The 1978 Spanish Constitution established a decentralised and symmetrical state model that distributes the exercise of educational competences among all administrative levels, so that they are basically the same throughout the whole country.
The role of local authorities focuses on educational management, mainly through education councils. Regional education authorities assign to municipalities the exercise of functions in areas that directly affect their interests. Therefore, local authorities do not have the status of education administration, although they participate in the educational management carried out in their territory. In this respect, educational provision aimed at people of compulsory school age by local authorities or other public institutions, as well as any actions with educational purposes or consequences for the education of minors, must be carried out in coordination with the corresponding education administration. Furthermore, the education authorities and local corporations must coordinate their actions, each within the scope of their competences, in order to achieve a greater efficiency of the resources allocated to education and to contribute to the educational goals established in the regulations in force.
In turn, educational institutions also collaborate in the management of education thanks to their autonomy, adjusting their resources and adapting their pedagogic action, organisation and operational rules to the specific needs of their students and the characteristics of the school environment.
Within this decentralised model, the curriculum is formulated in a set of levels of curricular development. The third of these includes the participation of schools.
Administration and governance at local level
The autonomous communities can agree on the delegation of management competences for certain education services in the municipalities or groups of municipalities, in order to favour a greater effectiveness, coordination and social control in the use of the resources.
There is not a common structure for all the local authorities responsible for carrying out their education functions. Although most municipalities have an education department, the structure of these departments varies depending on aspects such as the size of the municipalities or their budgets.
Municipalities assume the competences related to:
- the creation, building, maintenance and monitoring of those buildings for public institutions of ECEC, primary and special education;
- the collaboration with the corresponding education authorities in obtaining the necessary site to build the new educational institutions;
- ensuring compliance with compulsory schooling and provision of the education service.
Local corporations are also empowered to set up municipal school councils. Their participation in education also entails representation in the school councils of the autonomous communities and the school councils of non-university educational institutions.
On the other hand, municipal authorities may use the educational institutions dependent on the autonomous communities for educational, cultural, sport or social activities outside school hours. Such use is subject to the needs derived from the planning of the activities of these schools.
The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP) and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) have signed several collaboration agreements. In 2004, the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training signed the first framework agreement for collaboration with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, whose main purpose was to achieve the full integration of educational action into local life. Subsequently, in 2010, a second agreement emphasised the numerous educational programmes that went beyond these legal requirements and illustrated the local authorities' commitment to education.
In 2021, the 2021-2024 Reading Promotion Plan is created, which has a representation of the autonomous communities and the FEMP in the working group. It contains six lines of action:
- foundations for the reading promotion;
- training of mediators (teachers, librarians, booksellers and related professionals);
- awards for reading promotion actions;
- activities to promote reading in early childhood;
- reading promotion at schools;
- reading promotion actions to +50 people.
In November 2022, a new nominative grant agreement was signed to carry out joint activities at the local level. The FEMP must allocate the amount received from the registered subsidy to the following actions:
- Execution of the phases of coordination, implantation and documentation of the sessions in which the "Seminar on Early Childhood Education" and the "National Meeting on Education" will be articulated. These phases must take place in various localities of the national territory.
- Conclusion of the update of the «Guide to design and build nursery schools». Preparation of the final document and design and layout work for its publication.
- Presentation of the "Guide to design and build nursery schools" in various municipalities of the national territory and dissemination to local governments.
- Call and development of the "VII Contest of good practices in the prevention and action against absenteeism and improvement of school coexistence". The aim of the contest is to promote the recognition of good practices, as well as the exchange of experiences, ideas and successful programs, undertaken under the leadership of local governments throughout the national territory.
- Edition and dissemination of the "VI Catalog of Good Practices of the municipalities in the prevention and action against absenteeism and improvement of school coexistence". The catalog will include the winning programs in the VI Contest, held in 2021.
- Updating of the guide «The Department of Education», with the aim of promoting training and informing those responsible for this matter in local governments.
Administration at institutional level
The process of decentralisation of educational powers has extended to non-university educational institutions.
The autonomy of the institutions is intended to enable them to adapt their actions to their specific circumstances and to the characteristics of their students, with the aim of achieving educational success for all students. The regulations establish the common rules that all schools have to observe, as well as the degree of autonomy to be granted to them.
