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.


Jux Mon 08-Oct-12 11:50:51

A couple we know with a dd moved to France and the dd, aged 6 then, was speaking pretty fluent French by the end of her first term. She coped fine. Children are very adaptable at that age, and learning another language at that age is among one of the best things you can do for brain development.

Where/what? (terribly nosey!)

Minty82 Mon 08-Oct-12 12:00:21

I think if she's then going to be in the French system for the rest of school she'd be fine. I went to a French school (in an English speaking country) for a year when I was six, and was miserable because, having done reception class in English and thrived, I hated suddenly not being able to read and write - I think that bothered me more than the speaking, though the communication barrier made me quite lonely too.

But if your daughter always knew that was the plan, and you were able to prepare her a bit with French songs, TV etc over the next couple of years it should work. You're right that it's easier the younger you are - my nursery age siblings were perfectly happy. And it did get my French off to a great start.

Frontpaw Mon 08-Oct-12 12:01:48

She'll be fine. Some family members switched languages at around that age and have high-fallutin' degrees from top UK universities in Very Hard Subjects.

One thing I have notice though, from my own observation (our school gets loads of kids dropping in with basic or no english) is that the kids do 'act out' a bit when they first arrive. Not to sugar-coat it, the majority are little buggers until they settle down. Not sure if its because they have had big moves, or that with their language skills they get upset at their lack of ability to communicate, but a decent schook will have a dedicated teacher, or extra classes to get them up to speed. They all settle down!

Boobz Mon 08-Oct-12 12:04:21

Thanks Jux.

We're currently in Nairobi, Kenya, but about to move back home to the UK for 3 years. We will then move on again (no idea where - DH is with the Foreign Office) and we will put the kids straight into the French school when we go on this next overseas posting.

Problem is, we have these 3 years back in the UK and the Foreign Office won't pay for private foreign language school until aged 5 (and even then only if they had started in the foreign language at their previous post, which our kids are too young to have done) so we have to put them into the UK state primary system (as we can't afford private) until we go again.

But they do pay when abroad, and then once they're in and started in that language, they can continue in it during any subsequent UK postings. So it's just this fuzzy start we have to deal with.

Glad to hear 6 isn't too old!

bradbourne Mon 08-Oct-12 12:05:05

I've seen this the other way round - a French family I know introduced children aged 6, 8 and 11 into the UK system following an unexpecetd posting to the UK. The younger ones picked up English very quickly and were fully fluent with no accent within a year (they were pretty good at English within 3 months). The older one also speaks English very well, but still has a discernable French accent 3 years later.

bradbourne Mon 08-Oct-12 12:07:08

Just athought, but coud you maybe get a French au pair when you come back to the UK to help your children learn French?

Frontpaw Mon 08-Oct-12 12:08:01

In our family, the oldest one was about 9 and does have a slight americany accent (as a lot of people who learn english do) but in the US people coo over 'such a cute English accent'. Most of the kids I know have an accent but speak and think fluently in both languages - which I find amazing.

Boobz Mon 08-Oct-12 15:32:02

Looks like we have nothing to worry about then - phew!

Yes yes to the au pair idea - it's just making sure we can trade up to a bigger house to do it. We left our 3 bed house 2 years ago with 1 child and 1 dog, and now we have 3 children and 2 dogs as we return to it! Hmmmm.

natation Mon 08-Oct-12 22:29:49

Our no 2 was 10 years old and he's doing fine in French in 3rd year of secondary (4th year of UK secondary). Spoken French has an accent, written French is completely indistinguishable from his class mates, outshines his class mates in Dutch, Latin and of course English!
Our no 3 was 6 years old and she's doing fine still in last year of primary and is consistently top of the class, along with 3 other bilinguals, leaving the francophones behind, 2 of the other 3 bilinguals started in French after the age of 6 too! English and French are about the same level, spoken and written.
Our no 4 started in French at age 3 and it's by far her strongest language.

Ironically, in 2 years time, they might end up back in English, having looked at the lycee francais at the most likely FCO post we will end up at, but doubt they'll ever lose their French so I'm not really worried about going the other way.

