The education system in France is generally very good and divided into 3 stages


You have to send your children to the school for your catchment area. It is possible to request a different school by asking the Mairie for a dérogation. You will need a valid reason such as already having a child attend the school, or it is by your place of work etc, for your request to be considered. Usually younger children will attend a school in the village or neighboring village/town. Older children may have more of a commute, particularly in more rural areas. Some parents find that the length of the school day coupled with the bus journey is too long for their children.

The school day usually runs from 8.30 am/9.00 am to 4.00pm/4.30pm with 1 1/2 hours for lunch. Lunch is provided at school for a small fee (around 2 euros per day) and usually consists of 3 courses. It was always the case that in the majority of regions children went to school Saturday mornings. This was to make up for the fact that Thursdays were at one time given over to Religious (Catholic) instruction. Religious instruction is no longer provided in public schools. Nicolas Sarkozy has reformed the school system and Saturday morning school is being phased out. Depending on the region it is not unusual for there to be no school or in the case of older children have a half day on a Wednesday.

The education system is generally public, though private schools do exist. These tend to be Catholic. Whatever the school children must receive a minimum of 26 hours tuition a week . The teachers have a bit of flexibility in deciding the amount of time given to each subject. Particularly in the first years of education.

The curriculum is different to that in the UK, with emphasis placed on reading, writing, maths and grammar. There is also time given over to civic studies.

The first stage in the education system is École Maternelle. This is a pre-school and is optional. It is possible to send children as young as 2 1/2, though 3 is usual and nearly 100% of French children attend from this age. The last year of this stage is very important as the children are introduced to reading. Primary education is compulsory for all children from the age of 6. Pupils enter school at the 11th grade and work up to the 1st grade followed by Classe Terminale which is the final year at age 18 or 19.

The next stage of education is Secondary, and this is divided over 2 schools. The first 4 years are spent at "collège" (6th grade to 3rd grade) followed by 3 years at "Lycée". The study here can either be vocational or technical and prepares pupils for their baccalauréat which they sit at 18.

It is not uncommon for children to be held back a year and made to repeat it if they are do not meet the expected level. Foreign children entering the French education system are given a bit more leniency and are often put into a year lower than their proper year to help them learn the language without the added pressure of study. It is also possible for a pupil to elect to repeat their final year at Primary if they feel they could achieve a higher mark.

Pupils are marked on their work in the final year (the third or troisiem grade), and this then accounts for half of their final mark. The other half of the mark is obtained from the "Brevet des collèges". This Diploma tests the pupils on maths, French, History and Geography. It is these marks that determine what subjects will be studied at Lycée".

Pupils can choose which type of baccalauréat they take. Languages, science or History/Geography are popular. The qualification give pupils the right to apply for a university place. Those pupils who choose not to take the baccalauréat can attend a Metièr college, where they prepare for a particular career.

Further information on the French education system can be found here.

French education - French reference site in English

www.education.gouv.fr/ - Official government education site

It is worth bearing in mind the fact that although English is taught in French schools form an early age, this should not be considered as sufficient to ensure that your child grows up fully literate in English. The quality of the teaching varies from school to school and the amount of time spent on the subject is small. It is worth considering extra tuition. There are several ways to do this. You could consider Private tuition, or it could be a good idea to purchase curriculum books from the UK, (such as key stage etc). Be Small Publications produce a series of children's books where the story is told in both English and French.

Visit our bookshop to find these and other books on living in France.

La Rentrée

The return to school after the summer holidays is known as La Rentrée, and it is impossible to escape the marketing opportunity in the stores! Although education is free in France, there are certain items you are expected to provide, such as note books, school bag, text books etc. There are normally good deals to be had during this time, and the majority of the required list can be picked up at the supermarkets. A list of items required is available from the school. It is possible to buy 2nd hand text books from students who have completed their studies. Help is available for families on low incomes and students are also awarded a "Bourse or grant if they obtain consistent good marks.

France is divided into 3 regions for school holidays so the school year will vary from region to region. La Rentrée will be different for each region. The idea behind this is to reduce the amount of holiday traffic on the roads for "Le grand Départ ".

There is no school uniform in France at the public schools, though some private schools may have one.

School term calendar for all zones





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