Schools have pedagogical, organisational and management autonomy within the framework of the legislation in force. In this sense, they have the autonomy to draw up, approve and implement the following aspects:
- their educational project;
- the rules for organising and running the school, within the framework established by the State and regional regulations;
- their management plan.
The education administrations strengthen and promote the autonomy of the institutions, so that their economic, material and human resources can be adapted to the work and organisation plans they draw up, once they have been properly evaluated and assessed.
The institutions, in the exercise of their autonomy, may adopt experimentation, pedagogical innovations, educational programmes, work plans, forms of organisation, rules of coexistence or extension of the school calendar or of the teaching timetable for fields, areas or subjects, in the terms established by each education administration and within the possibilities allowed by the applicable regulations, including labour legislation. Under no circumstances may this entail discrimination of any kind, the imposition of contributions on families or demands on the education administrations. When these experiments, work plans or forms of organisation may affect the attainment of academic or professional qualifications, they must be duly authorised by the Government.
It is possible to distinguish four areas where educational institutions enjoy a wide degree of autonomy:
- pedagogical and curricular;
- management of resources;
- organisation of actions aimed at promoting quality.
Pedagogical and curricular organisation
According to Royal Decree 82/1996 and Royal Decree 83/1996, which regulates the functional organic regulations of Early Childhood Education, Primary Education schools and Secondary Education institutes, the educational project must include values, goals and priorities for action of the institution, within the framework of some strategic lines of action. In addition, it develops the principles, objectives and methodology of competence-based learning oriented towards the exercise of active citizenship. It must observe the principles of non-discrimination and educational inclusion as fundamental values. Public and publicly-funded private schools have to make it public.
At least the following elements are incorporated into the school development plan:
- an analysis of the characteristics of the social, economic, natural and cultural environment of its students, as well as relations with educational, social, economic and cultural agents in the surrounding area;
- the specification of the curricula established by the education administration, set and approved by the teaching staff;
- a cross-cutting approach to education in values, sustainable development, equality between women and men, equal treatment and non-discrimination, and the prevention of violence against girls and women, bullying and cyber-bullying, as well as the culture of peace and human rights;
- the way students' diversity is dealt with;
- measures concerning tutorial action;
- coexistence and reading plans;
- any measures necessary to compensate for any deficits that may exist in the competence in linguistic communication, in Spanish and, where appropriate, in the co-official languages;
- any academic measures to be adopted in order to favour and educate in equality, particularly for women and men;
- the school's digital strategy;
- an improvement plan, which is reviewed periodically. In it, based on the analysis of the different assessment processes of the pupils and the school itself, the strategies and actions necessary to improve educational results, and the procedures for coordination and relations with families and the environment are proposed.
The education administrations, meanwhile, have the obligation to:
- help schools to implement the necessary measures to compensate for any existing shortcomings based on the analyses and evaluations that are carried out;
- contribute to the development of the curriculum by encouraging the development of open models of teaching programmes and teaching materials that meet the different needs of students and teachers;
- facilitate coordination between the school development plans of primary education and compulsory secondary education institutions in order to favour the gradual and positive inclusion of students in the new education level.
Educational institutions must draw up the following documents:
- the coexistence plan, which includes all the activities that may be programmed with the purpose of fostering a good climate of coexistence within the school;
- the specification of the rights and duties of students;
- the correction measures applicable in the event of non-compliance with duties in accordance with the regulations in force, taking into consideration the students' personal situation and conditions;
- the implementation of actions for the peaceful resolution of conflicts with special attention to actions for promoting equality, non-discrimination and the prevention of gender-based violence.
At the end of the school year, a report is elaborated which includes and evaluates the activities and running of the educational institution.
The school's rules of coexistence and conduct are mandatory, and must specify the duties of students and the applicable corrective measures in the event of non-compliance, taking into account their personal situation and conditions. These corrective measures must be educational and remedial in nature, guaranteeing respect for the rights of other students and seeking to improve relations between all members of the educational community.
Corrective measures must be adequate to the misconduct incurred. Any conduct violating the personal dignity of other members of the educational community, which has as its origin or consequence discrimination or harassment based on gender, sexual orientation or identity, or racial, ethnic, religious, belief or disability grounds, or which is aimed at the most vulnerable students due to their personal, social or educational characteristics, shall be classified as a very serious offence and shall be subject to temporary or permanent dismissal from the school as a corrective measure. Corrective measures taken for minor offences must be immediately enforceable.
