The Madrid Metropolitan catches up with Sinéad Galvin, honorary Madrileña, Irish expat, bilingual mum of three to talk to her about moving to Spain and her relocation & educational consultancy Steps Into Spain
Hello Sinéad! You’re Irish, tell us what brought you to Madrid?
I first came to Spain (Granada) when I was 19 and fell head over heels in love with all that Spain has to offer; culture, food, language, outdoor life, cañas, tapas etc. I was lucky enough to live with a local family and enrolled at a Spanish academy. From there I moved onto Ibiza which was the closest that I’d ever been to paradise at that age. I was hooked. I’ve since lived in other parts of Spain (Barcelona, Valencia, Tenerife) and in other parts of the world but I’ve always come back. Like a boomerang I suppose. I moved to Madrid once I finished Uni (BA Hispanic Studies) and have been living here on and off for about 16 years and although I never imagined that I would live so far from any form of water, I love it! I have three kids and I’m married to my Madrileño and really feel very settled and content.
You’re an educational consultant and founded “Steps into Spain” – tell us a little more about what you do?
I help families to find the right school for their child in Madrid. I work closely with each family to understand exactly what they are looking for. Each school search begins with an indepth consultation with the family. I will also have an informal chat with their child (age dependent of course).
This step is really important as it’s an opportunity to understand what their ideal school is like, to learn what has and more importantly has not worked up until and to hear their future plans.
Once I am clear on all of these points, I then provide a detailed list of suitable schools (availability confirmed) based on the family’s personal preferences and requirements.
I assist with school visits, accompanying families if required. I offer support throughout the decision-making process and enrolment. And will check in with the family throughout the school year.
You’ve mentioned that you also manage relocation, can you tell us a little bit about that ?
A lot of our clients are moving from overseas and once schooling is organized, they need assistance with other important factors like housing and paperwork which we also manage.
Madrid is a big city and each neighbourhood has its own unique charm. Having lived here for over 16 years I’m thrilled to share my local knowledge and ensure that the right neighbourhood is chosen.
As for paperwork and Spanish bureaucracy, I’ve had my fair share of that too (births, marriage, driving licence, buying a home, setting up a business etc.). We can arrange an array of essential services such as; housing, immigration, tax, language classes, home help etc.
Our goal is to help families to settle into life in Madrid as smoothly as possible so that they can begin to enjoy what this great city has to offer almost right away. En España se vive bien and our goal is for our clients to feel exactly like that.
What would a family choose to work with an educational consultant?
Madrid has a huge number of school options and sometimes that can make the decision process all the more difficult. When families speak directly to the schools it can sometimes be difficult to know whether the school is genuinely a good fit.
I offer an objective, impartial, experienced opinion. I regularly visit schools across the city and endeavour to have a good relationship with each. It is important for my clients to know that I do not receive any commission from the schools so when I recommend a school it is because I honestly think that it is the best match.
What different services does Steps into Spain offer to families?
There are a number of options and we can also create bespoke packages upon request.
The bronze pack is an hourlong consultation and provides you with the opportunity to have an in- depth chat about Spanish education system and the different school options on offer in Madrid.
The silver pack is the school search. Following our initial consultation, we will provide detailed information on two schools (availability confirmed) for your child. We will talk you through our selection and why we feel that these are the most suitable schools for your child.
The gold pack is what we refer to as the school search and placement. It includes everything already mentioned in other packs although with additional school options. What makes this one different is that we manage everything on your behalf. We handle all communications with the schools, scheduling visits, managing required paperwork, setting up admission exams, assisting with enrolment etc. We are on hand to offer support throughout the process.
Can you tell us a little bit about the schools in Madrid?
Of course! Madrid has got a fantastic range of school options (Spanish, Bilingual, International, Non-Traditional, IB etc.) and I suppose sometimes that can make the decision even harder. As parents we tend to worry about many things and finding the right school can be a very tough decision.
I regularly visit the schools and I’m always thinking of clients (and my own kids!). I offer families unbiased and impartial guidance and advice based on their particular needs.
What would be your top three tips for parents about to embark on the school search?
The most important one is to give yourself adequate time to research, research and do more research. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to this, then reach out for assistance.
Another piece of advice would be to involve your child in the process. Making them feel part of it will increase chances of choosing the right school. And my final piece of advice is to learn Spanish. If you really want to integrate with your local community then you’ve got to make the effort and learn the language.
Thank you Sinéad!