Is 6 too old to put a child into a non-English speaking school when that is her only language?

(92 Posts)
Boobz Mon 08-Oct-12 11:47:23

Will they cope, because kids just do?

I have 3 kids and want them all to go into the French system. They are currently 3.5, 2.5 and 7 months.

Due to a lot of boring policy / bureacracy, the children are likely to only enter a full French education when they are 6, 5 and 3. We are going to try to do it earlier, but we're unlikely to get them in to any Lycees in the UK because we are not French nationals, etc etc. We will apply, but I don't think it will work out.

However in 2015, when DD1 is 6, we will move abroad and will definitely be able to put her into a French school. Is this too old for her to go in - it is cruel to just expect her to pick it up, or am I underestimating childrens' abilities for languages? She would then stay in the French system until she finished her education...

If you think she could pick it up, how long would it take for her to be comfortable in French? A few months? A year? Or would she never sound properly native because of the late start?

Both DH and I are English speaking only (well, DH might say he has passable conversational French) and obviously this will be the only language spoken at home.

Thoughts?

Bonsoir Wed 10-Oct-12 14:11:57

How can you be sure of getting them a place at a French school in London? Even French families cannot get in...

Boobz Wed 10-Oct-12 16:18:33

As far as I am aware, if they attended a Lycee abroad, and they are diplomats, children are bumped up the list of admissions and taken by the Lycee in London, despite not being French themselves. I have several friends whose children fall into these categories (Lycee attendees and diplomatic status) and have never been refused a place.

I would need to double check though, of course, before committing to the system. As it stands, I don't have to commit to it for another 3 years, and yes, policy could change in that time I suppose.

All so complicated! I'll be pleased once they're in! In the meantime there is the scrummage for a primary school place where I live for my eldest - not looking forward to that.

Bonsoir Wed 10-Oct-12 16:21:37

Fair enough, I didn't realise that non-French diplomats had priority status when applying to the London lycée from a French school abroad.

I live in Paris and many French families coming from French schools cannot get a spot at a French school when they move to London.

natation Wed 10-Oct-12 16:23:31

We're all in the same boat, as hubby is seconded to FCO, we don't get the privilege of the tax payer footing the bill for our children at the lycee francais de Charles de Gaulle or College Francais Bilingue de Londres, if and when we ever return to the UK. But the choice of where to live really is an individual one, in the UK a good school is governed often by where you live, so it's a choice of sticking with a poor performing school where you are, or moving. I think you need to research very carefully whichever LF it is, because why send your children to an LF abroad for 2-4 years which is not so good, simply in order to avoid some poor performing schools in the UK where you are from and taking quite a risk that you'll get your funded place at a French school in London?

natation Wed 10-Oct-12 16:30:51

There is nothing on the LF Londres website about diplomats getting priority, just children who have attended an AEFE network school get priority 2 of 5, French coming from France are priority 3 out of 5.

www.lyceefrancais.org.uk/docs/SouthKensington/Criteres_Inscription.pdf

It's pretty much the same at the LF in Brussels, many French nationals fail to get places in the school.

natation Wed 10-Oct-12 16:34:29

And if you went for a diplomatic posting in Brussels, you would have the tiniest chance of getting school places there if it were the first application to an AEFE school, so you may run into the trouble of finding LF places in the first place to get on the ladder. Oh that sounds all negative doesn't it, sorry I'm not trying to be, just need to see there are downsides to following a foreign school system around the world and not speaking the language of those schools.

Bonsoir Wed 10-Oct-12 16:39:42

Yes, natation is right - you will only be a priority applicant to the London lycée if your children already attend an AEFE school.

LillianGish Wed 10-Oct-12 16:46:17

I wouldn't underestimate how difficult it is to get into the Lycee in London. I have diplomat friends whose children were educated in the French system who couldn't get a place a few years ago. My dcs are there at the moment and it is massively oversubscribed (and over-crowded). That is likely to get worse rather than better with the current government in France. I would also second Bonsoir's misgivings about the French system in general - great in many ways, but definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Bonsoir Wed 10-Oct-12 17:02:41

LillianGish - does the French lycée in London have to meet English standards of accommodation for its pupils, or is it held by some kind of immunity to (much lower) French standards?

