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Attending School in the French National Education System

In France students are admitted to school according to their birth date and the class they completed.

The classes/grades corresponding to French classes, are as follows:

Primary: The youngest pupils (age 6-7) focus on the acquisition of French language and mathematics skills. Art, physical education, and the opportunity to begin learning a foreign language also accompany these core competencies. From age 8-11, we find the addition of history, literature, technology, and practical science applications.

Collège: The primary objective is to prepare students for either lycée or vocational school. The curriculum is organised by subject – French, mathematics, history and geography, civic education, life and earth sciences, technology, art, art history, musical education, physical education, physics and chemistry, and two modern languages or ancient languages constitute the bulk of the coursework. At the end of collège, students sit for a national exam known as the “Brevet”.

Lycée: It comprises the final three years of secondary education. Following the 2018 reform of the lycée, students entering seconde will sit a French and Maths test to determine their level and needs. There will be a reinforcement of French oral and written skills and help with future career choice.
At the end of seconde, students doing a general baccalauréat will not be choosing an academic stream like in the past (L, ES or S) but three specialty subjects (one will be dropped in Terminale) in addition to the tronc commun subjects that all students have to take (French, history-geography, civic education, two modern languages, science and sports). For more information (in French) please click here. International Section students will also take English Langauge and Literature and History-Geography during 6 hours a week.

Première constitutes the first year of study in a student’s chosen field and marks the sitting of the first exams of the baccalauréat: French language and the specialty that will discontinued in Terminale. The tronc commun subjects (except for the LVA (first modern language) and History-Geography in Terminale) will be evaluated throughout Première and Terminale by means of tests and coursework and will amount to 40% of the final grade.

At the end of Terminale, students sit the other subjects of the Baccalauréat exam: the two specialty subjects and philosophy as well as presenting a Grand Oral. Anglophone Section students have three additional subjects (English Approfondissement Culturel et Linguistique, History-Geography Discipline Non-Linguistique and Global Perspectives Connaissance du Monde) to sit in the BFI (Baccalauréat Français International). The Section subjects’ weighting will make up 40% of the final bac grade compared to 26% in the current OIB subjects.


Schedules, dress code & more

The school year in France begins in September and ends in late June or early July. The official calendar can be found here. Fontainebleau is in Zone C.

When compared to the British or American educationals systems, French students spend more hours at school than elsewhere. The French school day (and week) can be long. However, French students may have more frequent and longer breaks during the school day (there’s no school on Wednesday mornings in Primary, except for CPs and CE1s in the Anglophone Section or Wednesday afternoons in Primary, Collège and Lycée), leaving ample time to catch up on homework or study for exams. Lycée students may have school on Saturday mornings.

Uniforms are generally not required in public French schools, and our schools are no exception. However, correct attire is required as spelled out in the internal regulations of each school. Common sense should be a reasonable guide: anything provocative, obscene, or which would otherwise interfere with the learning environment should be avoided.

Lunch is served either in the school canteen or students are allowed to leave the school premises to eat at home. As a general rule, lunchboxes are not allowed unless the student presents a medical condition, allergy or food intolerance. In that case a personal care project (PAI: Projet d’Accueil Individualisé) is established. The PAI is a protocol of necessary conditions, practices and behaviour drawn up by the parents, the school and any other people concerned. You can request a protocol directly via the directrice of the school in primary or the Conseillères Principales d’Education (CPE) in secondary.

Sports. Although your child will frequently attend physical education courses in school, there are very few sports-related extracurricular activities. Rather, sporting activities are relegated to local “associations” that function outside the state educational system.
In France, children are expected to attend the school within their geographical catchment area. If parents wish to send their child to a school outside the area it is possible to do so if there are reasonable grounds. Admission to the Anglophone Section is one of them and facilitates the process of getting a dérogation (the official approval, either from the mayor in Primary or the Inspection académique in Collège).

School insurance. For compulsory school activities (i.e. attending school): school insurance is optional but strongly recommended in France, in case of accident, incident or injury.

For optional school activities (i.e. outings and trips), school insurance is mandatory.

School insurance covers a child and his/her parents in case of injury caused to a third person (civil responsibility) or injury caused by a third party (individual guarantee in case of bodily injury). Holders of a comprehensive multi-risk insurance policy which covers the whole family should look very carefully to check which type of risks are actually covered by their contract. It is recommended that you ask your insurance company to provide all the necessary details.

Parents can obtain school insurance from their own insurance company or choose a contract recommended by the parents’ association.

More information:

A handy guide School Education in France in English (published in 2011 but still relevant today) has been compiled by the Ministry of Education. Click here