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First thing to mention: we're not in the UK - we live in Germany, where it is fairly common for teenagers to take part in extended exchange schemes with other countries as a way of improving their language skills.
DD1 is desperate to do a three-month exchange to France next year, when she will be 15. It runs via her school (ie the school told us about it and supports it), but she is responsible for finding a partner by herself and we need to arrange all the details with the other parents. She's put a lot of work into finding someone she shares interests with and now has the perfect candidate (we hope), who lives in Nantes.
The girl will be coming to us from April to June, and DD1 goes there from September to November next year.
So, if you live in France, how would you compare the school system there, and what do we really need to watch out for? The programme coordinator has just said that the French school system is quite strenuous and the school day is long. Is it true that lessons are much more old-fashioned and frontal?
Anyone know anything about living in Nantes?
If you've either done a school exchange yourself, or your DC have done one, what was it like having a French teenager in your house? What were the greatest cultural differences (bearing in mind that the poor teenager who comes to us will have to cope with our English culture at home and German culture in school)? Were they pretty sniffy about the food you served? Did your DC get on with them even at the end of the exchange?
Okay! We lived in France for ten years during which one of our sons was in school from age 13 to 17 in a college and lycee before deciding it was too rigid and he wanted to do A levels in the UK and not a bac. Our older son tried french school at 16 and hated it after UK school. We withdrew our youngest who is now 12 (the other two are 24 and 26 now) as we just knew french school would not suit him at secondary level and he was home educated prior to returning en famille this summer to the UK from age 8 onwards. We lived in Brittany about 100 miles from Nantes, so I speak from that experience but I have heard that french schools are the same the country over. I would say that they are much too long days particularly at lycee - 8 in the morning till 5 at night, 4 lessons morning and 4 in the afternoons which my son said he never could concentrate for. He said he did much more work in the UK than he did in France. You HAVE to eat school meals unless you can walk home for lunch which my son hated. There is no such thing as a vegetarian meal (not that he was but my friend's daughter was and she was given the veg plus gravy when she said she didn't eat meat!) It is indeed much more regimented and old fashioned than in the UK. If you have a child that responds well to this she will be fine though. There is a certain amount of racism in schools but it would depend on the school and I imagine that being in a big city like Nantes you would probably be among the offspring of more professional parents and find less of it. We lived in the countryside and were surrounded by very poor and badly educated parents with no ambition for their children other than continuing in the family tradition on farms or in factories. Nantes should be a good choice. If we had stayed in France we would have sent our son to Vannes to a school that had a section for gifted children, which he is. No uniform. They don't shower much. Our son was told in the science class (whole class were told this) that the English shower every day and if you do this you will get fungus growing on you. Whole class looked to see if he had any poking out anywhere! Very good way to hone language skills though - total immersion. My sons are fluent and so am I. By the way, I worked as a language assistant myself in both a college and a lycee professionel so have insider views. Staff work only 18 hours a week I think it was and have the rest for preparation time, plus they may work in more than one widely spaced school. They are not employed by the school but by the central Academie who will send a teacher where THEY want not where the teacher wants! Admin staff are just that, you probably won't find a head of a secondary school who has ever taught. My friend Izzie is a head and she is from industry! 3 months should be fine though and the novelty won't have worn off for the rest of the class who will enjoy having her for that time. Good idea. Go for it. Hope this was helpful.