Why Are Expats Leaving Spain to Move Back to the UK?

Kate’s Story of what it was like being back in the United Kingdom after living as an expat in Spain.

You may have missed her previous account of what it was like living in Spain.

Mid August 2010 I packed up my family and moved back to the United Kingdom.

We had known from about mid April that we would be returning to the United Kingdom so I had set the wheels in motion for my daughters’ education.

Both were still in primary school but unfortunately with limited spaces available I was not able to get them into the same school in the UK.

That situation sorted itself in early October and my youngest moved to school which the eldest attended which was easier for me not having to be in two places at once.

beach-SpainMy youngest had such a good experience at her first school and settled in quickly and was sad to leave and even almost a year later wants to go back!

They began the new school year in September with mixed reactions, they had new friends to make as well as take on new challenges at school.

As both girls had been educated in the Spanish school system they both needed to work on their reading and writing skills.

Amanda was due to take her sat tests next May meaning that she had some hard work to catch up on.

Mathematics also proved to be a problem as different methods are taught in Spain and the way tests were presented also caused problems, she found answering forty questions in two minutes frustrating and shed many tears.

Much to my surprise as well I had found out that in Spanish schools not much effort was being made to teach much History, Geography and Science, and the girls had never done a science experiment before.

Initially the teachers were worried about Amanda with her English and Maths but owing to their help and some extra help at home she managed to do quite well in her sat tests.

After school clubs in Spain were also non existent, now there was a lot of choice and a school dinner costs as little as half of what they do in Spanish schools as well. Amanda took up cricket while Amelia took up gymnastics.

My eight year old fared little better, also knowing she had masses of reading and writing to catch up on, a whole lot of different mathematic methods are taught which she had been left behind on. She had no idea that to add, one could use a number line for addition or to partition numbers as means for addition either.

I found I had to invest in a book called Maths for Moms and Dads as education sure had changed since I had been at school in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Amanda also had three years of French to catch up on as French as a second language was not taught at the primary school in Spain that my daughters attended.

She has managed to make good progress with her French as Valenciano has many similarities to the French language and has surprised her teachers with her progress and knowledge.

She managed to get an A for French on her end of year report. Amanda also had the pleasure of going to France for a school trip and went to Dieppe for five days. English is taught by Spanish speakers and Amanda found that she was often helping the teacher at school and I was correcting the errors at home!

The girls had been dancing in Spain for five years and also took drama lessons. I managed to enrol them in a very good school just up the road from us so that they could continue with their ballet, modern and tap classes. The drama group I had found for them on the down side was not as good as in Spain so I am continuing in my search for reasonably priced LAMDA classes in drama and singing.

Although the dance classes were twice as expensive as they were in Spain, the classes are longer and I no longer have to get into my car and drive them to their classes, so cost wise including the petrol and wear and tear on my old car it works out about the same.

At one point I was spending an hour in the car one way to get them to their former teacher in Spain. A definite advantage in living in the United Kingdom is that one can walk everywhere, to the bank, chemist, post office, news agents, schools and supermarket.

We have Clarkes ten minutes away on foot where feet are actually measured to ensure a good fit, as opposed to the surly lack of customer service I had learned to dread in Spain which was do it yourself, and no way were the shoes cheap either.

Another added bonus is that children wear a school uniform. Three polo shirts or blouses for £7.50, skirts for £5, a school cardigan for £12 and P.E. kit for £5. Clothes are very expensive in Spain especially for children although we do miss shopping at C & A and Zara!

The girls do miss their lives in Spain and the good friends that they did make, thank god for facebook they still communicate with their Spanish friends and in order to try and maintain their Spanish we try and watch a few Spanish films each week, where my eldest informed me she was learning a few more choice words for her vocabulary.

Funnily enough it is my youngest who has struggled the most to adapt to life in England probably as she has no recollection of her life before we moved as she was only fourteen months old at the time.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, the girls have had to adapt themselves massively, not only moving to a new country, a new school system, new home and have also had to adjust to a single parent household.

We are still bridging gaps between the education systems, so don’t let anybody tell you that the Spanish education is as good as the English education, there are massive gaps all the way round, they can cope when they come back to the United Kingdom, but it is an added stress that no child or parent needs!

If one intends to live and work in Spain but is doubtful whether one is staying permanently and puts their children into a Spanish school it can cause massive problems later on, and the older the child the more work the parent and teacher will have to put in on their return to the United Kingdom, because lets face it, one of the best things any parent wants for their child is a good education.

They are coping with their school work and I help out lots at home to make sure they are okay and can perform to the best of their abilities. The reports they brought home reflected that they had been in Spain, but I was very pleased with the progress that they had made and that they had received A’s in all classes for their efforts and achieved some A’s for their results as well.

One thing to mention about Spanish schooling is that they are very disciplined and expect the children to work very hard, which the girls do apply in their new schools as well and this skill is very much appreciated at school to always give 100%.

Amanda started secondary school in a neighbouring town which she was apprehensive about, but is settling in nicely. She will be able to take an advanced course in Spanish in year 8 and do her GCSE and concentrate on her French and take German as well.

