I may have gotten out of doing the school run for an extra year, but it’s now time to get my head around enrolling my little Beiruti. The application process seems to run in February or March and there are several reasons why I should be getting a head start, not least of all the length of time it takes me to understand anything in Spanish. Also I might have to take her birth certificate to a sworn translator.
In addition, she’ll be starting a year later than most kids. That’s because apparently all sane mums put their kids in school from the tender age of three (or before). That’s how they stay sane. For the crazy ones applying later, it’s supposed to be harder to find places in your school(s) of choice. I’m not too worried as there are several within walking distance.
So I have been online trying to extract information from the individual websites of local state schools …which do not seem to have been designed with this purpose in mind. Going online in Spain is a bit like going back in time a decade. Think Mordac the Preventer of Information Services but less evil. The fact that it is all written in Spanish is the least of my problems. It’s not quite as bad as trying to find a Beirut bus map, but close.
The sites that I actually managed to find for schools are labyrinths of lists of pdfs that you have to open if you want to know what’s in them. There are plenty of wonky photos of finger painting preschoolers and even video clips of songs in assembly. So many that it’s hard to get past them to find out anything at all about enrolment, school-day times, languages taught, or any of the other questions that have been filling my mind this past week.
One school near my house I discover has, not a website, but a blog. Plus a blog for the parents association of that school, one for its library, one for the preschool and one for extracurricular stuff. All of them dying the slow death of blogs that were meant to be simple websites with the occasional update. Remember back when everyone thought that if you ever wanted to update your online content you needed to do it diary style??? There’s really only so many times you can blog to update the secretary’s opening hours, and to be honest I don’t want to scroll through a year’s postings to find them.
schools have more bars than zoos these days
Still, I managed to find the enrolment form used a few years back, when the school still remembered they had a site. I also found details on the points system, probably outdated, but it gives the spirit of the thing.
The places are assigned on the basis of points awarded for circumstances like the following:
- having a sibling in the school (this gets the most points)
- living in the catchment area (next biggest factor if you’re in the right catchment area, or just a few points in a neighbouring catchment area)
- having a parent working in the school
- having a parent working in the catchment area
- having a disability
- coming from a single-parent family
- coming from a large family
I can see we won’t have much of a points capital.
This could easily turn into a red-tape rant but I’m afraid I’m a non-believer. I just don’t think that everything bureaucratic is easier in the UK or wherever Home is. It may be easier for us, but it isn’t for foreigners (though the websites are more legible!). I’ve seen the other side of the coin when I looked into moving back to the UK with my US-born husband. Now that really is paperwork. Actually just getting British passports for my kids born abroad was hard because we didn’t fit in the boxes.
And although you get the feeling that the goalposts shift at times (sometimes getting closer) in Mediterranean countries, goalposts in the UK sometimes feel unattainably far.
I think I’ve done about as much research as I can online. I dare say I shall soon concede defeat and do it the Lebanese way, and without a doubt the Spanish way too: face to face. It’s so much easier sometimes to just have everything spelt out on some easy-to-navigate website, the Anglo-Saxon way. But you can’t buy an education online as if you’re ordering a book off Amazon, any more than you can integrate a real-life community online. And after all, there’s nothing like actually talking to the relevant people in the actual context. You get all sorts of perks you don’t get doing things the impersonal way.
Anyone else going through/been through the whole procedure? Any advice on what to expect? This whole school thing is new to me but I’ve plunged into a few other blogs to get an idea of what we’re in for, including this one and this one. Next on my list is a trip to the Department of Education at the town hall, and some real-people-research to work out what is considered a “good” school in Spain and what factors we hold to be the most important in our choice.