Contemplating a move to Geneva in the next 3-5 years but confused by how school years work and when will be best for DD...

(34 Posts)
legallyblond Thu 05-Dec-13 19:58:30

So... We thought v seriously about moving to Geneva 2 years ago. I, a lawyer and the breadwinner (DH is a SAHD), was offered a job but it wasn't the right job or the right time - I'd recently had DD and we def wanted another. Instead, we left London for the countryside. However, the Geneva idea hasn't gone away (makes sense because of the type of law I do and because my degree was French) and now our family is (we think!) complete - I've just had twins(!) - we're thinking about it again with a 3-5 year time frame in mind for making the move. We need the dust to settle a but after having the (surprise!) twins (12 weeks ago...) and I want to make the next "rank" in my current firm.

A huge draw is giving the DCs the opportunity to be bi (or tri) lingual. Doing French and Italian for my degree made me acutely aware if what a massive blessing it is (I'm not - I learnt my languages the hard way!). Anyway, we would, all being well, plan to move for the long term (for all or most of the DCs school years at least) and would def be doing the local public schools.

I have friends who live in and around Geneva and while some live on that Geneva to Nyon strip, others are over the border for the cheaper rents - so upshot is we might be in either the French or Swiss system I expect. The vague plan is that DH would continue to be a SAHD and, as he's a teacher, would do a bit if coaching to ensure written English was up to English standards.

DD is 3 and was born in Oct 2010. She's just started in the first year if the nursery at a pre prep/prep here and, in the English system, is one of the very oldest in the year. She'll be going into English reception in Sept 2015.

I vaguely know the French system but not the Swiss. I'm confused about what year she would be in when and when, ideally, would be best for her (not worried about the twins!) given she has no French (although we'd try to prepare her). To a large extent, it depends on what job comes up when, but I'd like to have an idea.

Re the Swiss system, I gather the first proper year of ecole primaire is "6+". I'm guessing that means, for her, from Sept 2016, then she'd turn 6 that Oct. it would include all children born in Jan-Dec 2010? Is this first year when they learn to read and right and therefore the ideal year to start (it's unlikely to be earlier)? Would Sept 2017, ie the second year of primaire, be markedly harder for her?

Re the French, would Cours Prep for her also be Sept 2016? Again, I gather this is key as they learn to read and write in CP? Or do they learn in Grande Section?

Generally, how hard would she find it all at 6, 7, 8? I'm guessing at least two horrid terms for her sad? Also, does anyone think either the (French) Swiss or the French system is markedly better than the other. I thought perhaps Swiss as ibgayhervthey get v good at German, but that may be a misconception!

All rather far in advance and vague at the mo, but I sort of need to suss out my plan of attack for when I go back to work after maternity leave!

Saminthemiddle Thu 05-Dec-13 20:15:35

This is the official Vaud website re schools

Le site du Canton de Vaud vous a été recommandé : http://www.vd.ch/themes/formation/scolarite-obligatoire/?L=fr?tx_vdexcavationexchange_pi1[resp][type]=search

I don't know about French schools but my DS is in school in VD and is doing well, three languages, the main one is French, so it might suit your family.
It can be hard for children to begin with, it took my DS four years to become fluent in French, but he has always been happy except the first week smile
They are continually assessed an streamed at 12/13 so it is a good idea to start asap to get the groundwork in grammar and German.

legallyblond Thu 05-Dec-13 20:37:42

Thanks Sam. I expect we'd be in Vaud if we rented in Switzerland. So DD's first year of obligatory school in Vaus would be Aug/Sept 2015, just like here, because she'd be 4 on 31 July 2015 (turning 5 in Oct 2015). Realistically, I doubt we'll get there before the following year (2016), which is annoying, but gives food for thought about maybe going earlier..... Is the first year like reception here? Do they learn to read and write then or later?

legallyblond Thu 05-Dec-13 20:49:03

Actually Sam, that link is doubly helpful as, for us with DCs with Sept and Oct birthdays, it means the Swiss (Vaud) system is massively better than the French as the DCs will be one of the oldest in their year instead of one of youngest in the French system (where I understand the cut offs run by calendar years - I lived in Paris for a while but pre children!).....

EspressoMonkey Thu 05-Dec-13 21:11:52

The first two years they actually do very little. Canton to Canton will vary, we are in Vaud and the emphasis here is on play and discipline for the first year at least.

legallyblond Thu 05-Dec-13 21:21:59

Thanks Espresso... Sounds like starting in the 2nd, or even 3rd year of obligatory school in Vaud (ie years 1 or 2 here) wouldn't be too detrimental to her French literacy then. I just think it would be v hard for her to be able to read and write relatively fluently in English and then suddenly be illiterate at the new school. I was hoping (and sounds like it might be the case) that the fact that they tend to learn to read and write later on the continent might mean she gets to learn alongside the French speakers....

