Education in France - a view from the playground

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Colin Smith

Contrary to the received wisdom that "children adapt better" I would pass on a severe warning to anyone thinking of moving to France with children over the age of seven. We have been here seven months and nearly had to return to the UK because Bordeaux International School turned out to be a complete turkey. My daughter is 14 and it was really very late for her to switch into the French system. Having a French-speaking mother, she had an above average level of French for a Brit of her age and to her credit seems to be surviving...However we have already seen several families have to give in and either send their kids back to boarding school in the UK or pack up and go back entirely. And the amount of emotional grief caused by these situations (whether boarding, moving back or watching kids struggle in a French school month after month)is unbelievable....


I believe that if you are thinking of moving to France permenantly you should think very hard about childrens'welfare. Over the age of about seven they will have firm friendships, perhaps belongs to clubs where they have close ties as well as other family members. Taking them away from this whether it is in the UK or abroad will cause some disruption. If it is to a country with a new language and different attitudes to education it can be a major shock.

My granddaughter as you can tell has made the move very happily. She missed family and friends at the begining but now has new friends and is coping very well with the language. Her language skills are down to help given by the school free of charge and home encouragement.

We have friends who made the move with older children who made the transition very well with their children. Their sons were 5, 7 and 9 when they came and all are going through the French education system successfully. They have now been here 8 years.

Gina Witcher

Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I are planning to move to France sometime next year, and we have 4 kids ages 7,5,3, & 2. We have discussed a number of different options, and you have given me some peace about French schools. The schools sound like they were when I was a kid in the U.S. I will be excited to see how things are when we get there and how they adjust.


Who supervises the children in the playground?
What happens if their teacher is away?
What is junior high school called?
What is Senior high school called?

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