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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisational variations and alternative structures in ECEC


4.Early childhood education and care

4.5Organisational variations and alternative structures in ECEC

Last update: 23 January 2024

Among the main organisational variations and alternative structures in early childhood education and care (ECEC), the following stand out:

  • ECEC in rural schools,
  • bilingual education,bilingual education;
  • penitentiary classrooms.

ECEC in rural schools

In some Autonomous Communities in Spain, there are rural schools located in municipalities with a reduced population. Their denomination is different depending on the Autonomous Community:

  • Gathered Rural Schools (CRA)
  • Rural School Zones (ZER)
  • Rural Public Centres (CPR)
  • Rural School Collectives (CER)

Article 82 of Organic Law 2/2006 on Education (LOE), amended by Organic Law 3/2020 (LOMLOE), establishes that the education authorities shall pay special attention to these settings, taking into account the peculiarities of their educational environment, providing them with the necessary means and organisational systems to meet their particular needs and guarantee equal opportunities..

Characteristics of rural schools:

  • Purpose: provide educational services in geographical areas with low population densities.
  • Target groups: second-cycle ECEC and primary education students living in geographical areas with low population densities.
  • Organisation:
    • Each CRA brings together several schools in neighbouring towns, forming a single school (comprising both the second cycle of ECEC and primary education).
    • This type of centres have a single management team and its teaching staff, a collegiate body which includes itinerant teachers who attend several schools.
    • The school development plan and the yearly general programme are the same for all the schools grouped together in the area.
    • Each centre in the CRA may be structured in a small number of classrooms, so there might be students of different ages and grades in the same group. The teaching body will try to group pupils by cycles and, if this is not possible due to the small number of children, by educational stages.

In Cataluña, rural schools are grouped in Rural School Zones (Zonas Escolares Rurales - ZER) and in Andalucía in Rural Public Centres (Centros Públicos Rurales - CPR). Article 82 of the LOE, as amended by the LOMLOE, states that the education authorities shall pay special attention to rural schools, so that children may be educated in a municipality close to their place of residence, thus guaranteeing the quality of education.  

Bilingual education

Types of provision:

  • Bilingual education programme) - Collaboration Agreement with the Spanish Delegation of the British Council Foundation:
    • Purpose: training students so they will become fluent in different languages and familiar with different cultures in the context of a multicultural and multilingual Europe, providing them with a set of strategic, linguistic and sociolinguistic skills.
    • Target groups: pupils from the second cycle of pre-primary education to the 4th year of Compulsory Secondary Education at public schools.
    • Organisation:
      • Bilingual schools providing both the second cycle of ECEC and primary and secondary education under this agreement develop an integrated Spanish-British curriculum in accordance with Order 8137/2000.
      • Teaching is delivered by teachers specifically hired to participate in the project,  and specialist teachers of English from the bilingual schools.
  • Portuguese language and culture programme:
    • Purpose:
      • To ensure that the children of Portuguese workers and immigrants preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage.
      • To encourage interest and respect for the Portuguese culture among Spanish children.
    • Target groups: pupils from the second cycle of pre-primary education to the fourth year of compulsory secondary education, either of Portuguese or Portuguese-speaking origin, or Spanish, who attend publicly funded schools.
    • Organisation:
      • Portuguese teachers assigned to Spanish schools carry out activities included in the timetable, through `integrated classes´ (in which the Portuguese and Spanish teachers carry out joint activities with all the children in the classroom) or `simultaneous classes´ (in which the Portuguese teachers teach the group of children who have chosen to participate in the programme).
      • Promotion, exchanges, study visits and Portuguese clubs, among other activities, are also organised. 

Penitentiary classrooms

Spanish legislation sets out, in the General Penitentiary Law 1/1979, Article 38.2 modified by General Penitentiary Law 13/1995, the right of mothers to keep their children with them until they are 3 years old.

The aim of the penitentiary classroom programme is to ensure that children who are in jail with their mothers receive education and care relevant to their age. There are properly equipped ECEC settings within penitentiary institutions, with specialists in ECEC who are in charge of education and leisure programming for minors.

These ECEC settings have psychomotricity classrooms, education rooms, dining rooms and garden areas for outdoor games. They are managed by permanent staff who schedule activities as in any other ECEC setting.