Lycee Francais to 7 or 8+ exams?

(26 Posts)
DoMyBest Mon 05-May-14 17:54:17

Anyone have experience of children at the Lycee Francais passing 7 or 8 + exams to some of the most competitive schools (eg Westminster under or Sussex House - both of whom have taken a couple of lycee boys)? If so, how on earth did you manage it when the french curriculum is so far behind the English one at that age? For example, at Westminster open day the advice for the 7+ was for the boys to 'read, read, read' but the lycee doesn't even start to teach reading until children are 6 (2 years after the Brits). No small feat!!

josuk Mon 05-May-14 22:20:53

Just a question - if a family chooses Lycee at 6 - why would you be considering Westminster at 7+? Lycee gets great results at high school level, as I understand, so if you go that way - why change? On the flipside - if Westminster/Colet Court, etc. is the direction you want to go - Lycee is not the easiest way to get there.

I have girls and last year at a open day at Bute heard a parent in similar situation asking Bute HM - how do you account for different curriculums during assessment. And the obvious answer is that they don't.

If that's the route you've chosen, you'll need to do a lot of work yourself (or tutor). "Read, read, read" in English(!) is just the begining. Your DS will need to be drilled in writing compositions (again, in English, with rich vocabulary), math tests and reasoning (verbal and non-verbal). And he'll have to compete with boys that have been mostly practicing for these exams for the past three/four years in top preps boys - Wetheby, Eaton House, etc.

If you are considering doing that - I feel for you, it is difficult for all involved. As it is, I feel sorry for friends with DSs who have to take such pressured exams at such young age...

DoMyBest Tue 06-May-14 07:20:56

Thanks Josuk. Our younger son's 4, he's at the lycee and went to a bilingual crèche before that. We're trying to decide if we should give him a few more years of french education or whether or not the price to pay each year in terms of how behind he'll be is too great. I remember transferring from the lycee to 11+ exams and it was horrendous - insane pressure as a tutor tried to help me catch up with 4 years of maths, reasoning, science etc as you say. We were quite flippant about the idea of the 7+ at first, telling ourselves that the fact he's bilingual will in itself impress the top prep schools. Now we realise it's much tougher than we realised, even at such an early age, I'd like to hear other parent's experiences of lycee francais transition to top uk schools with competitive exams & interviews & how they managed it.

DoMyBest Tue 06-May-14 07:23:11

Oh, and the idea about these exams is that, if they're well prepared, over a longer period of time than I was, the kids don't feel the pressure? Which is the main reason we're thinking of pulling him out of the lycee. But, again, all experiences of other parents welcome.

DoMyBest Tue 06-May-14 07:45:31

And one more thing (I really need to organise my thoughts before I press send) Josuk about Bute House saying they don't account for the fact lycee children follow acdifferent curriculum: we were told by a top academic pre prep that the way in which they account for lycee kids being so behind is that they have them evaluated by their 'special needs' assessors!

Needmoresleep Tue 06-May-14 11:04:01

At 7+ and 8+ schools are looking for potential as much as achievement. WUS has always taken quite a good proportion from state schools, and similarly will be open to taking some from the French system.

Bilingualism is not unusual in London schools, so probably wont carry a lot of weight, but is obviously a really useful life skill.

These exams are really competitive and not that many boys are ready at this stage. DS would never have been a contender, though had no problems gaining a place at Westminster at 13+. Performance at 6 (which is what 7+ is) is not a great predictor of performance at, say, 18. It is easy to be swept up in the London pathway, pushy pre-prep, WUS/Colet, Westminster/SPS/Eton, Oxbridge/Ivy League, but this will only suit a small minority. A large number of London's private schools feature in the top 100 in various league tables. All are capable of enabling bright children achieve their potential. Westminster is fabulous for the right child, the child who loves education and enjoys being surrounded by peers who feel the same. But equally there can be a real freedom in being at a school where not everyone gets A*s in everything and where you can discover what you are good at and be supported in subjects you find more difficult.

Our observation has been that children transfer from the Lycée at a range of ages. Westminster regularly takes some at sixth form, and at other entry points before then, including 10+ and 11+. The tricky one is 13+, as it is hard work covering the Common Entrance syllabus at home, though it can. and has been, done. However lots of London days schools don't use CE and will be willing to take the right child at this stage. Plus the Lycée is also a very good school, with pupils regularly leaving for top British and American Universities as well as returning to France.

DoMyBest Tue 06-May-14 11:30:28

Thanks needmoresleep, you're a mine of information.
I agree parents need to choose the right school for their child, at their age (we won't gun for westminster/sussex house for our DS if we don't think he's ready - wont do the private tutors cramming etc). But we need to know what a lycee transfer to these school exams would be like in case we think they would be right for him. You mentioned 10+, 11+, 13+ and 16+ but not 7 or 8 + - probably the ages where the french system is most behind the english one. Are there no lycee parents out there whose children got into top preps & who can advise? Were lycee their kids also treated as 'special needs', for example?

