Sunday, November 29, 2009

Choosing schools in Sant Cugat


Please go here for an updated listing of school here.

If you move to Sant Cugat, here’s some of the schools that I’ve had direct experience with:

Two general notes:
  • Most "good" schools in Spain "cheat" on their high school test scores by making the bad students leave somewhere else before graduation. So don't take the scores too seriously.
  • There are no Castellano-only schools in Catalunya. There are private French-only, German-only, Italian-only, English-only, but sorry, no Spanish for you. Someone suggested that maybe we should open a Mexican School of Barcelona. If you are moving to Barcelona so your kids can learn Spanish, you are in for a surprise!
Europa – Large private pretentious school that emphasizes an education in English, although most of the kids are from Catalan families. Like most private schools, the parents tend to be small-business owners or senior level corporate types. The education is "fire-and-forget" style, where the parents are expected to drop off the kids on time, but not much else. We’ve heard stories about students avoiding discipline due to parents being big donors. It's also very competitive: some classrooms feature a train with pictures of the students on each car, which are sorted by their current test scores.

Agora –Large private school that caters to similar parents as Europa. Slightly less glitzy parking lot (although the Cheyenne % rate is still abnormally high). They have a small building in downtown Sant Cugat called Patufet that is very nice for P3-P5. It has a better arts program than Europa (but worse sports program) and a nice mix of Catalan, Spanish and English. More emphasis on parental involvement. The school is venture capital owned (they ran into funding difficulties a couple years back and so they had to make a deal with the devil), so there's friction coming from there.

Benjamin Franklin – Has a bus from Sant Cugat, so it’s easy to get to. It’s bit of an Americana bubble though, with pretty high turnover from people that aren’t planning on living here for long. They have about 1/3 American, 1/3 International and 1/3 Spanish students. Very expensive, although I expect many people don’t pay it themselves (ie company pays). There's a core group of very nice parents and if you want a social life via school, it's a great place to go.

St Peters - In Barcelona, but lots of kids from Sant Cugat go there (there's a bus). We know a couple spoiled brats that go there. Nothing like spoiled brats with finishing school accents.

Lycee Francais - In Barcelona, but has a good reputation. It used to be fashionable to learn French, but not so much anymore.

Swiss School - Heard good things about it. Your kids need to know German though.

Aula - A bunch of our neighbors go there. Looks good on paper, but if you talk to some of the alumni, it definitely has a dark side. It's extremely competitive to the point of ruining the self-esteem of kids that can't keep up. If you don't keep up, you get kicked out pretty quick. It has one Spanish speaking track, which at first we thought would be great, but it's full of kids of PP politicians and other right-wing types.

Deutsche Schule – Admissions is run by a old-school German woman that scares anyone who has ever met her. One neighbor's kid goes there and is quite happy. Unless your kids have perfect german and/or you have serious enchufe don’t bother. Montilla sends his kids there, what a hypocrite. They have a bus that goes to Sant Cugat.

La Farga – Crazy right wing Opus Dei Catholic cult-school. If you meet a family with 8 children in Sant Cugat, they go to La Farga. If you happen to drive by in the evening you can sometimes see a bunch of people walking in circles. Not sure exactly what they are doing.

Waldorf School - In Bellatera. In Catalan but with lots of international parents, so English speaking kids won't stick out. Much less academically oriented for the first couple years, more focus on imagination, stories, arts, and music. European Waldorf schools are quite a bit different than their hippy granola-eating North American bretheren, and have a very good reputation.

John Talabot - A very nice small concertada school in Barcelona that focuses on a trilingual education (English, Spanish, Catalan). We know a couple people that go there and love it. We decided against it mostly for logistical reasons.

Public Schools – Catalunya is the better one since it has less immigrants (ie poor south Americans who can’t speak catalan). The combination of Catalan in schools + lots of poor immigrants means that sometimes half the class has no clue what the teacher is saying.

Other concertada schools – usually better than the public ones, and pretty cheap as well. They gotta be in Catalan, although some do clever things like pairing Catalan + Spanish speaking teachers together so that kids can learn more Spanish. Not that I’m encouraging cheating, but just so you are aware that everyone else does it. If you want to get into a concertada school, you need to live pretty close by, otherwise you won’t have the points to get in. Luckily it’s pretty easy to temporarily change your address to a friend’s place that lives nearby. Either get them to sign an authorization form or register your mobile phone billing address there as "proof" to get your empadronamiento changed. If you don’t do this, you basically have zero chances of getting in since everyone else cheats. Some parents in other parts of spain even get “divorced” to get extra points for their kids to get into the right school.


Jennifer @ OrangePolkaDot said...

Our children go to the Waldorf school in Bellaterra and are having a wonderful experience and quickly adapting. The classes are small and teachers are very attentive to the fact that our children don't know Catalan and barely Castellano. There are about 4 English speakers in each of their classes, so they help each other. My oldest is in 1st grade, and she has several teachers that teach in Castellano and one in English.

In the US, we went to a Waldorf preschool for one year. In comparison, I find the Waldorf school here to have a wider range of families on the Waldorf spectrum, less dogmatic, and totally more flexible. And definitely not as "crunchy" as the CA Waldorf school. The school here of course follows Waldorf principles, but seems to adapt to the times as well. Visiting schools here, I felt that these kids were the most down to earth and kind. I also like that the parents are very involved, so you get to know local /international families. Also, school ends at 2 or 3:30!

santcugat said...

We always like going to the Christmas fair they have at the Waldorf school. Maybe we saw you there :)