At the beginning of every academic year, schools set their yearly general programme. It contains all aspects of the organisation and operation of the centre including projects, curriculum, rules and all action plans which are agreed and approved annually. At the end of the school year, a final report is elaborated, which includes and evaluates the activities and running of the educational institution.
The role of the education administrations is to facilitate that, within the framework of autonomy, schools prepare their own organisation and running rules. They are also responsible for regulating the protocols for dealing with signs of bullying, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, gender-based violence and any other manifestation of violence, as well as the requirements and functions to be carried out by the welfare and protection coordinator, who must be appointed in all schools regardless of their ownership. School heads must ensure that the educational community is informed of the existing action protocols, as well as the implementation and monitoring of the actions foreseen in these protocols. In all cases, the rights of those affected must be guaranteed.
Management of resources
The financial management made by public educational institutions is in line with the exercise of their own autonomy, but must always comply with what is established by Organic Law 2/2006 on Education (LOE) and the specific regulations of every education administration or of their governing bodies. Thus, public educational institutions may, in accordance with the conditions established by each education administration, undertake the following management competences:
- acquiring goods;
- contracting works, services and supplies;
- formulating the academic and professional qualification requirements regarding certain school positions;
- preparing their management project, which includes the organisation and use of their resources, both material and human;
- staff management, with the person in charge taking responsibility for the management of the resources made available to the institution;
- any other responsibility that corresponds to the education administrations and which they delegate in the governing bodies of public schools.
The management of school resources must also contribute to the promotion of the quality of education, as well as to equal opportunities regarding access to education. Therefore, the funding of the education authorities may be bigger in the case of public educational institutions or publicly-funded private schools whose project might require so or whose population has specific needs. This allocation is subject to accountability and proof that the resources have been properly used.
In turn, public schools may obtain complementary resources, subject to the approval of their school council, under the terms established by the education administrations, and within the limits established by the regulations in force. These additional resources cannot come from activities organised by parents’ or students' associations, in compliance with their purposes, and must be used to cover the school’s expenses.
Organisation of actions aimed at promoting the quality of educational institutions
These actions to promote quality comprise honorary measures aimed at the recognition of schools, as well as educational quality actions aimed at fostering and promoting quality in schools.
The implementation of such quality actions is subject to the accountability of the educational institution.
The autonomy of Spanish universities is reflected in the following powers:
- the drawing up of their statutes and, in the case of private universities, their own rules of organisation and operation, as well as other internal rules;
- the election, appointment and dismissal of the corresponding governing and representative bodies;
- the creation of specific structures to support research and teaching;
- the development and approval of curricula and research and specific lifelong learning teachings;
- the recruitment, training and promotion of teaching, research, administrative and service staff, and the definition of the conditions under which they are to carry out their activities;
- the admission, permanence regime and student knowledge verification;
- the issuance of official diplomas valid throughout the national territory and of their own degrees and diplomas;
- the preparation, approval and management of their budgets, and the administration of their assets;
- the establishment and modification of their employment descriptions;
- the establishment of their relations with other entities for the promotion and development of their institutional purposes.
Governance at institutional level
The governance of public non-university institutions is entrusted to the following bodies:
- mixed-membership bodies:
- school council;
- teachers' assembly;
- single-member bodies:
- school head;
- head of studies;
- any others established by the education administrations.
In public institutions with special characteristics (incomplete, multi-grade, special education, adult education or centres abroad), their composition and functions are to be modified so as to be appropriate to each particular case.
Publicly-funded private schools must have, at least, the school head and the mixed-membership bodies mentioned (school council and teachers' assembly).
Private schools enjoy autonomy to structure their organisation and as such may establish the governing and participatory bodies which they deem fit, in accordance with the law.
The management team
It is the executive governance body of public educational institutions. It is made up of the school head, the head of studies, the secretary and as many others as may be determined by the education administrations.
Mixed-membership governing bodies
Public educational institutions count, at least, with the school council and the teachers' assembly.
It is the governing body of the educational institution where the education community participates.
It is made up of the following members:
- the management team;
- a representative of the school management and services staff;
- a city councillor or representative of the City Council;
- representatives of the teaching staff, families and pupils. In the latter case, in the terms and from the year established by the Education Administrations.
Education authorities establish the total number of members and regulate the election processes of the representatives of the different groups.
