Moving to France with Children
If you are moving to France as an expat and your child has a grasp of the French language, integrating them into a French school can be a straightforward process. As well as a 2-hour lunch break and a 5pm finish (definitely favourable for parents!) at most schools, France is renowned for having a traditional approach to education (with an emphasis on literacy and grammar) and delivers internationally recognised results, as well as being home to the baccalauréat certificate. Many children in France learn English as a second language from the age of eleven, so it is quite likely that your child will be able to speak with other children in English and/or French.
There is much about France that attracts expats looking to relocate. Appealing to a wide range of tastes, the country enchants with its beautiful blend of modern elegance and Old World sensibilities; its combination of sophisticated cuisine and rustic gastronomy; and its mix of cosmopolitan cities and chocolate box, countryside villages. In addition, one of the big benefits to life in France is the close proximity of the country to the UK – ideal for staying close to friends and family back home.
But of course, many expats have families to consider when relocating. Childcare and education for your children are understandably among the top priorities when making the big decision about whether to move your whole life abroad. Read on for a quick overview of what to expect.
In the recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, France placed 3rd overall in the ‘Raising Children Abroad’ category, and placed 1st for ‘Cost of Education’. The high quality of childcare is ensured by the mandatory childcare diploma as a minimum requirement (as well as regular inspections) for all public and private nursery staff.
It is not unheard of for newly expecting parents in France to put their names on the childcare and schools lists as demand for the places often outstrips supply. With this in mind, it is certainly something that you should do as far in advance as possible when moving to France.
Children from the age of three months can be admitted to crèches, which are often open 11 hours a day and close on public holidays and for a month over the summer period. If you are not able to find a place for your child at a local crèche, you might want to consider hiring a state-registered nanny (assistantes maternelles) – a list of these will be available from your local town hall (mairie). Also available will be private nannies, which can be hired via an agency; many of which specialise in bi-lingual nannies. If you choose to hire a private nanny for more than five hours a week, you will need to register yourself as an employer through the local treasury office (comptable du trésor) who will advise you of any responsibilities and paperwork involved.
Compulsory schooling in France begins at the age of 6, and while state education is free of charge, there is also an ample network of private, international and bilingual schools that are highly regarded for the quality of education that they provide. Bilingual schools are slightly subsidised by the state and are often cheaper than the international schools. There are around 30 bilingual schools in France and prepare students for the internationally recognised baccalauréat certificate which is recognised by British and International Universities.
Most state schools in France operate on a four-day week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday). In the schools that are open five days, Wednesdays are often split into the usual classes in the morning and optional games in the afternoon. While there are a small number of variations, most of the schools follow this pattern and holidays are two weeks in February, Easter and Christmas, one week off in early November and 12 weeks off for summer (mid-June to mid-September).
The first step to take for registering your child at a French school is to contact the service des écoles at the local mairie. However, if your child will be entering college or lycée, you will need to contact the local rectorat. In either instance you will have to provide birth certificate, birth parents’ identification papers, immunisation records and proof of address (in France). While it is not mandatory, some schools may insist on taking an insurance policy that will cover your child for extra-curricular activities (known as assurance scolaire).
If you are considering moving to France, Cadogan Tate will assist you every step of the way – from your first enquiry to unpacking at your new home, we are here to help and advise you. For more details about Cadogan Tate’s specialist international removals services from London, give us a call.
Childcare in France
According to Internations, the percentage of working mothers is higher in France than in most other European countries. Why? Due to the excellent childcare facilities the country offers. Expat mothers hoping to work will be delighted to hear that the government supports both the ‘crèche collective’, where a group of 30 children are cared for by at least eight childcare professionals, and the ‘crèche familiale’, where a professional nanny takes care of children in her own home. The former has more rigid opening hours, usually from 7.30am-6.30pm, and places can be competitive. In comparison, the latter offers flexible hours and a nanny can take on up to four children at a time.
Education in France
Although standards of schools can vary depending on neighbourhood and region, all in all, the French education system is of a high quality. However, there are several options in terms of schools for expat children, with a minefield of pros and cons to weigh up. We would advise parents to take into careful consideration the language barrier and support available for children that don’t speak French, the curriculum and the cost. Plus, it is always beneficial to speak with other parents sending children to your potential school of choice.
The main choices of schools for expat children include:
Public schools: France offers a free schooling system for citizens who can show proof of residence – education is compulsory for ages 6-16. French will usually be the language of instruction in the public school system. However, some middle and high schools offer a curriculum with a course that teaches French to expat children before they are introduced into mainstream classes.
Private schools: Predominantly Catholic and providing education with a faith-based slant, private schools offer smaller classes and a more individualised experience. A report on online expat guide Expat Arrivals suggests that state-sponsored private schools enjoy a better reputation than the publicly-funded establishments. However, there is also less of a focus on extra-curricular activities in the state-sponsored private schools, so it’s a case of prioritising what’s important to you and your family.
International schools: There are many international schools to choose from in France, with a greater selection naturally based near the popular expat hubs such as Paris. Various nationalities of instruction and curriculum can be found and many offer the International Baccalaureate, taught in English. Although this option is popular amongst expats, it is worth noting fees are high. However, for students that may return to their own country for further study or are only in France for a limited period of time, the international school system is particularly suitable.
If you’re moving to France, find out how our international removals team can help to arrange packing, storage and transportation on your behalf.
Information correct at time of publication.