Registering your child in a childcare center

We explain to you the registration period and requirements, how the points system works and whom the grants depend on

Education is not mandatory until the age of three. Because of this, public childcare options are much more restricted than for primary and secondary education, and in many places the demand outstrips supply.

As a result, it's important to know the steps and requirements for securing a place in a public childcare center.

The details provided below are general and common. Since public childcare centers are run by the regional governments, these details may vary in your place of residence; so, to get more reliable information, you should check the website of the relevant regional and local governments.

Private childcare centers tend to have their own registration requirements. Just because they're private, however, doesn't mean they're outside the law.

Every childcare center, whether public or private, has to satisfy certain legal requirements:

  • The children have to be supervised by a staff of professionals who are qualified in childhood education.
  • The use of the center must be limited to childcare and it must be accessible from the street.
  • One of its facilities must be a multi-purpose room with a surface area of at least 30 square meters.

The childcare center must comply with the educational program specified by the Ministry of Education. In addition to these general criteria, each regional government may impose additional criteria to increase and ensure the safety of the children.

The registration period for enrolling in private centers is usually the same as for public ones, though they tend to be more flexible.

The main difference between public and private childcare centers is the cost. Private ones are more expensive. As a result, the first option for parents with modest incomes is usually a public childcare center. In contrast, private childcare centers normally offer much more flexible hours to cover the needs of parents, regardless of their work schedules.

Requirements for requesting a place

In general, the requirements are similar in every region of Spain.

  • The baby must be at least 16 weeks old at the start of the school year.
  • Childcare centers have to accept all requests, regardless of the number of places they have available. How the spaces will be filled is decided later.
  • The parents must be registered as residents in the city or town where the childcare center for which they applied is located.
  • Take the original and a copy of the family register (if you have one), birth certificate and other documents that can be used to verify the name and date of birth of the child and his/her relationship to the parents.
  • Provide a company certificate or, failing that, the last paycheck as proof of the parents' work schedule.
  • Documents proving the proximity of the family residence.

Application and enrollment dates

It's important to know the period for enrolling in a childcare center, since the process begins relatively early compared to the final registration date. If you do not complete the application on time, you may lose the opportunity to get a place for the school term you are hoping for.

Therefore, if you're pregnant and think you will need to put your baby in a childcare center when the school year begins, you will have to request a place even if the child hasn't been born yet.The law specifies that "a place may be requested for unborn children if they are due to be born at least 16 weeks before the start of the school year." This is so because only babies 16 weeks and older can be registered in childcare centers.

  • As a general rule, the pre-enrollment period in childcare centers starts on February 15 and ends on April 30.
  • Starting in May, usually towards the middle of the month, the provisional admission lists are published.
  • At that point, the claims period opens.
  • The final admission list is published in early June.
  • Once this final list is published, parents have about a month, typically until June 25, to register in the childcare center if their child has been admitted.

How are the places awarded?

Places are awarded by using a points scale that ranks each applicant family based on its characteristics. The more points a family receives, the more likely their baby will be admitted.

To this end, a series of criteria have been set up, with a corresponding point scale:

  • Annual income of the family unit: 10 points when one of the parents or legal tutors receives the minimum income allowance, which is calculated according to how many children the recipient is responsible for.
  • Proximity of the location of the family unit's residence or workplace of the father, mother or guardian, to the childcare center:
    • 30 points, when the primary residence is inside the childcare center's service area.
    • 20 points, when the workplace of either parent or legal guardian is within the childcare center's service area.
    • 10 points, when the primary residence is in the same municipality as the childcare center but outside its service area.
  • Relatives in school: 40 points, when the baby has a sibling enrolled in the same center or when one parent or legal guardian is working there when the baby is pre-enrolled.
  • Disability: 10 points, when the baby, one of its parents or guardians, or one of its siblings, has a degree of disability of at least 33%.
  • Complementary criteria:
    • 5 points, for belonging to a large- or single-parent family.
    • 10 points, if the baby has a chronic disease that affects the digestive, endocrine or metabolic system, including celiacs.

Price of childcare centers and subsidies

The price of the childcare center will vary considerably depending on whether it's public or private. However, some expenses are common to both and can be used to provide a rough estimate of how much it will cost when the time comes.

  • Annual registration: between €150 and €200.
  • School insurance: between €25 and €30.
  • Monthly fee: between €180 and €200.
  • Materials (uniform, tracksuit, bib, etc.): between €100 and €150.

Regional governments may grant subsidies to offset part of the cost of private childcare centers. The amount, criteria and number of subsidies depends on the law and budget of each regional government.

For more information, see the educational section of the website for the regional and local governments in question.