primary schools linked to the French Lycee in London(12 Posts)
Hi I've already posted in the primary school area of this site. But just wondering:
Has anyone on here got any experience of the primary schools that come under the French Lycee umbrella in London, ie Wix in Clapham, Andre Malraux in Ealing, the Fulham schools or the South Kensington site?
Also has anyone got any experience of Ecole Jacques Prevert in Brook Green?
We are considering them for a bilingual child born in the UK and likely to remain here for his school years and would love to hear about experience people have had at any of these schools? Things like how happy the child was / after school clubs for example.
I know some of the above have classes following the French strand only whilst others (Wix and Fulham) also have a bilingual stream. We're undecided yet about which to choose so would love to hear about any experiences.
If you can get in then the French streams are all very good academically (being AEFE) but that's a big if.
I know that they are oversubscribed and there is lots of competition to get into any of the sites, or indeed Jacques Prevert. I also know that academically they are very good, but I would love to hear from anyone with a child in any of the sites about how their child enjoys the schools/after school clubs etc ... Or what they like/don't like about the schools.
Any info / opinion would be great.
Wix Bilingual is oversubscribed and too hyped up! My Daughter attends Bilingual stream. Academically very poor...will fail any British entrance exam miserably.....
There are 24 French schools in London (that I have found). I'd look at all of them, if location is not important.
French schools London
Madammano - yes Wix bilingual is oversubscribed. Good to hear first hand experience of the school. Would you mind explaining what you mean by academically very poor. Is it the content? the expectations?
How do you find the half English half French week works out for your daughter? The bilingual stream is presented as quite hard work on open days so it's interesting to hear that it's not how all parents feel.
thanks natation for the link to all the French schools. We've done lots of research we would just like to get feedback from parents of children at these schools.
I have a 12 yrs old who has been at the South Ken site since he was 5. I'm french and his dad is british.
What I would say is : it is the only way to bring up a truly bilingual child, in my opinion. French grammar and conjugaison are difficult and that's also why the curriculum is very very academic.
BUT : keep in mind that both systems are very different and that the French education will look to the british parent very old fashioned, with emphasis on negative feedback ( your child won't get much encouragement, but a lot of criticism ), writing on french-style lined paper with fountain pens from the age of 6, not much sport, and virtually no IT. I have heard that the satellite schools ( Ealing-Clapham-Fulham ) are better in terms of space and equipment than South Ken though.
To sum it up very roughly, the british system looks after the child as an individual, the french system will praise your child if he/she conforms and fits the mold perfectly. Academically inclined children will, artistic/sporty/imaginative children less so. The level is good because children are from attentive families who help them, and the ones who succeed are the academic ones with the very good grades. But the personal skills/needs of children are not really taken into account.
The staff attitude ranges from lovely/warm/attentive ( nursery/early primary, sometimes if you're lucky) to downright stubborn/strict/totally uncommunicative ( french civil service at its best ). Parents grievances are rarely taken into account. You have to fit the system, as it is run the way all french schools are, it's a very centralised system. When enquiring by phone about families mobility prior to taking the place we were offered ( asking if children moved abroad a lot etc ) I was told " Madam, I can't give you this information, if you choose the french system, you have to know why ". I was also refused a chat with a teacher, a visit to the school, etc. They are changing though, but painfully slowly.
That said, my son has had a great time there, apart from a couple of morose years in primary with crazy old bats as teachers. The kids are generally from wealthy/cultured families and you get a rich cultural environment, with all sorts of kids from binational families from all over the world. The kids are generally confident and lovely, we have made many friends among families. They do move abroad a lot though, be prepared. Our son has lost many good friends over the years. ( so much for the lack of info I got from the secretary! ). The kids don't live locally unless the families are wealthy/lucky enough to live in South Ken. Which means long drives to friends houses sometimes...
The clubs are all separate from the school itself, there isn't anything like an after school club, only paying activities on wednesdays ( no school in primary on wednesdays ), a sports association for the secondary school, which operates outside of school hours ( llunch, evenings, week-ends ). The secondary school kids don't have access to close-by sports grounds so they take a coach to Wimbledon, which unfortunately divides the PE hours by 2. The PE teachers are great, but up against a lot in terms of facilities....
So really, a mixed bag in my opinion, but once again I have heard that the smaller primaries are much better. You have to know why you send your child there ( to be bilingual ) and be prepared that it won't necessarily suit your child fully .... or yourself!