Having lived in Spain and being taught Spanish and Valenciano has made learning new languages much easier than for it is for the rest of us.

living in spain was a bed of roses because although it looks rosy there are many thorny issues to deal with and education causes many parents in Spain a few concerns.

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  1. When I moved to Spain I registered my kids in an international school with British school system and qualifications attained from Cambridge and although it is private it’s worth every penny, there are lots of British and International schools in Spain from nursery to A levels or IB so if you move back to UK children have their reports and qualifications from a British registered school which makes life easier for them, after A levels they can apply directly to UK universities via UCAS

  2. Read this. It seemed to me they moved back because marriage broke up. While things may have been easier in Spain, it is clear the education was not as good, a huge consideration if you have children.

  3. WOW!
    I take it you will have read the article which was meant to be about ‘why I moved back to the UK’ and not my life is appalling as I am a winging old cow!
    Our children are attending school here in Spain which are streets ahead of some of the UK schools, with the exception of Harrow, Eaton and Kings college, they don’t need to wear rolled up mini skirts and countless earrings in order to look like little trollops.
    Expensive school dinners? They take their own Lunch with them as they have a beach bar for snacks i.e. 1 Euro for a Pan pizza and they start school at 08:35 and finish at 14:35.
    The are taught History which might not be UK history but hey where are we? oh yes Spain! ah so the History will be about the Moors and the Christian Military who regained land from the Muslims between 8th and the 15th Century. Oh and sociales de la ciencia which is Social science. Amongst other things they learn practicalities such as how to tie knots and create rope ladders which can come in very handy if wants to become an explorer. I cant see the UK’ need for plimsolls and leapfrogging over a horse or balancing on a bench 1′ wide of any use what so ever. Our child came home from school the other day and told us that they had been orienteering to which I replied you would only hear of that if you watched Eurosport 20 years ago as there is seldom any mention of such a sport in the UK. They go on educational trips to Museums and have sporting events on Saturdays should they choose to do so.
    They have to wear a uniform long trousers in the Winter and shorts in the summer and no they weren’t expensive at all.The school has its own shop so you can measure the kids whilst your enrolling them for school all under one roof. The school books you will have to buy and we were told 1500 Euro per child but the reality was overall cost for 2 children was 200 Euro and the children respect their books as we made sure they understood that we paid for them and weren’t some cheap handouts making an ideal opportunity for a lesson in respect. We were concerned that they may not pick up Spanish, even that wasn’t a problem as they have a special teacher who teaches them both in a huge class of 4 pupils
    (Yes I meant four it wasn’t a typo).
    One of our children got a score of 85% in History (remember in Spanish) who only joined the school last September, as far as we were concerned, a fantastic result. They have 12 weeks off during the summer and countless fiestas either on Friday or on a Monday which makes for a great family weekend. If you love being around your children, as we do, instead of sending them off to an after school club, which
    loosely translated means, I don’t finish work till 5:50 so what do I do with my children until then? then Spain is ideal as the whole place is geared up for the family.
    I also conclude that it was, in this case, the mother who had the mid life crisis hence the husband having countless affairs as her account was complaint after complaint yet she said it was with regret she moved away from Spain now that’s both selective and deluded. oh and the enrolling in the school took all of 2 days.This is how it went. We went to the school, we have 2 kids who need educating, they asked for names passport numbers and NIE they gave us a card with their school ID number on and told us to visit OMITA in the village and found we hadn’t paid IBA, the equivalent of your Council tax, for our property out here in Spain (yes you pay IBA even if you don’t live here so don’t get confused with property taxes either as that’s another tax bill entirely and if you don’t pay once it’s 20% fine:) if you don’t pay twice its 40% fine:) on top of your annual bill and if you fail to pay a third time, Guess what? they only take your title off the escatura (title Deeds) and you no longer become the owner of the property your still paying for) 🙁 anyway after the ace women gave us a bill for the IBA which you take to the bank, which they then stamp, at that point, consider it paid. Your up to date with your local Council and now feel justified in watching the binmen arrive daily to collect your rubbish and not twice a month.Oh yes and the IBA 200 euro a year:) The streets are regularly cleaned not only by hand but by cleaning machine too, the palm trees are trimmed and the beaches are raked and the large sewers are sprayed with cockroach killer the pavements are free from chewing gum and the horror stories of dog pooh? all doggy peeps carry bags and remove instantly from the pavements.
    If you want English food from supermarkets you’ll pay a premium as it’s imported and it’s heavily taxed they Spanish equivalent is 100% better quality and half the price. All the fruit and veg is grown locally and ends up in our local supermarcado in season. Moving back to the UK is not an option for us as we love it out here. Do your kids get up at 07:30 and say dad are you ready to take us to school?
    I even had a row, from our eldest, when I suggested that they took the day off, as I was feeling under the weather, I was told you will destroy my 100% attendance record! now lets go…..
    I know I have digressed and waffled on a little but Spain is nothing like the article she wrote and I would highly recommend it to anybody who wants a good all round wholesome family life.

    • I read both parts and it seems that the reason she moved back to the UK was to be able to walk everywhere and be near a Clarkes shoe shop because Clarkes are superior in every way. Sounds like she is a townie who likes spending money in expensive shops.I couldn’t see one real reason the move back to the UK was better.

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