How did you manage to move to Spain? Man, oh man, if I had a centimo for every time someone asked me that one!
The truth is, these days learning English is all the rage in sunny Spain, and between the many English teaching programs out there, almost anyone can find a way in.
I’ve spent four years working as an English Language Assistant with BEDA (Bilingual English Development & Assessment) in the Canary Islands (Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). Most of my experiences were positive and I’d absolutely recommend this program for those looking to live it up in Spain for a year (or four!).
In this post you can find an overview about what it’s like working for BEDA, and coming soon I’ll be posting a pro & con comparison of the various Language Assistant programs in Spain.
If you already know the BEDA basics, but want to hear about my first hand experience, skip to the end where I dish on the
pros and cons of my life as a BEDA auxie.
There are over 500 BEDA Language Assistants in about 365 schools; 300 of which are located in Madrid. You select your preferences when you apply, but ultimately the decision is up to the powers that be(DA). Since the vast majority of placements are in Madrid, you’re probably in luck if that’s your first choice.
Working with BEDA: What You Get
Monthly Stipend 💶
BEDA Assistants are assigned 18 – 24 hours per week and earn a monthly stipend which breaks down to about €12.50/hour. Social Security is taken out monthly, but you get virtually all of this back when filing Spanish taxes in the spring.
The stipend is more or less enough to live off, but how much bang you get for your buck will depend a lot on where you’re placed, how many hours a week you’re assigned, and your personal spending style.
Most Language Assistants supplement their income with private tutoring, but you can probably squeeze by on the 20-24 hour-a-week stipend if you budget well. The first couple of months tend to be toughest (moving costs, new apartment, etc), but things start to balance out by December.
Is payment reliable?
Unlike the government program, payment with BEDA is always reliable and direct deposited within the first 5 days of the following month. In September and June you work 15 days so the payment is half that of a regular month.
Private & Public Health Coverage
Health Care: BEDA provides private health insurance through Adeslas, and unlike in the government program, we’re also eligible for seguridad social (public social security)
Social Security: BEDA Language Assistants pay into the Spanish Social Security system, which is awesome for 3 reasons:
- We have access to public health care (in addition to private health insurance), meaning that we’re fully covered both at public and private hospitals.
- We get virtually all this money back when we file our Spanish taxes in spring.
- For those that may wish to find a more permanent situation in Spain later on, having a Social Security number is a step in the right direction.
Orientation and Support
BEDA provides a lot of support to help you get started when you arrive to Spain, which is totally in contrast to the government program where you’re left to fend for yourself.
- At the orientation in September, BEDA helps you fill out the immigration paperwork for the NIE and TIE and even make the appointment and accompany you to submit it at the immigration office
- They help you to open a Spanish bank account
- They’re actually there. Compared to the government program (which responds to about 25% of emails about once a month) the good folks at BEDA usually respond within a day or two. No matter how confident you are coming over, it never hurts to have someone in your corner in case you need it!
Working with BEDA: What You Give
BEDA School Days
BEDA works with semi-private Catholic schools (concertados), meaning that they receive some funding from the government and some from tuition.
A typical day will vary from school to school, but in general most have classes from 8-1, a long lunch break, and again from 3-5. Since you´ll be spread out amongst a varied group of students and classes, you’ll likely be there a lot of that time.
As far as your role and responsibilities will go, it’s pretty much up in the air. Some schools look after you, team teach and collaborate on lesson plans, while others give ya a wink and a nod and send you out into the hungry lion’s den classroom on your own. During my four years with BEDA, two of my schools were amazing and one was the absolute epitome of taking advantage of cheap immigrant (me) labor. More on that below.
BEDA Coursework – Universidad de Comillas
Comillas Courses: Within Madrid
BEDA Assistants working within Madrid are required to attend weekly courses at Comillas University, which are typically held on Fridays with an occasional Saturday thrown in to mess up your weekend.
The classes are meant to be directly applicable to the classrom, such as lesson planning, classroom management, teaching methodology, etc. You’re also required to take Spanish classes unless you test out of them by proving you have a B1 level.
I never had to do these courses as I was placed outside of Madrid in the Canary Islands, but the general consensus I’ve heard through the grapevine is that while they’re a drag to go to, they’re reasonably helpful for newer teachers and a great place to meet new people.
