A guide to the French education system

From sophisticated cityscapes to rolling rural hills, beautiful France offers a number of different experiences, guaranteed to satisfy the soul of even the pickiest expat. Whether it’s the atmospheric heights of Brittany, the sumptuous vineyards of the Loire Valley, or the golden sunshine of the south coast that appeals, France has charmed the estimated 171,000 British expats who have chosen to relocate there, as well as countless more that visit every year on holiday.
But when you choose to relocate to a new country with a family in tow, there are more important considerations to take into account than simply how charming a destination is. If you have children, you’ll want to ensure you have a thorough understanding of the education system to give your family the best possible chance of settling into their new life abroad.
Those considering a move to France will be delighted to hear that the French education system enjoys a reputation as one of the best in the world. The annual HSBC Expat Explorer survey, where real expats rate their experiences abroad, placed France at 14th in the world for quality of education – so, you can rest assured that your children’s future will be in good hands. Here, we breakdown your options so you can make the best possible choice for your child.
Which school in France is for you?
Expats living in France are entitled to free education at state schools. Schooling is mandatory between the ages of six to 16 although the vast majority of French children will start their education earlier, usually at the age of three. It is also worth noting that a further two years of study will be required to pass the baccalaureat – an exam which is necessary to enter university.
The majority of French schools are state-run and follow a national curriculum dictated by the Ministry of Education, though upcoming reforms may place a proportion of the power to set the curriculum in the hands of the schools themselves. However, students who don’t speak French may struggle in a state school as those that run bilingual programmes are few and far between. Some schools may even require students to take a French language test on application.
Bilingual programmes are much more common in private schools. There are a number of these establishments funded by the French government (many of which are Catholic) with very affordable fees as well as a selection of independent private schools – some of which are international.
There are also dedicated special needs schools and schools with special needs departments in France – simply contact SESSAD to find out about the support available in your chosen destination.
International schools in France
International schools are a popular choice amongst expats, particularly those who would like their children to integrate easily back into the school system in their home country at some point in the future. Children who have already begun their schooling will be able to continue with a curriculum they know, in a language they understand and the experience allows them to mix with other expat children from a rainbow of different nationalities and cultures.
International schools tend to offer smaller class sizes and excellent facilities. Admission requirements vary depending on the school but we would always recommend applying as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
If you are planning on moving to France, Cadogan Tate’s experience and attention to detail guarantee you peace of mind. From start to finish, we ensure the entire moving process goes smoothly – from initial enquiry to unpacking at your new home. Find out more about our specialist international removals services from London.
Information correct at time of publication.