LillianGish Wed 10-Oct-12 17:13:09

Good question - not entirely sure, but I can tell you that the school day runs from 8.30 to 6 with various gaps in the middle to accommodate everyone (ie there is not enough room for everyone to be taught at the same time). My daughter has just started in sixieme and at the meeting to welcome new parents (it is currently a 13 form entry so there were quite a few of us) the directeur used the usual, welcoming "Fit in or f* off approach" adopted by all French schools. He pointed out that in a city with and equivalent population in France (I think London is now France's 5th largest city in terms of population) there would be 15 Lycee so noone should bother moaning. He said as fast a a new class opened (or even a new school like the one in Kentish Town) there was a corresponding increase in applications.

Boobz Wed 10-Oct-12 17:13:09

Thanks for all the advice and fore-warning. I will make sure we look at it all very carefully when we work out whether to put them into the French system in 3 years time once we go abroad (if it is possible to get them a place there, and bearing in mind we might not then be able to get them in when we get back).

Bonsoir Wed 10-Oct-12 17:23:02

"but I can tell you that the school day runs from 8.30 to 6 with various gaps in the middle to accommodate everyone (ie there is not enough room for everyone to be taught at the same time)"

It is the same (or worse) in the Paris collèges and lycées - schools are mostly open from 8am to 7pm. My DSSs' lycée (which is a 6-18 school) now has three lunch hours in order to accommodate the timetable. Pity those poor parents who have children arriving home for three different lunch sittings! DSS2 has such a long break on Tuesday lunchtime that he comes home, has an hour of private English tuition with a tutor and returns to school. There is no courtyard for the lycée pupils so they are out on the street at lunchtime. And this is a (very) good school...

natation Wed 10-Oct-12 17:27:16

LF in London's British section is ofsteded.
[[http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/100547]

TeddyBare Wed 10-Oct-12 17:31:16

Are you in a university town? Erasmus or exchange students from France as tutors /babysitters might be another source of French for your dc before the move. 6 is definitely not too old to jump in and become fluent fairly quickly though.

TeddyBare Wed 10-Oct-12 17:33:57

There is also the European school in or near Oxford which has a French stream. Have you considered that?

MmeLindor Wed 10-Oct-12 17:34:53

I would echo some of the other posters misgivings.

We were in Switzerland (in the French speaking part) and the school system is quite similar to the French system, although not as strict I think.

When we were there, the DC did really well - DD was 6yo and DS 4yo when we moved. Within a year they were reasonably fluent, but it took till the end of year 2 until they were really able to keep up with school work - particularly DD.

It wasn't really until we moved back to UK earlier this year that I really noticed the difference. Not that the school in CH was bad, but it was very strict, and the school here in Scotland is much less so.

Particularly DD has been transformed - she went from being a shy girl to accepting a speaking role in the school play and wanting to join the Scout Gang Show. It might have happened anyway, as she grew more confident with the language in CH, I don't know.

Saying all of that, I suspect that as an expat child in an international (French speaking) environment will be very different to being a expat child in a very Swiss French speaking school. She was always a foreigner there, and would never fit in to the clique.

How are you finding Nairobi? I was there this summer. Hope things are a bit more settled, and stay that way in the coming months.

Boobz Wed 10-Oct-12 17:49:21

We LOVE Nairobi, but alas cannot stay. We were in Khartoum, Sudan, before this, so this is luxury. The weather is just becoming perfect again, and I am shivering at the prospect of returning to London in deepest darkest January.

My first two were born in the house we will be returning to, but our last (7 months) was born in the room I am looking at now. Kenya will always be special for that reason.

Theas18 Wed 10-Oct-12 17:51:33

I can't see it'll be a real problem at all- are you able to reinforce French at home too, I assume you are, hence wanting French education over English medium.

DH used to teach in an ordinary English city primary school, because of the location he had many children with english as an additional language (maybe 3-5 in the class every year) - not only from local asian family languages (no large mono cultural element ie they weren't all Bangladeshis talking amongst themselves in family languages) but asylum speakers, children of university families doing a year or 2 placement etc (Danish, Austrian, French, French speaking Africans, Korean, Japanese).