HaveringGold Mon 08-Oct-12 22:41:30

Just a quick word of warning - from the my experience and also of friends who are diplomats - the lycées in some countries get very over subscribed eg London, New York so postings there can be problematic. And I'm assuming you have come back to the UK some times so London maybe a challenge - check what priorities/guarantees you get.
Secondly in some countries the Lycées are 'very French' - the French community being pretty large, there French will be spoken in class and socially. Others are smaller and with a smaller French community 'less French' and local language or more often English will be spoken at breaks/play etc. if you can get a posting to a 'more French' place first it will help cement the language esp as your kids socialise in it - tougher of course but better in the long run.
And lastly can I suggest you both start French lesson - getting with school staff and other parents will help if you can make passable conversation in French.

Boobz Tue 09-Oct-12 04:42:15

Natation - that's all good to hear. We were thinking of going for a number 4... not sure I have the energy!

Havering - thanks for all the good advice... will take it all on board.

Just wish we didn't have to go baclk to the UK at this particular juncture!

DelGirl Tue 09-Oct-12 04:56:31

We moved to Italy when my dd was 5.5. She picked up the language within 3 months and pretty fluent within 6. She has picked up the local accent apparently (I wouldn't know). Now, 2 years later she is more Italian than English and I am just starting to pick up that she is losing a few English words. So, time for more English I think though she does read books in both.

Boobz Tue 09-Oct-12 09:51:55

Is your DH Italian Delgirl?

DelGirl Tue 09-Oct-12 10:00:33

No, i'm widowed Boobz, just we as in me and dd. Is there likely to be many other English speaking children there when you go? I would say to mix with children who speak only French or certainly as their first language. hth

Boobz Tue 09-Oct-12 10:28:23

Oh I'm sorry - my bad assumption.

We really don't know where we're going in 3 years time but will try to make sure she mixes with the French lot more than the other FCO English lot! Thanks.

CakeBump Tue 09-Oct-12 10:36:07

Just to confirm what other posters have said, I'm a Year 2 teacher (so 6 and 7 year olds) in a non-UK English medium international school.

I have had a few 6 year olds start the year with no English, and they have all been absolutely fine. I'm sure you will support your DCs with French DVD's, books etc (and I would start doing this as early as possible) and as long as the children have this parental support with the language I would not anticipate a problem.

On average, the children I have taught have had an adequate level of comprehension and basic levels of conversation after 3 or 4 months. By the end of the school year they have been conversationally pretty fluent and have known enough to get through Year 2 tests in Maths, and Science. Written English (or in your case French) takes a little longer, but I would expect basic sentences beginning to be joined together by the end of a year.

Is there no possibility of continuing with the English system in your next posting? It's usually pretty easy to find English medium, or at least American system international schools pretty much anywhere....

CakeBump Tue 09-Oct-12 10:38:44

Oh yes, and I second looking at "how French" the school will be, if you can.

Our children tend to speak the language native to the country they are in at breaks and lunch, not English, and this can mean that they become "lazy" in the classroom and slip back into the native language.

Plus, I had a japanese girl transfer to my school from the American school, where there were so many japanese children that she wasn't picking up enough English.

frenchfancy Tue 09-Oct-12 10:45:46

6 yr old should be fine. It would be best not to leave it later simply because the year they are 6 is the CP year in school which is the year they learn to read and write. It will be much easier for them later if they do this year in the French system.

Boobz Tue 09-Oct-12 10:59:35

Great thanks everyone.

Cakebump, yes there will be English schools but we want them to be bilingual. Also, the way the FCO works, putting them in the French system means they can always be with us (UK and abroad). If we put them into the English private system, they have to stay in the UK and board when we go abroad, and we're not happy with boarding our kids (although totally understand why others do). So it's a means of getting the kids to be bilingual, educated privately, and always with us throughout our postings. Can't do that in the English system I'm afraid.

Thanks for all the tips and advice - am writing them all down.

Bonsoir Tue 09-Oct-12 14:27:03

Gosh. I think anyone who is not French and decides to use the French school system of their own freewill is very brave. Please be aware that the education your DCs will receive will be entirely different to the education they would receive in an English school. And that you will need to be very involved in homework support (how do you feel about Physics in French? Philosophy in French) right up until the end.

Boobz Tue 09-Oct-12 15:39:56

Thanks for the heads up Bonsoir. Yes I've heard it is very academic, very rigid and quite strict. But I think that does help a bit with a child who is then going to be changing school every 3 or 4 years - 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.

