Guide to Educating Your Children in France

This article , written by me, first appeared in the International Press back in 2006 . Much of it is stil lvalid and so I thought it could be helpful to republish it here.

There are many different schooling options available in France from the French Education Nationale schools to the privately financed Independent schools. The choice you make will be determined by your child's ability, their age and the system they are coming from. The level of integration into French life you want to make and whether future life and studies will continue to be in France will also affect your choices.

The State run national system is available to all children resident in France. You will normally be allocated to your local school where classes are usually all in French but by law you can now ask

for a derogation.

Education is free aside from extras such as the canteen.

Here your child will be totally immersed in the French language and culture making French friends. The Maternelle Nursery section is optional with Elementaire primary school becoming obligatory from the age of 6.

Secondary school starts at 11 years in College finishing in the Lycée for students age 16-18 years. There are no Ofsted type reports available so the only real way to judge the end to end performance of schools is to look at the Baccalaureate exam results that the 18 year olds take when leaving school, speak to other parents to get a feel for the school facilities, teachers and students.

Generally younger children pick up a new language quickly and integrate with ease into the French system with little or no extra help.

A PARENT REPORTS Mark, dad to Louis recalls "Our decision to move to France was a Life Choice. Our son had just turned 3 and we felt that he would settle in faster if he was making French friends and learning French as soon as possible. The waiting lists for nurseries were very long so we went to find out about the local French Maternelle. Made up of 3 classes: Petite, Moyenne and Grande Sections they admit potty trained children age 3 before the December. This threw us a little as we had been prepared for Louis to be one of the oldest in the class based on the UK system of September to August however they run a January to December calendar here and so he is one of the youngest. Still, the idea of no friends for a year was not appealing so we set off to complete l'inscription at Le Mairie - As with all areas of French life this involves paperwork in triplicate;

A medical certificate confirming had had the right vaccinations, an Attestation provided by our household insurance company, an electricity bill proving residency and Louis' birth certificate. I also took along Pay slips for working out canteen rates and our own birth and marriage certificates just in case. as to be without a document means you have to come back and queue again. Inscription done, Louis was ready for his first day in the Petite Section. As Louis was one of the youngest, he just went in the mornings to start with. Most children come home for lunch anyway and the idea of another school run this early on wasn't appealing. Our school operates a 4 day system (Editors note since 2014 schools have reintroduced the Wednesday morning which is quite a pity really )and so there is no school on Wednesdays or the weekends . This 2 day on- break is great for the whole family and we eagerly signed up for fun activities on the Wednesday to complement the academic activities. By the 3rd term Louis was ready to do full days and even enjoyed one canteen lunch a week ..Jamie Oliver would be proud as the school lunches are both healthy and balanced from the starters right through to the cheese and biscuits. Siestas are mandatory and after lunch every child is settled down on a little camp bed and encouraged to bring in their doudou or comforter. Children who had already stopped their siestas found quiet time hard so it's a good idea to try and keep your afternoon siestas going.

Each Friday we were sent home with a 'Cahier de Vie' or school story book documenting that week in class. Through his cahier we discovered the themes, stories, songs and events he was studying. At home we then chatted about his week ensuring an equal development in the English vocab and practised the nursery rhymes and poems in French. Parents are encouraged to help their child add to the book with their weekend activities, stick in post cards or flyers, write a few lines about an important event or visit so that once back at school the teachers and children can work together and gets the conversation flowing. It's a great idea that creates a link between parents and the school and is a lovely