These kids came to the school speaking little English and often with no English spoken or understood at home. Because it was not a single group there were not adults to translate either.

As these children were in school with English speaking children they picked up the language really quickly and were largely reading/speaking at age appropriate levels after a couple of years. The only problem was that many of them didn't stay long- they asylum seekers were moved on and the university families went home.

He doesn't teach there now and I think he misses the opportunities to exercise his O level French and basic bits of other languages.

Staying in the French system through school should be relatively simple really. I suspect the problem at the start, especially for the eldest will be stopping the French kids practising their English too much.

Ive also known an English family in the Austrian system- english only speaking children going in at kindergarten and still being on target at the end of each year to move up with their peers (they would hold them back if their test results were not adequate).

Greythorne Wed 10-Oct-12 18:24:53

I find the anglo view of the French education system to be extremely rosy. In their despair at the race for the bottom, no competitive sports, everyone's a winner mentality they see in the UK, they look at the French system admiringly.

But, stop for a minute and consider what you have written. * "...apparently they leave one school at one page in the book and then arrive at the next one in exactly the same place having not missed a beat. " * Even if this were true and not an exaggeration, just think what this kind of rigidity implies. Think about what it implies if your child is struggling a bit or extra bright and flying or just having a bad term because of upheaval (which is likely in your scenario). Think about the mindset required to produce teachers who expect all children to be at the same stage all the time, irrespective of strengths, weaknesses, bullying, divorce, dyslexia, etc.

Greythorne Wed 10-Oct-12 18:29:56

One more thing. The rate at which children acquire a second (or third) language through full immersion in school varies enormously, as you would expect. Don't give toomuch credence to the "oh, they'll be fluent by Christmas" (having joined school in Sept). They might be. Or not. it can take a while and it goes in fits and starts, rather than being a nice, tidy geometric progression.

Bonsoir Wed 10-Oct-12 18:35:06

"Think about the mindset required to produce teachers who expect all children to be at the same stage all the time, irrespective of strengths, weaknesses, bullying, divorce, dyslexia, etc."

Think also about how much tutoring and extra support your children will need to stay on top of the one-size-fits-all academic programme and how you will find people to do this in non-Francophone countries.

natation Wed 10-Oct-12 18:35:43

Is it not possible to put your 3 year old in LF in Nairobi now? Then on returning to the UK, there are alternatives in London to the AEFE schools which might have places? I'm saying this knowing in fact how little most diplomatic staff earn, unless right at the top, you're only likely to be able to afford one set of school fees if that on a single salary. But if it's bilingualism and an entry point you're after in to French education, always better sooner rather than later. By the time you're on your next tour, you might have a better idea if the French system is for you or not.

fraktion Thu 11-Oct-12 04:33:41

I would be enormously surprised if non-French diplomats got bumped up the list for the LF CDG. I imagine it's simply AEFE priority, but then what happems if you go to France so no AEFE school? DH is French and works for the Govt - we would not be guaranteed a spot in London if posted there. Doesn't worry me hugely as DS is bilingual and I would get CNED/Cours Ste Anne material to keep him up to scratch but it's a scary prospect.

If you're dead set on the French system get your elder one in ASAP to an AEFE school, then you have a better chance of getting in when you come back, your other DC get sibling priority and better all round IF you can afford that first year.

Have you considered the German school OTOH?

Definitely French au pair/babysitter/student and start now.

Also consider carefully what you would do if any of your DC are Sept-Dec birthdays. That will make switching systems very difficult.

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 07:02:05

Here is a map of just about all French educational establishments in London.
batchgeo.com/map/a1bcb3313b7fbeb3eadb741121c55393.

Very good point about September to December birthdays - those children are effectively up a year in the French system, have one in the family myself and wondering what to do with her, should she swap back in to an English medium school, all the potential ones I've looked at so far have 1st September cut-off and I think I'm going to have to be the pushy mum and ask her to be put up a year.

Boobz Thu 11-Oct-12 07:13:39

Thanks for the link Natation, and the advice fraktion.

Birthdays all March and June.

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