How to successfully choose a school in France
Any child living in France has the right to join the French education system. He or she can attend either
the local state school or a private school or even one of the many bilingual schools, either state run or
private depending on their needs. State schools are naturally free but private school are often considerably cheaper than you would imagine. Most are run by the Catholic Church and are heavily subsidised by them. Of course prices will vary from school to school and one region to another however to give you an idea our school fees are under 600EUR per annum for 2 children, one in college and one in primary school. School days will vary from one region to another but the general week is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for primary schools with Wednesday mornings to for the over 11s. In some areas children also attend school on Saturday mornings but will enjoy longer holidays in compensation.
Between the age of 3 and 5 children can join an “ecole maternelle” or nursery school. Children in this age group do not have formal education but undertake creative activities such drawing, painting, modelling and cooking. They will normally have a sieste after lunch although each school will have different rules regarding the upper ages for this.
From the age of 6 to 11 children must attend a primary school or “ecole primaire”. Here they will learn the traditional subjects of French, Maths, Geography, History and Science plus English from 9 onwards,
computer studies, sports, art and crafts. Schools generally provide before and after school care for a
very small price so children with working parents can be left from 7.30 am until 7.00 pm. There is no
school on Wednesday for this age group but hours tend to be longer than the UK. Most start at 8.45 or
9.00am and finish at 16.15 or 16.30 with 1 1/2 hours for lunch.
Lunch is usually excellent both in terms of value and healthiness. A full 3 course menu is provided with
the vegetables and fruit provided.
From the age of 11 to 16 children attend “college” or secondary schools where a broader spectrum of subjects are learnt. Many college will have special classes for children with a talent for football, languages etc so the timetable is adapted to include additional lessons in these subjects. Children attend college on Wednesday morning and travel by bus is provided for a very small price to and from college for all pupils.
At the age of 16 children either move onto “Lycee” (6th form college) or specialist schools to study
vocational subjects. The “baccalaureat” is the equivalent to A-levels but covers more subjects. There are various different biases from science, languages or technological which are designed to lead the children into the next stage of their educational life e.g. university, apprenticeships etc.
As a general rule of thumb children will attend university of further education centres in the nearest
prefectoral town returning home every weekend. Lodgings are available for the educational year, details of which will be provided by the university etc.
Sport is covered up to lycee age with many additional clubs meeting at college and lycee during lunch times although extra curriculum activities like sports, art and music are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays outside of the schooling system.