I have friends here whose children are doing exactly what we intend to do and they haven't mentioned any problems with homework (they are not French speakers themselves despite 3 children who are, aged 14, 11 and 10). But this is something to think about, and I guess if I do take up French lessons to help integrate in the school community, then this will go some way to helping them with homework. A French tutor might help with this as well I suppose?

In any event, to have bilingual children educated privately in the French system has got to be less brave than putting them into the local state primary and comprehensives where we live in Lambeth - almost all schools within our catchment are failing (and even those are over-subscribed - there just aren't enough primary places full stop where we live) and we can't afford to move at the moment. There are some good church schools near us, but my husband won't find God unfortunately, not even for their education (quite right, I know!)

natation Tue 09-Oct-12 21:38:05

I have to ask, why would your children not be allowed to come on postings abroad with you? There are FCO child dependents around the globe in international English medium schools, some where embassies have strong connections.

There have been some very good points made, so think hard about the fact you may find no places in certain lycees, the older your children get, the harder it becomes to help your children with homework if you can't speak French, the French system is pretty structured and the fact that it comes in for much criticism by the French, doesn't score highly in personal satisfaction surveys (do you like school y/n?).

I suppose it's different for us, our children already speak French, it means there is no such desire to search for bilingualism. We're faced in 2 years time with a choice of an English International school with after-school native French which is on one site and not 3 like the LF, which does not finish at 2.30pm like LF, which has sporting facilities without parallel unlike the LF, which has a choice of final exam certificates unlike LF, well then it makes it quite difficult to choose LF.

sashh Wed 10-Oct-12 06:50:48

A friend moved to Spain, Her then 12 year old brother started in the Spanish system with no previous Spanish. He left aged 18 with an award for being the top student.

I taught a Polish girl, she arrided in the UK aged 14 with no English. At 16 she had 10 GCSEs A-C, unfortunately her English was a D grade so she had to resit.

6 is fine.

Boobz Wed 10-Oct-12 11:22:02

Natation, they are allowed to come on post with us, and would go to the English medium schools there whilst at post, but then when we came home to the UK, they would have to go the local state primary / secondary comp where we live in London (bad schools). If we go the French route, they will go to the private French school of our choice (within a certain £££ limit) both in the UK and at post, and thus don't have to board, and don't have to send to failing Streatham school.

But am definitely taking everything people are saying on board about making sure kids mix in French, are as immersed as possible, take French lessons ourselves as parents, get a French au pair, get a French tutor and so on.

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.

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.

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.

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.

suchnonsense Thu 11-Oct-12 07:58:20

Hi - I have no knowledge or experience of foreign language schools, but thought I'd pop on to try to allay some of your Lambeth school-fears, as I noticed that you'll be moving back to Streatham. I'm not sure whereabouts in Streatham you'll be, but as far as I know, the primary schools near us are all very well thought of, not "failing" at all. The shortage of primary places in Lambeth is pretty shocking at the moment, but there are building projects all over - I know of at least three schools being either built from scratch, expanded onto additional sites or extended to hugely increase capacity - and that's just within half a mile of our house.
Just to say really, that you may find when you get back that the situation isn't quite as bad as you fear!

Also - I heard a rumour that Streatham is getting a Waitrose soon.....

happychappy Thu 11-Oct-12 08:00:23

I did it with my daughter at 7 in Italian, she was fluent by the time she was 71/2 my son was 3 at he took far longer to adapt/learn.

Hi, I have no experience of what you're planning on doing, but we moved when our DDs were v small and they go to preschool in a language that I was not fluent in when when they first started.

I worked hard to acquire language skills with them (easier obviously when they're smaller) so that I would be able to communicate with teachers, school gate mums, friends etc.

I am glad that I did. Neither my kids nor I feel like outsiders now, and we have a good network of friends for support and fun. Being able to talk and participate in the school gate politics has helped me to understand the system and so for the kids and me to fit in.

