School´s out for the Summer! Casals 101
Summer camps (Casals) are an important part of family life in Spain. The school system effectively enables very low cost childcare from 3 yrs old (with possibilities for kids to be in school from 7.30am-6pm if needed), so working parents need viable alternatives for the summer months. So far, I have seen three types of summer camps in Barcelona: those ran by the Adjuntament (Council) de Barcelona (public), others ran by the schools or those by private groups.
Year 1 in Barcelona I thought that all summer camps ran by the council were pre-register with a lottery and followed this route. The application website is usually https://vacances.barcelona.cat/campusolimpia and once registered, you get allocated a lottery number. You should start checking in early February, just to assure you know the dates, and the application for the lottery usually occurs in March online with the draw in mid-April, when you are notified by email & text message if selected. You then go to the sports centre on a specified date in late April where you pay the fees and submit all documentation (usually the application form, with photocopy of Vaccination booklet and CAP Salut card). And then phew, you are done!
Year 2 in Barcelona I missed the registration period for the lottery, partially on purpose as I figured we would use the sports centre closest to home, which I had learnt was not in the lottery (so the majority of casals are NOT in the lottery). Last Saturday morning registration would begin at 9am, as I had discovered on the council website (https://vacances.barcelona.cat/es/actividades-deportivas). Being naïve, I decided to pop up at my local leisure centre at 10am before having breakfast, thinking I was early in Spanish terms for morning 1 of Summer Camp registration.
How wrong I was! When I finally figured out I needed a ticket number, I was number 206 in the queue. 206 at 10am! What I learnt in later discussions, was people queue from 7am, and even 5am, at some sports centres for registration. You have been warned!
I was so relaxed this time around, I had thought they were just taking names on morning 1, and then if you got accepted (like the lottery), you returned with the payment and paperwork maybe a week or so later. After all, the camps are 2 months away 😊 However, once again, I was wrong! I spotted everyone in the queue had documentation, so after asking around, I realised I needed the application form completed with photocopies of vaccination and CAP Salut (or private health insurance) cards for both children. At that point, ticket #90 was being processed at 10.15am. So I figured I had 1 hour to run back home, fill the application form, get to a photocopy shop and withdraw cash for payment. I spent my next hour running around, getting the tasks done, trying to find an open photocopy shop and returned to learn they were still only at 172 in the queue. Luckily I hadn´t missed the call of my number, or I would have lost my position. So after waiting another 45 mins or so, I was up next, and registered the kids for 2 weeks over the casal period.
Unfortunately with this particular casal, while you could book most sessions on a weekly basis, they had blocked the 1st two weeks of July as a set group. You had to book the full 2 weeks or none. As we go on vacation in mid July, this didn´t work for us. So after some research, I found a nice range of camps in Club Natacio Barcelona (CNB; http://www.cnb.cat/casals-infantils-i-juvenils/) and my son is now registered for a 1 week technical swimming class there also. The CNB application process was much easier, as it would be performed by email on Monday morning from 9.30am. Emails could not be sent before, but once sent, they would be prioritised by order of timestamp. The following day, CNB confirmed his spot on that camp.
Now I will start discovering more of the private camps, to see if he can join for 1 other week to make 4 weeks of his summer vacation in casals. While my husband is an “amo de casa”, the casals are important to us as the children will then continue to speak Catalan during their summer holidays. Last summer, this transformed my son, who was just finishing his first year in Barcelona at age 4, and had struggled with the language in the earlier months. Attending a casal for half days for 5 weeks really helped his comfort levels with Catalan. He was not fearful or upset returning to school (which was a natural risk previously). With our 3 year old daughter starting to gather the language nearing the end of P3 this year, her attendance for a couple of weeks at the casals we hope will also help her language progression.
So, maybe you need the casals due to work commitments. Or like us, to maintain your children´s language skills. Or for others, just to keep the house sane for the summer period: both children and parents! But if you are looking for casals, you can simply google “casal d'estiu” or “casal d'estiu barcelona” and you can start looking through what is available.