Needmoresleep Tue 06-May-14 12:07:04

Are you sure the French system is that behind British state schools. The point of London pre-preps is to prepare for 7+ and 8+ so they will be ahead. Many of DS' friends did "state till 8" but then, though they were bright boys, needed outside tutoring to make sure they had covered the ground.

I guess what I was trying to say was that these schools are looking the right children, no matter where they come from. So as long as they have covered enough ground to do themselves justice in the tests they should be competing on level terms. What schools seem not to want is over-prepped kids who then struggle when they get in.

I would not worry about "special needs". SPGS and presumably Bute appear to be a law unto themselves. The girls system is quite different with a big focus on 11+. SPGS appear to take a much lower proportion from the state system than neighbouring schools. It then starts Yr 7 at as blistering pace, whilst ex-Prep girls in neighbouring schools have a pretty easy time in Yr 7 as they wait for their ex-state school peers catch up. (Great for DD as suddenly being towards the top of the class, was great for her confidence.) London has a pretty fluid population and pupils come from all sorts of backgrounds.

josuk Tue 06-May-14 12:07:08

A French family we know has moved their kids from French system (not Lycee) to the English system. The eldest daughter went into a Y3 at a top academic S.Ken school - there was a occasional place, the school interviewed/tested her and she got in. The Y1 boy got into a non-selective mixed school and they had to put him into Reception to catch up. The youngest daughter didn't even start in the French system but followed her older sister into Reception.

I guess, what I am trying to say - as you mentioned above - the gap is widest in the earlier ages. It may be that your DSs would do better if they stay in the French system for a while and let the curriculum catch up. Afterall, Lycee does produce great results and there is no benefit to knowing long division at 6... smile

Also - I know even the top selective girl schools have occasional places opening up. In some schools Reception is the toughest time to apply, and then in Y1 or 2 there are places you can try for. It is certainly true for primary, don't know how it works for middle/high schools.

Good luck! These things are so stressfull!

DoMyBest Tue 06-May-14 13:34:21

Thanks so much yasuk & needmore sleep. I was in the french system until I was 12 and it is miles behind the English one (it's not just a question of exam syllabuses), for example the lycee doesnt teach proper science until at leadt 11, from what I can remember (top preps start children blowing things up with bunsen burners at 8). Plus if course there's the lack of team sports, public soeaking, debating, theatre, music, etc. And when I sat the 13+ maths exams I had to catch up on, literally, years of algebra.
But we're no longer in a panic: we just got news our son's been accepted at our first choice of pre prep, so we're pulling him out of the lycee (tugs at my heart strings to give up on the french: if only british schools were bilingual too). I like to think there will be a very happy family who are about to get our place at the lycee next year smile

DoMyBest Tue 06-May-14 13:35:43

Apologies for random iphone spelling...

Bonsoir Thu 08-May-14 15:25:12

I agree that the French system is miles behind the English system in primary. There are many reasons for that, not least of which is that the English system now has what are effectively 7 years of primary school to the French system's 5. Another major handicap for French DC is that they have to allocate masses of time to French grammar - learning conjugation in all tenses, agreements of adjectives and past participles etc are non-negotiable and very time and labour intensive.

Maths is also a real issue in primary but the level of maths at 18 of French DC doing bac S spé maths is easily comparable to Maths and Further Maths at A-level and of course those DC will have also done French Literature to a standard way beyond the equivalent of A-level English Literature, plus three sciences, two MFL, philosophy, sport... It's not all bad. The real issue is always swapping between systems - it is harder to move from the English system to the French system, IMO, because of the appalling nightmare that is French primary grammar!

Geography, history and science don't really get started until DC are in Year 5 equivalent in the French system, which is a bit late, but when they do kick in they are taught very rigorously.

DoMyBest Thu 08-May-14 20:27:10

I've always thought it's amazing - given how much time the French curriculum allocates to French grammar - that most French don't use proper grammar when they speak (subjunctive? In dire jeopardy!).
But, bonsoir, whilst I agree that the bac affords a broader range of subjects than A-levels, I'd challenge the idea that any one of these is is of a higher level than A-level: how can it be when the basic premise is to rote learn? As I learnt, anyone csn do that smile
I went on to do a Maitrise in French law at a top Paris uni and even then - studying with the best & brightest who'd done 'prepa', it was a shock to see how all they had to do was recite off by heart to get top marks.
There's a lot to be said for the French secondary system in the UK (bilingual, international & mixed pupils, cheaper than UK independent schools, broad curriculum with the bac rather than A-level system) but saying academic (and sport??? Really?!) standards are higher, as someone who knows it well - I beg to differ (and, funnily enough, so would most of my lycee-educated friends).
In an ideal world we'd merge the two systems: French state, bilingual & BAC system with British academic standards (think outside the box, challenge the status quo, dare to stand out, debate, etc) & broader education (proper team sports, music from early on, drama, etc).