For us, looking back, it was a tactical choice and I am proud to have a fully bilingual, confident son. I'm however thinking that, if I manage to get a place for his younger brother in a couple of years time ( not holding my hopes up!), I will ask for a smaller school ( Fulham ) and only leave him there for the primary years, moving him to a good english secondary, as the level of French they have by the time they finish primary is very good. Secondary education is geared towards french baccalaureat ( obviously ) so looks less rational for a child brought up in the UK.
Hope this helps! sorry about the very long message!
Thank you so much for your detailed answer hereshegoesagain - it's really helpful and just what I was looking for.
Gives a lot of food for thought - our goal is the same as yours in terms of bilingualism. I just slightly worry about how frustrated I would feel at the uncommunicative system/teachers. But I guess this could also happen somewhere else.
I think that it is a matter of where you can get a place! The Lycee has changed their criteria for entry following a call for more transparency (Ofsted advice..). It is still very much cloak and dagger. Having said that the Head Master pointed out that it is so big (4000+) that it has to be run like a factory. He added that if parents are looking for a more personal school then they have to choose a smaller school.
'L'ecole de Battersea' has a very good Ofsted report-well balanced. I agree with herehegoesagain,the Lycee is one of the very best way for a child to be bilingual in London when one of the parent is British.
My DH is British-we live in London but my DD ,in CP, goes to school in France whilst waiting for a place in a French school in London!!! She is bilingual at the moment but the balance shifts rapidly (unbelievably so!) when back in London. This is why we really want her to go to a French school in London- Same reason as for herehegoesagain- for our DD to be bilingual.
Waiting list for Jacques Prevert is horrendous- no hope at all for a place. However the receptionist is very friendly, approachable, helpful. Very good Ofsted report.
There is a new 'La Petite Ecole Bilingue' opening on the old site of 'L'Ile aux Enfants', kentish Town. Still places ...
I just wanted to give hereshegoesagain the thumbs up for her post. I stumbled across this thread as I look for information on certain French schools in London for my own child.
I was a student at the French Lycée in South Ken from the ages of 4 until 18 and can categorically say that what hereshegoesagain writes is absolutely correct and I'm actually amazed at how similar her experience as a parent was to mine as a student - over 20 years ago!
Many of my closest friends are still the ones I made at the Lycée, principally because it's a shared, unique experience and we all have mixed heritage/nationalities. That, if nothing else, broadens a child's cultural understanding - which has served me enormously as an adult. I travel a lot for work and feel just as comfortable in the Middle East, US or Asia because many of my friends have those backgrounds. From a pure business perspective, I build rapport more quickly than my peers do, which has been been very helpful professionally. From a human perspective, my eyes were opened to diversity at a far younger age.
The semi-transient nature of the school that hereshegoesagain mentioned is both an advantage and disadvantage. Yes, one will make many friends who then leave for other countries (because of parents who work for governments or multinationals) but more often than not, connections are forged and one stays in touch. This will provide a global network of friends who are always happy to see you and invite you to stay at their home, or even do business with in later life.
However, there is a huge negative. As the hereshegoesagain says, the French still value the systematic indoctrination of pupils. I had some really rough times - particularly in primary - where (for instance) teachers would have no qualms about shaming me because I couldn't remember the line from a poem I was reciting in front of the class. This obviously sounds somewhat pathetic now (!) but generally taking an unnecessarily authoritative approach when more encouragement would have proven constructive was the norm for French teachers (who can be downright vicious and personal). OK for adolescents, not OK for 8 year olds.
There is a balance to be struck between freedom and authority and the Lycée didn't quite perfect that balance, though things may have changed since...
There is an undoubted focus on "the 3 R's" which, for a young child, can appear relentless. Forget Montessori style open thinking or an emphasis on creating and conceptualising. There was one particular year where the teacher tested us for 1 hour every single day on all previous lessons (orthographe, grammaire, conjugaisons, calcul mental, géométrie). The final average would go a long way to determining whether you passed or were forced to retake the entire year.
This still seems like cold logic to me. Do not expect the fostering of Emotional Intelligence!
About 2 or 3 people on average, had to "redouble" (retake the year). To those who had the misfortune of having to lose an entire year, it was a crushing blow to see friends move on. Having to make new friends all over again and live with the stigma of not being quite good enough, thinking about it now as a parent, must have been a frightening and intimidating experience. In fact I was aware of a number of parents who decided to take their children out because of the very challenges mentioned. It was almost like an early version of Jack Welch's famous "bottom tier" performers who are booted out of General Electric. Except, these are young children. Imagine your bi-annual work performance review being done in front of 30 other people and with no right to reply!
