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La Rentrée – Back To School

September is the month of  ‘la rentrée’ – back to school in France.

I thought I’d share some information on the schooling system here in France. All children have to be in the schooling system at 3 years old (this changed in February 2022 making it compulsory) before it was 5 years old. In addition, homeschooling now needs prior authorisation by a state representative.

Preschool (écoles maternelles) – ages three to six
Primary school (école élémentaire) – ages six to 11
Middle school (collège) – ages 11 to 15
High school (lycée) – ages 15 to 18

Children carry all their books and they are notoriously heavy! The younger children can have a ‘cartable’ with wheels but as they get older these are deemed to be not so cool!

Children can wear their own clothes although there have been increasing calls for school uniforms – there are some public schools who have adopted this.

Private Catholic schools are normally present in most towns and cities. The fees for these are very low compared to, for example, the UK. The benefit can be that a Private school does not have a catchment area whereas a public school will have
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The school day is long – possibly the longest in Europe. It starts at approx 8.30 am and finishes at 4.30pm. It is even longer for a student going to lyceé – 8am to 6pm. It is not uncommon for the student to catch the bus at 7 am and return by 7pm if they are not boarding. Speaking of which, given the rural nature of some parts of France, (and here in Normandy) it is very common for students to board during the week.

All schools finish at approximately midday on a Wednesday and some shut entirely. This is the day that children/students partake in their sporting or extra curricular activities. Favourite sports include handball, football, cycling, basketball and cross country to name but a few. Children under 18 no longer require a medical certificate to partake in sport.

President Macron recently introduced 30 mins of sport, everyday, for all primary children.
Before/After school care is relatively cheap compared to other countries and children can be dropped off at approximately 7 am and picked up 7pm.

School lunch, as you would come to expect, is taken very seriously. The menu is displayed for the week and will be traditional French cuisine with bread, cheese, yoghurt etc. Lunchtimes are normally approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours long. Children are not allowed to bring in a packed lunch but can have the option to go home should they wish.

For those that were not familiar with the system – I hope this gave you a little insight into French school life.



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