LillianGish Thu 11-Oct-12 09:03:10

Excellent advice Natation - put your youngest in the maternelle at the Lycee Francais in Nairobi now (both mine started in Maternelle at 2.5). That way they'll learn French, get used to the French school environment and you'll find out if you like the French system. Then when you arrive in London you'll already have some possibility of a place at the Lycee Francais or one of it's feeder schools. You only need to get one in then you have sibling priority. I should add however though that every time you go on posting again and take the kids out you'll have to start all over again with the application process when you get back - with no guarantee of a place for all three straightaway. What concerns me about your plan is this: "If we go the French route, they will go to the private French school of our choice (within a certain £££ limit) both in the UK and at post, and thus don't have to board, and don't have to send to failing Streatham school." Your big plan for avoiding the schools in Streatham is based on the assumption that they will all three get a place in a French school on London. What happens (as is quite likely) if they don't? Or if one does and you are waiting a year for a place for the others? Your OP asks whether 6 is too late to pick up French - I don't think that will be a problem. What will be problem is that having picked it up, the moment you take them out of a French speaking environment they will just as quickly start to lose it. My dcs were effortlessly fluent in German when we lived in Berlin - in spite of being at a French school - but they soon lost it as soon as we came back to the UK. If neither of you is a French speaker I think it would be very hard - if not impossible - to keep your dcs up to standard in the UK.

wannaBe Thu 11-Oct-12 09:18:18

when I was nine we moved to South Africa. The school (the only one in the country for children with VI) was Afrikaans speaking. Added to that it was a boarding school.

So I went to boarding school, where I didn't speak the language and they didn't speak english, only returning home at weekends..

I was pretty fluent within about six months, and by the end of a year I spoke more Afrikaans than English - by the time my parents moved away and I became a term boarder the only people I actually spoke english to were my parents.

She will be fine. smile

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 09:37:17

Yes your children have a better than even chance of being quite able to learn French through immersion at a French school (plus ideally French after school too) but your problem is going to be able to keep them in French consistently throughout their school lives, you won't necessarily be able to CHOOSE a French school, they will be choosing your children, only if there are places. I think now is the time to do your research into AEFE schools around the world in the most likely posting locations and find out what their enrolments procedures are.

fargone Thu 11-Oct-12 09:52:13

I think you said you were trying to get them into the lycée to start with? We are a totally non french family and our kids are in the lycée - they told us we had, and I quote, ZERO percent chance of a place, but then a week after school started we got a spot (and lost the first term's fees at the other school but that was ok). Be persistent, stay on the phone, let them know if you have connections to the french community in London, let them know you are committed and you have a good reason for wanting to be there. They do need to have a few local families in the schools, and now that they have opened new primary schools in Fulham, there are more places. They have bilingual education there, too, at petite section level.

fargone Thu 11-Oct-12 09:53:40

Just read more of the comments above - just to point out, the lycee is really really french, and quite hard to navigate if no one in the family speaks fluent french. We are not french, but we both speak french and I don't know how we would have managed if we didn't.

Boobz Thu 11-Oct-12 10:23:02

Hi Fargone - thanks for the info! DH speaks French, but not fluent. I think we will be ok, and I am planning to start learning as well.

We are only here in Nairobi until early Jan, so we can't put them in the French school here unfortunately (they would only start us after half term and we are planning on taking some leave then before we head home).

I now need to think long and hard about whether the French system really is the best for the kids given all the negative things people have written here.

Suchnonsense - we are in the Ferrers' Triangle (Natal Road). My DH has a job interview for a Rome posting next week, but if he's not successful, then I will start the process of applying to schools near where we live. It's hard though, because I can't visit them / talk to the head teacher / get a feel for the schools as we are here and the applications close before we get home. So I'm going to have to do it all by Ofsted reports, friends' recommendations and so on, thousands of miles away. Sigh.

LillianGish Thu 11-Oct-12 10:31:49

So I'm going to have to do it all by Ofsted reports, friends' recommendations and so on, thousands of miles away. Sigh. And Mumsnet - absolutely brilliant for that sort of thing.

suchnonsense Thu 11-Oct-12 10:34:47

Ah - that's the other end of Streatham to us, although our son is in nursery on Lewin Road which is just one over from you!

From talking to other Mums I think there's a concentration of church schools around there, both Catholic and CofE - I don't know if that's a route you would go down. Also, I believe that Penwortham and Woodmansterne get good reports and they aren't too far away. As I say though, there's a lot of building going on at the moment, so the situation may look different soon.