The Lycée, hemmed in by museums and main roads in Central London, is hardly a place built for the keen sportsperson. Sure, students won various football, basketball and volleyball national tournaments but that was mostly due to natural ability or external practice - rather than as a result of any internal coaching. Although the PE teachers are great, compared to English Public schools, sports was deemed to be non-core and therefore not particularly important. The basic, windswept playing fields in Raynes Park would take over 45 minutes to get to by coach. We would be driven there once a week.
To those wishing to apply to the Lycée (putting aside the tough entry criteria), it's a great school that has an excellent academic record, history and growing influential alumni. It is considered prestigious and even considered a "finishing school" by some of the "Saudi Princes" who attend.
But please do make sure these "shiny things" don't cloud your judgement. Ultimately, it's your child who will have to sit on a chair for 8 hours a day, learning about Clovis, irregular verbs, precision calligraphy, etc... instead of art, philosophy, music and IT. Kids who don't have any knowledge of the French language at all will really, really struggle.
The French system and the Lycée:
- Culturally diverse
- Shared experiences make for lifelong friends
- Build an incredible, global network
- Learn new languages
- Earn a certain prestige by being a pupil/former pupil
- Learn how to calculate without a calculator and join up your hand writing!
- You learn to respect authority
- It's secular, so there was never any religious tension
- Strong academic results. Tough teachers!
- External network tends to be with Public Schools. Harrow, St.Paul's, Latymer, Eton, Westminster, etc...
- Tough Teachers. Unforgiving. Highly inflexible and even brutal at times.
- Focus on the basics. Read well, write well, know your structures, learn all your maths tables and be ready to recite it all.
- Sports are perhaps a little more considered now, but nothing compared to Public Schools, like St Pauls or Latymer.
- Lack of intellectual freedom. Learn what the book says and don't question it! The French system doesn't allow for ambiguity so strength of character is a plus if you don't want your child to become quasi-indoctrinated into a certain way of thinking which can, in some cases, put students off learning completely. A real shame.
- Pretty expensive!
- You have to deal with French admin/civil servants. Possible the most rigid, unhelpful and alienated jobsworths you are ever likely to meet. Expect "computer says no", French style.
Of course, any French teachers (from the Lycée perhaps) reading this may disagree with the anecdotal points. We are talking about a number of years ago now, but the culture is so ingrained (and I travel to France regularly for work and family) that I would be very surprised if it had changed dramatically since my time there...
My daughter is currently at Ecole Jacques Prevert in Brook Green, we have been living in London over 15 years, I am albanian and my husband french. We desperately wanted our daughters to become bilingual so we left no stone unturned until we were got a place at Jacques Prevert. Unfortunately our experience has not been great, our daughter was a bubbly 5 years old full of confidence and full of energy but soon she turned into this shy girl who is scared of the teachers. The french school does not fit everybody, it is a very academic with strick rules which takes away the confidence of children. My daughter feels that she is not doing good enough although she says that she tries her best. No encouragement or words of praise or a little sticker to say "well done you tried your best"!!! Sport and outside activities are very limited. Classes are small and my daughter feels quite clastophobic being within classroom for most of the day. Brook Green park is oppositte but they only take kids twice a week for half an hour, which I stil find it hard to understand. My daughter started in Grand session which is a year later then everybody else started, she found it so hard to make friends . Kids had already their small little groups of friendship which were so hard to break. My daughter was left out most of the time, teachers did not bother much to break this habit and make kids comfortable, in contrary, french teachers do not quite believe in bulling and do not act upon it. Most of the parents are very detached to the kids life nannies take over and make decisions on playdates etc. Most of the parents make a little to no effort to invite for playdates,even to get to know you as a parent. At the school gate I have been dropping off/picking up my daughter and mothers hardly say Good morning. I have never felt more invisible in my life. I am not french (althought I do speak french) it is such and icy barrier to break. In two years I have been at the school, there was never oragnized a morning coffee or evening out for the mothers to get to know each other. I was so shocked at this attitute especialy coming from an english nursury where the atmosphere is very warm and welcoming. We have decided to move on and change my daughters school to an english school this coming September. No bilingualism is worth the happiness and wellbeing of your child. French system may be good academically but does very little to encourage creativity and confidence. To my opinion best qualities you can offer to growing up kids are strong creative skills and confidence everything else comes 2nd. I am sharing my experience because I wish people make appropriate decidions when it comes to choosing schools for their kids.
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