Also, the fact that the cut off for school years is 31 Huly in Vaud will certainly tempt us to pay the extra rent to be there as opposed to over the border... DH is a primary teacher (but mostly home with the DCs from next year onwards) and says being older in the school year makes a big difference....

The whole move is still a distant plan, so I'd be very grateful for advice and comments!

Saminthemiddle Fri 06-Dec-13 06:55:55

She wouldn't miss too much the first two years because it is very much like kindergarten as they play, but it would be good for her French tbh. I taught my DC to read English during those years, bought all the books which helped them considerably. Also, I have a Aug child and he is the one of the oldest which is preferable to the English system! Years 5 & 6 are quite hard so it is a good idea to get very established and fluent years before then or else your DC might miss VB stream which she would need for uni. However, the VD is flexible as VG stream get you into HES uni and it is possible to move up but if you have a bright child, then it is worth trying for VB in year 6.

Saminthemiddle Fri 06-Dec-13 07:01:16

Just saw your question - yes, year one here is like reception in the uk but it moves quicker. Yr 2 here is already quite hard in that they learn conjugation of verbs, grammar, spellings etc. My DC struggled a lot as this was the year they started, it took years to catch up plus learn to speak in French, then learn German as well.

Saminthemiddle Fri 06-Dec-13 07:35:34

Sorry, I mentioned years 5 & 6, they have changed the years to fit in globally so that is now 7P and 8P in Vaud. These are the years that your DD will already need to be fluent and doing well if you want VB stream.

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 07:42:49

Bilingual French-English education at Ferney-Voltaire on the French side.

DelGirl Fri 06-Dec-13 07:46:12

I moved abroad when my dd was 5.5. She had a year in kindergarten before starting school. I think 6 months is enough time to get to grips enough with the language but I would think it would be a little isolating to go to school with only a very basic understanding. I know people do move mid year etc but if you have a choice, then that is what I would suggest. Unless of course she has lessons before hand but I think it's easier (for children anway) to be immersed.

legallyblond Fri 06-Dec-13 11:14:00

Thanks so much all! This is so helpful. I'd come across that English stream at Ferney Voltaire before.... Thanks Bonsoir - v interesting. I'm hoping DH could teach enough English literacy on the side if we're in Switzerland... He's taught reception through to year 6.

Realistically, I can't see us going before the beginning of year 1 here. DD would be 5 turning 6, so the second year of obligatory school in Vaud (not sure of Geneva canton is the same..?). It would be tough on her... But I think worth it in the long term. I know I'd have some teary moments if she were struggling though! It might be year 2 here, 3rd year obligatory in Vaud, which obviously wld be even harder....

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 13:20:42

If you live in France, your DC will be eligible for home fees status at university if they want to return to England. Not if you live in Switzerland.

legallyblond Fri 06-Dec-13 13:55:10

Sam - I'm a bit confused... You said the first two years are like kindergarten and about play etc (which was my understanding) but then in your next post say the first year is like reception but moves faster and by the second year, they're doing serious grammar etc. sorry - I'm being dumb I think!

Do you mean that by the second year of obligatory school 5 turning 6, she'd be doing serious grammar and that this is the year in which your DC started and struggled...?

legallyblond Fri 06-Dec-13 13:58:26

Bloody good point Bonsoir... Although the way home fees are going, perhaps there won't be much difference.... That seems like (valid!) very long term planning!

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 14:04:40

I suspect that the already significant difference will remain between home/EU and international rates. Both of course will be sky high!

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 14:05:41

French primary school (especially when combined with an international British section) will be closer to the timetable of English school than Swiss school.

legallyblond Fri 06-Dec-13 14:24:17

Hmmm... But they'd be young not old in the year... But maybe that doesn't matter... And we'd get more propery for our rent..... It's all pie in the sky right now - I have to do mat leave, go back to work and then get a job first!

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 14:26:27

I wouldn't worry about that. In fact, being old for year in France isn't great in many ways (you don't learn to read until you are nearly 7).

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 14:27:07

Maybe your DH could get a job in the British primary section?

legallyblond Fri 06-Dec-13 14:29:28

Bonsoir - you are seriously fuelling my dreaming / planning!

Saminthemiddle Fri 06-Dec-13 14:30:07

Sorry legallyblond about the year groups! Even I am confused about them as they have changed. The first two years of school so aged 5/6 are play orientated and holding a pencil and not many hours tbh. This is now called year 1 ( I've checked the link now smile ) so year 3 is when it all starts!
Also re uni, my DC paid UK fees but not sure how that worked and now I think EU is the same as UK? Also I think Scotland treats EU differently than England...very confusing.