Comillas Courses: Outside of Madrid
Assistants working outside of Madrid aren’t required to attend these courses (woohoo!), which was a big draw for me to ditch the capital and explore the islands instead. Auxiliares outside of Madrid are given access to a separate online course and are simply required to travel to Madrid in April to take two Cambridge Teaching exams each year they’re with the program.
BEDA Program: The Good, The Bad & My Two Cents
Having worked with both the government program (Ministry of Education) and BEDA, my pros and cons all come from a comparative standpoint.
- BEDA Assistants are always paid on time (within the first 5 days of the following month)
- Earning €1200/month outside of Madrid vs. €700 (government program stipend) makes a BIG difference
- Adeslas health coverage is great and we have access to public health services, meaning you’re covered virtually no matter what
- BEDA offers hands on support to help with the bureaucracy of living abroad
- Some LA’s will have the opportunity to train as Cambridge Speaking examiners, a resume builder and opportunity to make some extra cash
- The hourly rate is less than that of the government program, who pay €1000 for 16 hours in Madrid and €700 for 12 hours outside of Madrid (about €15/hour)
- Unlike the dreamy 3 day weekends of government program auxiliares, we BEDA suckas almost always work five days a week and often have both morning and afternoon classes
- While no doubt useful, the weekend classes put a damper on livin’ it up for a year in Spain
- Paying a $175 deposit to hold space for a job seems pretty crappy & counter-intuitive 🙄 I get that they need to be sure you’re serious in order to hold your place, but I absolutely think this deposit should be refunded upon completion of the contract.
My Two Cents
All in all, I’ve enjoyed my experience working with BEDA in the Canary Islands. Since cost of living is cheaper here than Madrid, the monthly stipend goes a bit further. I supplement my income with a few private classes (2-5 hours a week) and some freelance gigs to support my wanderlust, but if I was more of a homebody I could get by without.
Over four years, I’ve worked with 3 BEDA schools, one of which was amazing in every possible way, one of which I enjoyed a lot and made some lifelong friends at, and one of which completely takes advantage of the Language Assistant program, using it as a way to score cheap English teachers and pushing way more responsibilities than are outlined in our contract. Point being, the schools can be hit or miss, but as far as I can tell the majority are above par.
I’m definitely in the minority working outside of Madrid, so it’s also worth adding…
Madrid vs. Other Autonomous Communities
Unless you have your heart set on Madrid, BEDA gives you more bang for your buck in other communities. Here’s why:
- Unlike the government program which pays only €700 outside of Madrid, BEDA wages are determined by hours worked, not by where you live. €1200 a month goes a lot further outside of Madrid than within the capital
- Language Assistants placed outside of the Comunidad de Madrid don’t have to attend weekend classes. I’m a lifelong learner, but I had zero desire to spend my Friday afternoons in a classroom after a long week of teaching!
- Living outside Madrid adds an extra level of independence and immersion. Having lived in Madrid, I know how easy it can be to fall into the trap of making easy expat friendships as opposed to truly immersing yourself in your new home. Without the convenience of a million other auxiliares and Erasmus students, you’re forced to get out of your comfort zone and get in with the locals.
BEDA placements are much more competitive than the government program and not everyone gets a spot. To be a successful candidate, shine up you CV (resume) and be sure to boast any experience you have related to teaching and working with children.
Applications for the 2018/2019 already closed (sorry, bud!), but they’ll reopen in November or December of 2019 for the following school year. I’ll keep this post updated as new application dates open up.
Bonus Points (but not necessarily required)
1. Submit your CV and application by the deadline.
2. Successful applicants will receive an email inviting them for a Skype interview (in English). It should last 5-15 minutes and isn’t something to stress over. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to highlight your relevant experience, express why you want to work in Spain, and to confirm your location and age group preferences.
3. Accept the position. Those accepted will be notified by email in late March or early April and given a week to make a $175 wire transfer to hold their space. Once you’re in, you’re in!
If you have any other questions about my BEDA experience, let me know in the comments below! You can also take a look at this link for general information about what the BEDA program entails, and here you can find BEDA’s FAQs.
And don’t forget to like and follow, as I’m compiling tons of information & resources about the various options to teach English in Spain. Make your Spain dreams a reality! 😉🇪🇸💃
Hasta luego, Erica 💙
PS: Thanks to freepic for the graphics 🙂 Infographic vector created by Freepik
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