Education for young children in France


In France schooling is compulsory for all children aged 6-16. Younger children, once potty-trained, can attend ecole maternelle. Almost all French children attend, as most are free and prepare children for primary school.

From age 6-11 children attend ecole primaires. A child’s class or grade is determined by the calendar year of their birth, so children born in January or December of the same year will be in the same year group.  Classes are held on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Children can receive free education at state-run public schools, but there are also different types of private school which expat children can attend.

Private schools which are ‘hors contrat’ are not subsidised by the stat so fees are comparable to private school fees in the UK. International schools tend to be of this type, but theses tend to be based in the larger cities. These schools are free to follow any curriculum, but they tend to follow the French system unless they are adhering to that if another country. From what I have read, International school fees tend to be beyond the budget of many expats, and are really beneficial for children who will not be in France long-term and wish to maintain consistency of learning until they return home.

Much more affordable are schools described as ‘sous contrat’. There are few different types of school which fall into this category, but the majority are ‘ecole confessionelles’ which are private religious schools, usually catholic. Most ‘ecole confessionelles’ stick to the French curriculum and teachers’ salaries are paid by the government. This means that fees are pretty affordable from as little as 400 euros per year for younger children.

Standards of education for young children in France are good, but like anywhere there are good and bad schools. Children are expected to attend the school nearest to them and will need a very good reason to be placed elsewhere. The local catholic school may charge a modest fee, but provides a viable alternative if the local state school is not the best. You do not have to be catholic to attend, but I believe they have the right to refuse entry if, for example, certain behavioural standards are not met.

I think we may be fortunate enough to choose where we live partly based on the location of a good school, but I’m happy that there might be more than one option if everything fails to work out.

As this research is not based on experience I would be very grateful to know if anyone can correct anything I have said here, or would be happy to share their own experiences with me.

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We are thinking of moving to France – we being me and my husband, our two children, and my mother-in-law (and two dogs). The current plan is that we’ll spend the next year plotting and planning and if everything goes well we will make the move in the summer of 2015. I plan to document the whole process so that I can look back in three years’ time and marvel at how well it all panned out! If, however, it proves a fated endeavour then my comprehensive blog will no doubt be snapped up by some Hollywood director for untold millions – it’s pretty much a win-win situation, right? Well, I’ll keep you posted…


  1. “Ou est la piscine?” “Je voudrais un baguette avec jambon!” At least you’ll know that they will get a good French language education – one that is actually useful in everyday speak!!

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