The school council has these functions:
- to approve and evaluate the projects and regulations that the school must draw up in accordance with the legislation in force, taking into account the competences that correspond to the rest of the school's bodies;
- to approve and evaluate the school's yearly general programme, without prejudice to the competences of the teaching staff in relation to educational planning and organisation;
- to be informed about the applications for the management roles of the centre and the projects presented by each candidate, as well as participating in the process and, if necessary - with the agreement of its members, adopted by a two-thirds majority - proposing the revocation of the appointment of the management team;
- to make decisions about students' admission in accordance with the corresponding regulations;
- to promote the adoption and monitoring of educational measures that foster the recognition and protection of children's rights;
- to suggest measures and initiatives that favour healthy lifestyles, coexistence in the school, effective equality between men and women, non-discrimination, the prevention of bullying and gender violence, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts in all areas of personal, family and social life;
- to be aware of any behaviour that is contrary to coexistence and the application of educational, mediation and corrective measures, ensuring that they comply with the regulations in force;
- to progressively promote the conservation and renovation of school facilities and equipment in order to improve quality and sustainability, and to approve the obtaining of complementary resources in accordance with current regulations;
- to determine the guidelines for the collaboration, for education and cultural purposes, with local authorities, other educational institutions, bodies and organisations;
- to analyse and assess the general running of the school, the evolution of the academic performance and the results of the internal and external evaluations in which the school takes part;
- to draw up proposals and reports, on its own initiative or at the request of the competent education administration, on the operation of the institution and the improvement of management quality, as well as on other aspects related to the institution's quality;
- any other functions assigned to them by the education administration.
In publicly-funded private schools, the competences of the school council are similar, although it is also involved in appointing and dismissing teachers and in the approval of the fees to be paid by families for extracurricular activities, in accordance with the approval procedure determined by the education authorities.
The teachers' assembly is the body in which teachers participate in the school's governance and is responsible for planning, coordinating, informing and making decisions on all educational aspects of the school. Chaired by the school head, it is made up of all the teachers in the school.
It has the functions to:
- formulate proposals to the management team and the school council for drawing up the school projects and the yearly general programme;
- pass and assess the definition of the curriculum and all the educational aspects of the school projects and the yearly general programme;
- establish criteria regarding students' guidance, tutorship, evaluation and retake;
- promote initiatives in the field of pedagogic experimentation and research and in the training of the teachers of the school;
- appoint its representatives in the school council of the school;
- be informed about candidates for the post of head of school and the projects presented, as well as to take part in the selection process;
- analyse and assess the general running of the school, the evolution of the academic performance and the results of the internal and external evaluations in which the school takes part;
- inform about the rules for the organisation and running of the school;
- be informed about the resolution of disciplinary conflicts and the imposition of sanctions, as well as ensure that they comply with the regulations in;
- propose measures and initiatives to foster coexistence;
- any other functions assigned to it by the education administration or by the relevant organisation and operation rules.
Other teaching coordination bodies
It is the responsibility of the education authorities to regulate the functioning of the teaching coordination and guidance bodies. It is also their responsibility to promote teacher teams within the same academic year, as well as the collaboration and teamwork of teachers who teach the same group of students.
The denomination, composition and specific duties are different in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools and they also vary from one autonomous community to another.
In secondary schools there must be, among the teaching coordination bodies, teaching coordination departments responsible for the organisation and development for the teaching of the subjects or modules entrusted to them.
In order to fully implement the principle of active participation and democratic management of non-university educational institutions, other channels have being developed through which parents and students can take part in a collegiate manner in the control and management of education.
Although there are variations in the different autonomous communities, the class delegate role is very widespread in levels above primary education. They are elected by the students in each class and are usually responsible for the following functions:
- to promote coexistence among the students of the group;
- to collaborate with the group's teachers on issues affecting the group's functioning;
- to act as their representative, look after the materials and facilities, and perform any other tasks established by the school rules.
In addition, students may join associations, depending on their age, creating organisations in accordance with the regulations in force. Student associations shall have, among others, the following goals:
- to express the opinion of the student body on all matters affecting their situation in the schools
- to collaborate in the educational work of the schools and in their complementary and extracurricular activities;
- to promote student participation in the school's collegiate bodies;
- to carry out cultural and sporting activities and to promote cooperative action and teamwork.
The education authorities must facilitate the exercise of students’ right to association, as well as the forming of federations and confederations.
