Almuñecar is a small town on the coast of the Costa Tropical south of Granada, in the region of Andalusia. With its subtropical climate, it’s a popular tourist town, and home to the Almuñecar International School. This week eTeach spoke to headteacher Sue Richards to find out about living and working in Spain. Read more.
Could you begin by telling us a little bit about Almuñecar International School?
Almuñecar International School was founded in 1989 by a small group of highly motivated Spanish parents who wanted a distinct form of education for their children, and an alternative to the limited options available in the area. Since then the school has grown rapidly and gained full authorisation as a primary and secondary school offering education in English and Spanish to pupils in the 3-18 age range. It is a not for profit organisation.
At Almuñécar International School students are prepared, at 16 for the A.Q.A. G.C.S.E. examinations and, at 18, for the G.C.E. Advanced Level examinations. As the school is an authorised centre, our pupils’ studies are fully recognised by the Spanish and British authorities through a system of “homologacion”. This enables pupils at the school to learn in an international context and the education they receive prepares them for adult life in a rapidly changing world. Although the pupil population comprises many different nationalities and backgrounds we pride ourselves on forming a cohesive community. Great emphasis is placed on mutual understanding and communication. For that reason, the teaching of English and Spanish is of paramount importance.
Whereabouts is the school?
Almuñecar is a small town on the coast of the Costa Tropical south of Granada. It is about an hour’s drive from both Malada and Granada and 90 minutes from the ski slopes at Sierra Nevada. In summer it is full of Spanish tourists but is fairly quiet in winter. The school is positioned on a hill above the town.
Please tell us about the syllabus that you teach.
We teach according to the British National Curriculum from Early Years to A level, with the addition of Spanish and Spanish Society which is compulsory for education in Spain. On the whole we achieve a very high percentage (85-95%) A* to C ass rate at GCSE and 100% at A level. Our students go on to university in Spain, UK and other countries in Europe.
What kinds of opportunities exist for UK teachers to live and work in education in Spain?
I get a lot of applications from teachers with TEFL and CELTA certificates who are not eligible to teach in a British school. We only accept teachers with a PGCE and QTS, preferably with a few years’ experience in mainstream schools. Unemployment is high in Spain and both Spanish and specific skills are needed to be able to make a living.
What do you look for when recruiting?
In addition to the above, I would look for resilience, typified by successful teaching in a large state school in a city!
What are some of the main attractions for someone in the UK contemplating working in Spain?
The main draws are the climate and scenery, as well as motivated students, smaller classes, fewer meetings, more autonomy etc. Need I say more?
And what are some of the drawbacks, compared with living and working in the UK?
There is no teachers’ pension scheme although the state pension is transferable. Salaries are, on average about 30% lower, although the cost of living is also less. Contracts in Spain are different from UK and you may find that some contracts mean you have to sign on in summer (a fijo discontinuo contract such as this is considered normal here).
How do you recruit UK teachers?
We advertise , shortlist and then interview in the UK.
What support do you offer new teachers?
They are given help with finding housing and setting up bank accounts etc. They are also supported socially until they find their feet.
Is it necessary to speak Spanish?
It isn’t vital as nearly all staff and the children speak English, but it helps a great deal outside work.
What else would you like to say to anyone contemplating teaching in Spain?
Think of it as a two-year experiment initially, and see if it suits you. Living in a country is not the same as visiting it for a holiday. Also, you need to reason that the job is equally demanding wherever you do it: Spain is not an easier option.
Thanks for taking the time to tell us about life in Spain, and at Almuñecar International School.