends, you’ll find him playing taxi driver to his daughters and watching them on the tennis or basketball court. He’s interested in international relations and finds ways to bring this into the school through projects such as Refugee Art - an annual event to bring attention to the refugee crisis - and active participation in Model United Nations events.
Preference is given to native and advanced English speakers. Academic results of the previous two years are requested. Interview and entrance exams on maths, reading and writing. Admissions are not made on academics alone. Students have to write a personal statement and they are asked about their ambitions for life after school.
September admissions should submit completed applications by February 15th and decisions are made early March. Early decisions may be made for international applicants who are native English speakers.
Rolling admissions accepted. When a grade (year group) is full, qualified applicants are placed in the waiting pool. This is not an ordered list or based on first come, first served.
IBDP applicants seeking ESO validation (for entry into Spanish universities) must present official stamped and signed transcripts from their previous school if they studied outside of Spain in 7th–10th grade. Transfers within IB years are only considered on an exceptional basis when all of the subjects align.
IB coordinator and student university advisors available to help students. Lunch hour talks provide useful information about overseas universities. In recent cohorts, graduating students have accepted places at prestigious American universities including Harvard, Stanford and MIT, and in the UK, the University of Cambridge, UCL and the University of Edinburgh. About 25 percent of students stay in Spain: ESADE, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona in Catalunya, and IE University in Madrid and Universidad de Navarra are all popular choices.
In 2022, Spain was still the most popular destination followed by the UK and then the Netherlands.
In cases of early withdrawal, families must give three months’ notice before their expected departure date. This means the family will be responsible for three additional months’ tuition, following the communication date. For changes in enrolment for the following school year, families must communicate their intention to leave by June 1st in order to receive a full refund of the tuition and/or lunch fees that have been prepaid.
In 2022 the average score was 37 points. This was the same in 2021 (world average was 33), when 27 per cent of students scored 40 or above. The school average was 33 points in 2019 (the last year exams were formally sat) and 34 points in 2020, again putting ASB consistently above the world average (30 in both those years).
Teaching and learning
ASB has a strong academic reputation and results reflect this. There is certainly a push for students to achieve, although this is balanced with empowering students to find their own potential in other areas and ‘be who they want to be.’ As such, participation in performing arts, athletics, community projects and special programmes is encouraged.
Children in the Early Childhood Center (note the nod to American spelling, something parents should get used to here) will find themselves immersed in a nurturing and supportive environment, stimulated by inquiry-based learning which allows for creativity, discovery, engagement and most importantly fun.
The core curriculum of the elementary school encompasses reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science and is taught largely through interdisciplinary projects. This project-based approach to learning in both elementary and middle school is popular with students and parents alike. Learning about body systems in science might be paired with drawing Keith Haring style figures in art classes. Several parents commented that the move away from the traditional study-exam-study-exam process was highly engaging for their children.
Middle school sees a transition from a structured to independent learning environment in preparation for high school. Parents noted this change with their children learning new study techniques and more advanced computer skills.
The IB Diploma programme defines the curriculum for grades 11 and 12. All graduating students also receive an American high school diploma if they satisfy the 22 credit minimum for graduation along with community service requirements. ASB does not offer specific AP electives as all core courses in 11th and 12th grade are IB courses. Only around two per cent of students graduate with the high school diploma alone.
Students who successfully complete the full IB Diploma programme can apply for Spanish university entrance without having to take the Selectividad (the Spanish university admissions test). However, it is worth noting that depending on the cut off score of the university programme (note this is in reference to public universities), the IB student may wish to raise their score by taking two additional Specific Exams - up to two additional points per exam - earning a maximum score of 14 on the Selectividad. High cut off scores apply to maths, physics, economics and medicine. ASB helps prepare students for these exams (las Pruebas de Competencia Específica) beginning in January of their 12th grade year.
While English is the core language of instruction, there is also a rich Spanish language learning programme offering several different levels of Spanish for all students. Native speakers can also take Sociales, Spanish geography and history, and Castellano, language and literature that follow the Spanish national curriculum, fulfilling the Spanish co-validation requirements of the Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO) Certificate which is a bonus.
The Catalan programme at ASB allows Spanish students to meet requirements set out by the Generalitat de Catalunya. While this programme is compulsory for students who hold a Spanish passport, international students who have not yet mastered the Spanish language or who need English language support may be exempt. This may come as a relief to some families if they feel that learning one new language is enough.
Parents all agreed that individual teachers are very approachable and communicative. One maths teacher even wrote to parents of a pupil to tell them what a great conversation he had had with their child that day. There are optional twice-yearly meetings with teachers.
The entire school has a culture of continuous improvement and teachers are supportive of helping students succeed. The clear goal of ASB is for children to learn, and they can almost always retest, or improve on a project (in pre-IB years).
There’s no homework for elementary students apart from reading. Homework is light for middle school pupils and for high school students it increases incrementally each year in preparation for the demands of the IBDP.
Learning support and SEN
A student support team works in consultation with teachers to identify and implement strategies to support students in and outside of the classroom. Orton-Gillingham trained specialists onhand for students with dyslexia and reading disabilities.
Meanwhile, the Lynx programme provides enrichment opportunities, extra stimulation and support services outside of the usual classroom experiences. Top maths students are offered opportunities which match up with their abilities, which they don’t get in the classroom. There are also opportunities for gifted students to participate in such external events such as maths competitions, Model United Nations and TEDx talks.
English and Spanish language learning support is provided for students who are not native English or Spanish speakers in the early years and in elementary school. This language support continues for Spanish in middle school and high school for non native speakers. No dedicated English language support for middle and high school students as they are expected to have a good level of English. However, general learning support continues.