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 14:31:11

TBH, it sounds like you have potential to make this work! You get a good legal job in Geneva, your DH gets a job in the primary where your DCs will go to school (so he will both earn and be able to understand their bilingual education), your DCs will be well looked after all around! And quality of life on the French side of the Swiss border is great - much cheaper food etc than in Switzerland.

Saminthemiddle Fri 06-Dec-13 14:32:28

There is a new GEMS school in Etoy, nr Nyon - your DH can get a job there and maybe you would get reduced fees!

legallyblond Fri 06-Dec-13 14:32:58

To return to the French question, am I right in thing CP is the key year for literacy? And for DD that would be Sept 2016? I guess Sept 2015 would be GS for her (this is based on living with a French family for a year a decade ago, so could be wrong..) and GS is the last year of "play"?

Saminthemiddle Fri 06-Dec-13 14:33:48

Bonsoir - yes, we go to France all the time for food shopping!

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 14:40:48

CP is the year DC are taught to read and write. It would be very hard to throw your DD into CP not speaking any French. Try to get her into GS at least.

castlesintheair Fri 06-Dec-13 14:41:26

My DD is the youngest in her year (CE1) and it has not been a problem for her at all aged 6 with ZERO french to start. We are in France. My 3 have been in local schools since September and love it. No problems at all. My eldest is nearly 12 and in college.

I appreciate it's not Switzerland but hope it offers some reassurance as you sound worried about how hard it will be for your DD. I was the same.

Also find that the curriculum is very similar to English one. Just different teaching methods and longer days in primaire.

legallyblond Fri 06-Dec-13 14:45:48

Thanks Castles!

So Bonsoir, GS would mean moving for Sept 2015? She'll be 5 in Oct 2015. Eek! That feels soon!

Bonsoir Fri 06-Dec-13 14:51:27

Yes, that would be the "comfortable" solution for your DD, IMO. She would have a year to learn to speak French before CP.

beresh Fri 06-Dec-13 19:57:49

Not that it makes much difference to your decision, but just to be correct,
home fees status at university in England does currently also apply to Switzerland, something to do with it kind of being in the EEA if not the EU.

Also Switzerland did well in the Pisa report, particularly in maths and the schools are the best funded in the world. Everything is free. We're over in the german part so don't really know what it's like in the french side though!

heather1 Fri 06-Dec-13 20:33:59

Hi, there is a book called Going local your guide to Swiss schooling' that may be helpful for you. There is also a Swiss schooling yahoo group that is a good source of information

EspressoMonkey Sun 08-Dec-13 20:48:20

Hey OP, slightly of topic, but if you are considering France v Switzerland i would think very carefully. They are quite different.

Annecy is lovely, but the villages closer to the Geneva border, ie. commutable distance to Geneva, are not so great. They are pretty run down and tired looking. Few villages seem to have shops open, there can be a real ghost town feeling. We have friends there and they find there is very little for DCs to do, especially in winter. My friend is very lonely and bored and they moved there from elsewhere in rural France, so no stranger to the isolation and other troubles typical with remote parts of France.

Swiss villages over the border though are much more livelier, better infrastructure, much cleaner and tidier, much more going on, things to do.

Switzerland is of course more expensive, but you get what you pay for i guess. Just something to think about.

MmeCinqAnneauxDor Tue 10-Dec-13 13:38:48

We moved when our kids were 6 and 4yrs old. We were in the Canton of Geneva.

DS was 4yr old and went into 1E - this was non-compulsory but he was used to being fulltime in Kindergarten in Germany, and settled in really well. It was a lot of drawing, craftwork and very gradual introduction into formal learning.

DD was 6yrs old and went into 1P. This was more formal learning.

They were speaking reasonable French within a year, and were almost fluent within two years. By the time we left 3 1/2 years later, they had pretty much caught up with their peers.

I would say that the Swiss primary schools are very good, but they are much more restrictive than the UK schools. Less emphasis on creativity, and more on turning out perfect little Swiss citizens. A big emphasis on personal responsibility, and pretty much no provision for SN or kids who have difficulty fitting in. Their anti-bullying policy was non-existent.

Really important when deciding where you want to live - and I know this sounds really odd - is which side of the town your office is. If you are out near the UN, then you will want to be in Vaud, or on that side of the lake. Having to cross town can often take an extra 30 mins - the traffic in Geneva is horrific.

If your office is over towards Rive, then go for that side of the lake - some nice villages on the Swiss side are Corsier, Anieres, Hermance. Vesenaz is a bit larger, and doesn't have the cosy village feel.

The French towns are not nearly as nice - Douvaine is quite far out, as is Annemasse. When you live within a certain distance of the border, you can choose to send the kids to French schools. I don't know the other side of the lake as well, but agree with Espresso that the Swiss villages are generally a bit nicer.

You will also have to be careful with your employment contract - some companies don't let their employees live outwith Switzerland, especially if accommodation is paid by them.

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