Boobz Thu 11-Oct-12 10:51:50

Our nearest 4 schools are all church schools - and we can't send our kids to those ones (which really annoys me since our taxes pay for them but we're not religious enough for them - but that is a whole other thread). The other closest 2 schools in the previous 2 years were "failing". Penwortham is good and Woodmansterne is ok but both only accepted children within about 500m of their doors last year (I have the reports here telling me how close the last applicant lived for each school) and we are much further away than that from those schools. But thank you for trying to help! We'll just have to see what else is out there.

suchnonsense Thu 11-Oct-12 11:02:29

I hear you, in relation to church schools. I have no objection in principle, but since they have the luxury of being selective, it would be much fairer if they were more evenly spread out and mixed with the non-church schools. However, they seem to end up clustered together which results in a horrible catchment "black-hole" for the non-churchgoing.

Good luck!

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 15:50:52

I really can't see what is wrong with a church aided school. Religion is obligatory in all primaries in England, the content of the religion lessons at an Anglican or Catholic primary often has not huge difference to the content of religion lessons in an LEA controlled school. You know Anglican and Catholic schools study hinduism, Islam, Judaism as well as Christianity, likewise so do LEA controlled primaries.

As for selection, LEA controlled primaries are selective too no? They select on the grounds of proximity to school (and why shouldn't they) or on grounds of specific needs (looked-after children, special deaf units). If primary schools did not select their pupils on grounds of proximity, then you'd have a complete free-for-all.

Church schools are still state schools with 85% of budget coming from the LEA. Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, no faith, we all pay for these state schools. On the logic children should only attend schools their parents pay their taxes towards, then only Catholic tax payers would go to Catholic schools, Anglican ones to Anglican schools, Jewish to Jewish schools, Muslims to Muslim schools, now where do we put the children whose parents contribute virtually nothing in taxes such as asylum seekers, unemployed, those on sick benefits?

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 17:39:54

There is Ecole des Petits which is an AEFE school, cost just over 10k per year, or LF Wix up to 7k per year, both in the Battersea area.

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 18:29:04

It's not that hard to use the internet to research schools. Rightmove is great, it draws a map of local schools, you just then google the names and find their websites and also go to the OFSTED website. You communicate with heads via email and hope they answer back, explaining it's rather expensive to phone.

Here is a school about 600m from where you say you live, non church affiliated, has a GOOD ofsted rating.

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 18:34:13

Penwortham rated as SATISFACTORY
Woodmansterne rated as GOOD

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 18:42:43

All 3 of the church schools in that area of Streatham also score GOOD in ofsted reports.

So in 15 minutes, found 6 schools in the area, 5 are rated GOOD and 1 is rated SATISFACTORY. So far I've not managed to find a failing school, ie one rated UNSATISFACTORY and put in to special measures.

fargone Thu 11-Oct-12 19:31:26

Again I haven't read every comment but just to weigh in on the quality - the school is "old fashioned" in some ways - lots of memorization etc - but it is very good academically. It's fundamentally a public school so you do get big class, under-equipped etc but you also don't have the private school price tag. My daughter has been really really happy at the french school. I've found it a bit harder with my son who had some reading delays and focus issues, but now he's doing well too. He's at the fulham primary and that's a great school.

Boobz Thu 11-Oct-12 19:39:46

Sorry Natation - maybe I'm getting the wrong end of the stick, but are you saying we should try and send our child to one of the church schools near us?

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 20:32:59

I think you should consider all state schools, whether directly LEA controlled or Church Aided, before dismissing them. It just seems a bit sill to dismiss them immediately. As religion is taught in all state schools, the differences are often far smaller than outsiders imagine. You'll often find more differences between non Church schools next to each other than between Church and non Church schools next to each other. As the schools in Streatham are nearly all good on paper, why not take your time and think of a better reason to rule out from the beginning a church aided school other than its history as being founded as a church school. The Anglican ones in particular might have just a tiny percentage of children in them brought up as active Christians. I'd imagine they all contain quite considerable numbers of Muslim children, children from around the world of many nationalities and languages. I'd personally be more bothered if a school contained a huge percentage of non English speakers of one single language, than the religious content of lessons. Which one of these 2 factors are going to have more effect on the ability of a teacher to teach a class?

fraktion Thu 11-Oct-12 20:42:03

I think the problem with state church schools is usually less the family not liking the schooling than the school not liking a non-churchgoing family and the family not paying lip service to something they don't believe in so not going to church and not getting in.

