Spain's state-subsidised schools break law by charging 'fees' for free education

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Spain's state-subsidised schools break law by charging 'fees' for free education
90% of concertada schools charge fees. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

Ninety percent of Spain's 'colegios concertados' charge parents extra fees that amount to as much as €2,000 a year when by law these schools should be completely free, a new study reveals.


State-subsidised schools, or colegios concertados, are schools where some funds are provided by Spanish government, but not all the costs are covered as in the case of public schools.


There are currently 9,317 of these institutions in Spain, according to the latest data from Spain's Ministry of Education in its report from 2019/2020. Around 58 percent of them are Catholic schools.

Spain is the fourth country in Europe with the highest number of state-subsidised schools and 26 percent of children in Spain study at one.

In theory, they are supposed to be free because they are supported by public funds, but nine out of ten of these schools are charging fees to families.

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Three out of every four are even labelling these fees as mandatory, despite the fact that the law prohibits it, according to a joint report by Spain's Association of Private and Independent Schools (Cicae) and the Spanish Confederation Associations of Parents of Students (Ceapa).

In one out of every two colegios concertados, the fee is higher than €100 per month.

Article 88 of Spain Law of Education (Ley de Educación) states that in order "to guarantee the possibility of enrolling all students without discrimination on the basis of socioeconomic reasons, in no case may public or private centres receive amounts from families for receiving free education, impose upon families the obligation to make contributions to foundations or associations or establish compulsory services associated with teaching that require financial contributions from the families of the students”.

But this isn't what's happening in practice, with reports suggesting that some parents end up paying more than €2,000 a year in 'extra fees' which don't cover other expenses they have to cough up such as for school excursions, activities or school material.

Even though families are under no legal obligation to pay these cuotas, school administrators will pursue their payment repeatedly in the form of emails or letters, with parents fearing their children will face discrimination if they don't.

Catalonia, Madrid and the Basque Country are the regions where these payments are the most expensive, according to the Association of Parents of Students (Ampas).  

Parents pay the most in Catalonia at €191 per month on average, which is slightly less than last year’s average of €200.

The Basque Country has seen a 60 percent increase in fees compared to 2020 up to €160 per family per month, and Madrid they're paying €119 this year compared with €100 last year.  

These are the only three regions in which in 100 percent of the cases the fee was mandatory.  

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At the other end of the spectrum, Aragón is on average the cheapest for these types of schools at €38 per month on average. Andalusia comes in second at €42, followed by Valencia at €74.  

These fees, however, are still way below the amount that families would have to pay if they sent their kids to a fully private school.  

Navarra is the only region that has been left out of the study this year. 

Elena Cid, general director of the Association of Private Centers said: “The serious thing is that the fees are authorised by the educational authority. Every year schools request permission to charge these fees and the administration authorises it. We ask that the administrations do not authorise these fees. The right of families to free education is not being guaranteed and this is discriminatory”.

Spain's colegios concertados justify their fees by saying that the payments make up for the underfunding they suffer, despite the fact that the amount of public funds that go to these state-subsidised schools has risen by 20 percent in the last ten years while the number of students enrolled remained stable.   

They've referred to this latest study as a "smear campaign" to "eliminate the competition that state-subsidised education offers at a time of declining birth rates."


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