The arts and extracurricular
The majority of performing arts are taught through after-school activities. Somewhat underdeveloped until about four years ago, the internal theatrical programme, Spotlight Musical, has gone from strength to strength since the arrival of the current performing arts director and is now the highlight of the school calendar. Parents help out backstage and with costumes while professional lighting and sound technicians and choreographers help give the show a polished look, but that’s not to take away from the hard work of the performers themselves.
School offers a strong musical programme too including an excellent IBDP music syllabus. Every student learns to play an instrument in a band or orchestra for the last two years of elementary and first two years of middle school. Parents also see this as an opportunity for their children to experience collaboration outside of the usual classroom dynamic.
The variety of enrichment activities on offer is impressive. Experience on the school student council is highly regarded by students and parents. Model United Nations also popular.
Service projects meaningfully integrated to affect positive change in the community, be that connecting with elders in the local community, participating in beach clean ups or raising awareness for refugees worldwide. Parents talk especially positively about Rotakids (Rotary Club for children to volunteer and raise money for charitable causes) and the Peru Medical Mission, with students collaborating throughout the year with a team of doctors from the United States who set up a clinic in a remote town in Peru. Many of the students choose to join the trip in the summer to serve as translators - a truly life changing experience.
The director certainly has an ambitious vision for the school. He is continually striving to offer as wide an academic curriculum as possible along with extracurricular options while instilling self confidence in the students to maximise their full potential combined with being mindful of where they want to go and who they want to be. Not an easy task, but one that he appears to be good at.
As you'd expect with an American school, ASB has a strong sports culture including football, basketball, flag football, volleyball, tennis and cross-country running. There’s even cheerleading for those keen to experience an age-old American tradition. The school boasts excellent facilities including an indoor stadium with 780 retractable seats (which also get an airing for theatre productions). A large and dedicated team of sports teachers makes for well organised sports throughout the school with students frequently travel outside of Catalunya and Spain for sports tournaments.
Ethos and heritage
The large ironwork gates of the main entrance are striking and sit in front of a modest white building. Behind this initially cosy entrance lie several large modern blocks which are practical, not pretty, a soccer pitch and basketball court. The buildings are modern and plain but the campus is broken up, softened a little, with meandering pathways and green areas.
This slightly clinical feel to the school dissolves on meeting the staff. Plenty of friendly faces and everyone has a helping disposition.
The director holds monthly forums, open to all parents, during the day and in the evening. He has grown the school from mainly local students to a mixture of local and international families. Numbers have increased from 600 to 900. Strategic planning is key to his overall vision: increase the size of teaching staff, increase services for students, attract more students. The resulting increase in revenue enables a growth of infrastructure in three main areas - education facilities, performing arts and athletics. He envisions a cap of around 1,000 students which allows the school to provide more educational choices without becoming too big.
Onsite chefs with fresh food served daily in the school canteen. Older students can bring their own food in; microwaves available.
Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline
Much like other areas of the school, pastoral care and discipline are delivered with a highly collaborative approach. Positive discipline is implemented by the director, principals and teachers alike; couple this with parent workshops and everyone is on the same page.
The school counts five highly experienced counsellors on staff - one for each of elementary and middle school and three for high school students (social/emotional, college admissions and career advice). These counsellors are proactive and develop relationships with the students through classroom talks on subjects such as social media awareness, anxiety, mental health and college and career preparation - the result being that students are more at ease about approaching counsellors if and when a problem arises. Their offices are really nice inviting rooms offering a comfortable and safe space for students.
Resources and materials are shared with parents, and workshops are offered. Once again, the emphasis is on school and parents working together. But the school is also aware of its limitations and if they feel a student’s needs are beyond their scope they will make suggestions for external support.
Pupils and Parents
With 987 students and 55 nationalities, this is a truly international school. Roughly a third are local families, a third long-term international families and the remaining third, the more transient expat families.
Nationalities mix well, with both Spanish and English spoken in the patio (playground). Those wanting to play football in break time will need to brush up on their Spanish or learn to use hand gestures!
No uniform, with students dressed casually in jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. One parent was concerned about clothes and brands but, said another, ‘it's not the case at all, in fact the opposite - some of the students are fashion conscious but with an awareness of sustainability and choose to wear second hand clothes.’ You might find the odd designer handbag or belt worn by some of the older girls, but it isn’t the norm. There are rules regarding skirt length and not showing your belly button.
There is a very active parent association which focuses on building community between ASB families and the school and also helps integrate new families into the local community. Among the Spanish families it is not unusual to find second-generation students and this definitely strengthens local connections.
It is clear that kindness to newcomers is paramount and there is a buddy programme for new students and families. Seminars are organised to help new families integrate, covering subjects such as the healthcare system in Spain, how to get a driving licence and find social networks in the city.
There are also plenty of social events organised among parents including hiking, skiing, wine tasting, and getting to know Barcelona and Catalan culture, which is especially useful for newcomers.
Mainly expats but ‘whether you are sporty or geeky - all students ‘find their place’. Very American and may be a culture shock for Europeans.
ASB is a non-profit private school that does not receive funding from government or corporations. Tuition fees, donations and loans fund the day-to-day operational expenses and building projects. The Foundation is transparent about finances.
Parents remark that school has ‘high tuition fees but worth it as it stays within the school.’
The last word
ASB has scored above the IBDP world average every year since it started granting the diploma in 2009. But it’s not all about academics. The school is well known for its personal approach and there’s a strong sense of commitment to the school and the community from staff, students and parents alike.
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