Bonsoir Thu 08-May-14 22:04:55

French pupils most definitely do not rote learn mathematics for their bac! The problem solving is hard!

French pupils certainly have to commit a great deal to memory at school but this is no bad thing. I also had a hybrid Franco-British education and a hybrid Franco-British career and there are real strengths and weaknesses to both systems.

DoMyBest Thu 08-May-14 22:19:52

I agree bonsoir that there are advantages to both the English & French systems (the rote learning skill in Paris was useful, and I'm impressed that the French - possibly the most protectionist country in the world about their language - have set up a truly bilingual education system
but not the brits.). I'll take your word for it re maths smile
But I just think it's such a shame that they don't treat kids as individual, mature, beings earlier. They'd get so much more out of them if they did (was discussing this recently with a family who yanked their French sons out of the Lycee & into Westminster for that very reason).
On another note, were you at CDG? We might know each other.

Bonsoir Fri 09-May-14 07:42:18

No I wasn't at CDG - I was at school in another European country.

My DSS1, who is 100% the product of French schooling, started at university in England last September. He is reading Economics at Bristol - so the kind of course where A-level students got A* in maths/further maths and As elsewhere and where IB students got averages of 42/43/44... With his mention tres bien in Bac S he is one of the top performers on his course and has absolutely no challenges to overcome bar perfecting his written English (which is happening fast) so I'm not deeply convinced that French school is behind English school at the end of the day. DSS1 tells me that the English students are the least vocal in tutorials - he has no problems speaking up and defending his ideas.

DoMyBest Fri 09-May-14 09:23:14

That's really impressive Bonsoir. Out of interest, did most of his friends end up in UK, French or other unis?

Bonsoir Fri 09-May-14 09:27:13

Of his classmates at his school, a "serious handful" went to non-French HE - UK, Switzerland, Spain. But the vast majority stayed in France (indeed, they stayed in Paris at home with their parents). However, of his peer group among the children of our friends (ie at other Paris schools), I would say at least half went to the UK.

DoMyBest Fri 09-May-14 09:33:10

Interesting. Now you mention it, I knew a few (also good at maths) who went on to read PPE at Edinburgh, medicine at Manchester, and one who read law with me in London & Paris (before he went on to Oxford then - just to rub it in, Harvard).

Bonsoir Fri 09-May-14 09:51:07

The really hard nut to crack for French-educated DC is Oxbridge - the delta in reasoning ability that Oxbridge requires versus other universities is beyond the reach of French-educated DC unless they have had serious parental input. It doesn't help one little bit that what the French call "philosophy" is fluffy and emotional and DC spend time on this in their final year at school whereas the English definition of philosophy is logic and hard reasoning. Showing up for an Oxbridge interview in early December after three months of French-style philosophy is not helpful.

DoMyBest Fri 09-May-14 10:30:39

Yes, I've heard similar comments from other parents Bonsoir. Few lycee kids I know who got into Oxford or Cambridge to read law, or history, English lit, etc. The problem, I think, was they were expected to really 'stand out' from the crowd and be super original. This isn't easy at 16 or 17 years old as it is, without having had a school which brings it out in you.

Bonsoir Fri 09-May-14 10:55:20

I know that CDG has introduced special Oxbridge-booster classes in the lycée to help its best students make up the delta.

LillianGish Fri 09-May-14 11:24:41

I don't understand why people put their kids into the Lycée (school motto Fit in or Fuck Off) and then complain about the French system. It is what it is - the Lycée in London is there to provide a French education for French people abroad. That's why the fees are so low because it is so heavily subsidised by the French Government. It's not really the place to put your child if you are looking at an early transfer to a competitive London private school. As usual Bonsoir speaks sense on this matter when she points out that there are pros and cons of each system and that the problem comes when trying to switch between the two (I entirely agree by the way French to English is much easier than the reverse - witness the fact that your son is about transfer). Well done by the way and good luck with keeping up the bilingualism - I imagine you'll have your work cut out.

DoMyBest Fri 09-May-14 15:30:51

LillianGish, quite right on several counts. I put my children in the lycee because that's where I went for primary school & because, with a French speaking husband, we were won-over by its bilingual stream. I never took the time to actually compare the two systems and really ought to have.
You're also right that keeping up the french will be a challenge (although what with frog-speaking dad fingers crossed they won't make the odd totally random mistake like I do).

DoMyBest Fri 09-May-14 15:37:01

Oxbridge booster classes, Bonsoir? Wow. And Marie d'Orliac primary's bilingual stream is now bilingual not just in language but also curriculum (with the hilarious consequence, I gather, that kids are taught to read in English at 4 but in French at 6!). The London Lycee is really pushing the boundaries (further than the other international lycees, I think).

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