Having done a fair bit of Googling recently I thought I would share my initial thoughts on the education that my children can expect if we move to the continent. The children are still quite young, currently 6 and 4, so my focus is on primary schools in France. Please bear in mind that at this stage my ramblings are not based on experience.
The standard of education in France in generally considered to be high and is comparable to that of the UK. However, it is more strictly controlled by central government and teaching methods are more traditional. There is more learning by repetition and greater discipline. French teachers, on the whole, command more respect from pupils (and their parents) which is no bad thing. But there is less flexibility or variety of learning. I worry that there might be extra pressure on children as getting it right is more highly praised than having a go. A strong work ethic is encouraged (some have said to excess which puts too much stress on students), and French pupils seems to be more highly motivated learners than British kids. I think the lack of flexibility would probably concern me more if my children had learning or behavioural difficulties and would benefit from special teaching methods or a more creative approach. I’m sure that, like anywhere, there are good and bad teachers and better and worse schools and it’s a matter of taking the time to visit before making a decision.
My daughter currently attends the closest primary school (Prince Rock Primary School) and despite visiting others this was our first choice. My son is due to start there in September. The school is rated as Outstanding by Offsted and we’ve never had any problems there. In fact, I would be very sad for them to leave this school as the staff are supportive and inspiring, there is a really positive and happy atmosphere and I really feel like the kids are given a well-rounded education. It’s also interesting to see how they encourage those children for whom English is a second language as that may become an issue for us and I hope to find out more in the coming year.
In general, it is believed (and this fact is supported in several places) that children under the age of 8 can become fluent in French pretty quickly once enrolled in a French school. However, in order to maintain or improve their English language skills they would need to study at home. I should imagine that spelling and grammar would be the main issues here.
French primary schools do not devote as much time to creative activities or sports as British schools, so French children tend to attend clubs or classes outside of school on Wednesdays or Saturday afternoons, when there are no lessons. My daughter really enjoys going to a theatre group called Stage Stars, which is great for building confidence. I’ll be looking to see if there are equivalent groups in our chosen region of France. My son, who is not as socially inclined as my daughter, might prefer an activity that requires less interaction with his peers!
These are just a few of my initial thoughts and next I’ll be researching the different types of school – more musings to follow…
In the meantime there is a great overview at Expatica.