That's certainly how it goes in the very oversubscribed church schools in my parents gone town.

natation Thu 11-Oct-12 22:12:35

It's important to see schools on their own merits and not judged on how other schools might operate in the same sector.

suchnonsense Thu 11-Oct-12 22:51:54

Natation, that is of course correct, if you assume that a parent has a choice about faith or non-faith. Unfortunately most faith schools operate a selection criteria which excludes those who are non-churchgoing (and not prepared to lie about it). So, if your closest 4 schools are faith schools, your nearest option might be a mile away, which in madly-oversubscribed Lambeth, is almost certainly too far to get a place (max around 500m is not unusual).

I have no issues with faith schools, per se, and believe that parents should be able to choose this route if they want to. However,by having different admissions criteria to other schools, they actually remove choice.

Boobz Fri 12-Oct-12 05:53:01

Natation, as others have said, I can't send my children to the faith schools, because I need a letter from a vicar saying I have attended church for the past two years. I have not. I would LOVE to send my children to one of these schools, as they are invariably better than anything else nearby, and are the closest schools, but I'm not allowed. I am not dismissing them, they are dismissing me because I don't believe in God / go to church.

Last year, the last child to get in on distance for Penwortham was 487m, and Woodmansterne was 647m. I live approx 1km+ from both.

So out of the 6 schools you found for me, only 1 is actually an option, and I will of course have to consider it. Ofsted reports are not gospel: Granton does not have a great reputation but perhaps it has improved since we left, I can only hope so! But what you found in 15 minutes, I was able to discount nearly 85% of due to faith / distance in 15 seconds.

Anyway, we have digressed certainly from the thread topic! Thank you for all your help and suggestions: a lot to think about. I’m sure wherever DD ends up, she will make the most of it, and so will we.

I was almost 8 when my family moved abroad to Germany. I struggled, a lot at first. Due to differences in the starting age of school I was placed up a year due to m schooling in England which was. Big mistake, although fo every German lesson I had a lesson with two Russians and a Polish boy to learn German. I got it, but it took a long time and I was constantly learning. We left when I was 14 and I am now 27. I can understand German still, but I've lost my fluency.
My sister, OTOH, was almost 6 when we went. She was not bumped up a year and instead put in Kindergarten. She was totally mute at school for the entire first year, but changed the moment the next year started and was fluent from then. She has kept most of her fluency and managed to learn others to a high standard.

Greythorne Fri 12-Oct-12 07:14:40

"totally mute at school for the first year"

Anecdotally, it seems this is not uncommon. I know of two children in France, brought up with an Australian mother, French father, but with English very much the majority language at home, due to the father's work pattern. When these two children started Petite Section, aged 3.3, they understood some French. Their teacher said she did not hear either of them say a woed for the entire year.

natation Fri 12-Oct-12 08:13:02

The admissions criteria for the church schools are openly published. The Anglican schools "ring fence" places for children of active Christian background, roughly 50% of places, the other roughly 50% go to people of other faiths or none. The Catholic schools have a more complex criteria, from practising Catholics in X parish, practising Catholics in another parish, non practising Catholics, practising Christians, etc down to "other", so without doubt it is harder to get in to a Catholic school in the area than an Anglican one. So it's clear, you do not need a letter from a vicar saying you go to church, it just means you are higher priority. If you live a few metres from an Anglican school, then there's a pretty good chance you'll be near the top of the list for the non faith "ring fenced" places.

natation Fri 12-Oct-12 08:40:11

I know several mute children who speak English as a second language, though I'm sure language is just a factor, as first language children do this too, it's just second language children seem to do it more, so it seems the chances increase if you speak a language as a second language. A minority of children I know around that age start repeating words in English immediately, the majority take around 3 months to be able to understand and repeat back or answer back appropriately, then again a minority are silent for at least a year, many of them willingly speak to their peers (of whom many are learning English as a second language) but not the adults from whom they hear the target English from. Most of the mute children are the quieter type, those who follow rather than lead in class, always a shock when it's a child who loses their muteness and then suddenly talks and does it loudly too, to the point you can't quite believe it.