Participation of students' families through student parents' associations
Students' families are guaranteed freedom of association in the educational sphere.
Student parents' associations have, among others, the following purposes:
- to assist parents or guardians in all matters concerning their childrens' education;
- to collaborate in the education activities of the school;
- to promote the participation of pupils' parents in the management of the school.
Each school may have more than one parents' association. These associations may use the premises of the educational institutions to carry out their own activities, for which purpose, those in charge of the schools must facilitate the integration of these activities into school life, taking into account its normal running.
In turn, the education authorities shall encourage the exercise of the right of parents to form associations, as well as the forming of federations and confederations.
The statutes of public universities must establish, as a minimum, the following bodies:
- mixed-membership bodies: social council, governing council, university assembly, advisory board, faculty, technical or higher polytechnic school boards and university school or polytechnic university school boards, and department councils;
- single-member bodies: rector, vice-rectors, secretary general, manager, faculty deans, directors of technical higher polytechnic schools, of university schools or polytechnic university schools, of departments and of research university institutes.
The election of representatives of the different sectors of the university community in the university faculty, the department boards and the department councils is conducted on the basis of universal, free, equal, direct and secret voting. The statutes establish the applicable election rules.
The social council is the body for the participation of society in the university. It has the following responsibilities:
- to monitor the economic activities of the university and its service performance;
- to promote the collaboration of society in the financing of the university, and relations between the university and its cultural, professional, economic and social environment to ensure the quality of university activity;
- to approve the budget and the multi-annual programming of the university, at the proposal of the governing council;
- to approve the annual accounts of the university and those of the entities that may depend on it, prior to the rendering of accounts process.
The legislation in each autonomous community regulates its composition, functions and the appointment of its members from among personalities from the cultural, professional, economic, labour and social sectors, who cannot be members of the university community itself. However, the members of the social council are the people who hold the office of the rector, the secretary general and the management, as well as one member from the teaching staff, one from the student sector and one from the administration and services staff sector, elected by the governing council from among its own members. The person who assumes the presidency is appointed by the autonomous community where the university is located.
The governing council is the governing body of the university. It is in charge of establishing the strategic and programme lines of the university, as well as the guidelines and procedures for their implementation in the fields of teaching organisation, research, human and economic resources and preparation of the budgets. The governing council is chaired by the people in the rector's office, secretary general and management bodies, and a maximum of 50 members of the university community, as established in the university statutes. The governing council shall also include three members of the social council who are not members of the university community.
Meanwhile, the university assembly is the highest representation body in the university community. It is made up of the rector's office, the secretary general and the management bodies, and a maximum of three hundred members. It is in charge of drawing up the university statutes and, on an extraordinary basis, it can hold elections to choose a chancellor at the initiative of a third of their members and with the approval of two thirds. The university statutes regulate their composition and the duration of their term.
The advisory board is the ordinary advisory body for the rector's office and the governing council on academic matters, and is empowered to make proposals to both bodies. Chaired by the rector, it is made up of the secretary general and a maximum of forty members appointed by the governing council from among teaching and research staff of recognised prestige, with teaching and research merits accredited by the corresponding positive evaluations in accordance with the regulations in force. The statutes regulate its functioning.
The school or faculty board is the governing body of the school or faculty. It is chaired by the dean or director. Its composition and the procedure for the election of its members are set out in the statutes.
Finally, the department council is the governing body of each department. It is chaired by the head of the department and is made up of members of the department with doctoral degrees, as well as a representation of the rest of the teaching and research staff without such a degree as determined by the university statutes. It must also guarantee the presence of members acting as representatives of the student sector and of the administrative and service staff.
Private universities determine the governing bodies in the rules of organisation and functioning. The names of the individual bodies are identical to those established for public universities.
As a figure that guarantees the rights and freedoms of the members of the respective universities, the university ombudsman or ombudswoman ensures that the rights and freedoms of teaching staff, students and administrative and service staff are respected in the actions of the different university bodies and services. Their actions, always aimed at improving quality in every field, do not depend on any other university body and they are regulated by the principles of independence and autonomy.
The university statutes are responsible for establishing the procedure for their election or appointment, the duration of their term of office and dedication, as well as their operating regime.
Student sector participation bodies
The State University Council for Students is the higher body for deliberation, consultation and representation of university students before the Ministry of Universities.
Its functions are detailed in article 51 of Royal Decree 1791/2010 approving the University Student Statute.