LillianGish Fri 12-Oct-12 09:29:17

My (extremely gregarious) son was mute for his first year at school. We spoke English at home, he went to a German childminder then started at a French school! Poor boy probably thought his entire life was due to be conducted in a language he couldn't understand - he'd no sooner grasped one than he was shunted into a new environment. It was very funny when we moved back to the UK he was genuinely astonished that everyone was speaking English - he couldn't understand why we hadn't lived here all along "Much easier for your mummy!" (my German was woeful). I didn't have a place for him straightaway in the French school so he went into a bilingual nursery. After a few weeks I asked how he was getting on only to be told:"He's fine, but he doesn't speak much English." They couldn't believe it when I told them he was English! He couldn't understand why he would speak English at school (for a similar reason he couldn't understand why our neighbour's children only spoke English and went to an English school).

Bonsoir Fri 12-Oct-12 09:42:55

My DD refused to speak French at school for the first half of Petite Section in her bilingual school. I only found out when her French class teacher pulled me over one day and told me that she was beginning to speak in French. I queried her and the teacher genuinely hadn't realised DD was fluent in French - she thought she was a beginner.

MrsSchadenfreude Mon 15-Oct-12 14:09:12

I would say, don't underestimate the difficulty of getting your kids into any of the French schools in London. A friend of ours, who was a British Ambassador, and whose kids had been educated exclusively in the French system, was unable to get one of his three kids into the Lycee (two got in at the last minute, but it was all horribly stressful). Unfortunately, this was the eldest, and having had nothing but the French system all her life, at age 14 she had to transfer to the UK system. They don't give any priority to the children of diplomats, not even if you say to them "Do you know who I am?" grin

I also think if you don't speak fluent French yourselves, then you may struggle with helping the kids with the homework when they are older.

Boobz Fri 19-Oct-12 05:15:20

Quick update: against all odds, DH aced his interview for Italy and DD1 will be starting at the Lycee in Rome in September. We'll be there for 3 years so returning to the UK when the kids are 6, 5 and 3.

So relieved! And excited to be going to Rome!

DelGirl Fri 19-Oct-12 12:10:53

ooh boobz, we can have a meet up, there are a few of us there, well I am an hour North of central Rome, how exciting smile. My dd is 7

MordecaiAndTheRigbys Fri 19-Oct-12 12:15:27

This might out me now but my ds attends an Irish speaking school. Two sister from Lithuania joined the school age 6 last year. They had not a word of English or Irish so doubly difficult. They are now thriving. Immersion works!!

brighterfuture Fri 19-Oct-12 12:25:12

My dc's entered the french system aged 6 and 3 and 2.5 . They had no french language at all.
It was definitely hardest on the 6 year old as by that age the language becomes a more important part of play. At 6 they are entering school in CP so will be expected to be able to sit still and learn in what compared to the uk system is an incredibly dull an uncreative environment and far more academic. It took my dc a good 6 months to learn french and for the 6 year old it was tough, Now 10 years on they are totally bilingual.

Boobz Fri 19-Oct-12 16:11:00

Yes Delgirl - let's keep in touch!

No regrets brighter future?

brighterfuture Fri 19-Oct-12 17:38:38

None at all. They've had a wonderful childhood that I could never have given them in the Uk . They can now choose to live in either country when they are adults and all the French colonies too. We go back to the Uk often and they have kept in touch with the Uk friends they had when they were little. I believe it has opened their horizons.

Boobz Sat 20-Oct-12 04:43:29

Great, I hope to be able to give them those things too.

Boobz Tue 23-Oct-12 10:34:29

Delgirl, does your daughter go to Lycée Chateaubriand de Rome? What's your experience of it?

DelGirl Tue 23-Oct-12 11:47:03

ciao boobz, no she doesn't, she goes to the local Italian scuola. I take it you want them to learn french in preparation for your future spell in France then?

Boobz Tue 23-Oct-12 14:04:04

Oh yes, sorry, I'd forgotten your advice was about her transition to Italian! Learning French primarily to be bilingual and to avoid state school in the UK, but we'll see how we go. Keep in touch - it would be lovely to meet a few MNers when I get there.

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