What age does school start in France? 2 or 3?

(17 Posts)
wiggetywac Sat 26-Feb-11 14:25:28

Hi! I am new to this site so I hope I am posting to the right place.

My DH and I are thinking of moving to France with our 3 DCs. It may be that we move in time for the beginning of the school year in Sept 2012 or for the following year. If we went for next September my youngest would be 2.3 (and my oldest would be 5.6). I have been looking into the French school system and am confused as to whether school starts at 2 or 3 years. I gather that ecole maternelle is full-day Monday to Friday (excluding Weds) but is that from 3 years? If they go at 2 is it half days? Is that where the difference lies? I am very confused!


natation Sat 26-Feb-11 15:08:33

Schools years are on year of birth in France, although a few children are held back due to a late month of birth or moved forward due to early moth of birth, with co-operation of parents and school, even greater numbers are held back from primaire onwards due to failing and are obliged to "redouble" a year.

There are 3 years of maternelle or kindergarten, petite section (aged 3 on 1st January 2012 for September 2011 start), moyenne section (aged 4 on 1st January 2012 for September 2011 start) and grande section (aged 5 on 1st January 2012 for September 2011 start). A few children aged still 2 by 1st January are admitted into petite section, often only part time, depends on the school, I'm sure the discretion means it's those who are eldest who get priority for these places.

So in September 2011, your eldest would be still 5 on 1st January 2012 so would start in grande section in September 2011. Your youngest is almost definitely going to be too young to start at all in petite section in the school year September 2011 to June 2012 and would start in September 2012 in petite section.

Schools are either communal and free and you usually get told which communal school your children can attend according to your address, or Catholic and have small fees. Each region has and "académie" whic overseas schools in the area, a bit like a UK Local Education Authoirty (LEA) and hopefully has a website with lists of schools on it.

I think this is a pretty accurate response.... otherwise my apologies and someone will be along to correct me.

BriocheDoree Sat 26-Feb-11 18:52:34

Natation is correct. Also, all kids can go half or full days from petite section (kids who turn 3 that calendar year). Really it depends on whether or not you work. DD only went half days, DS does full days, but they sleep in the afternoon. There is no school on Wednesdays (or, at least, not until secondary) unless your kids are in private school.

SchrodingersCatFliesToOz Sat 26-Feb-11 19:00:03

In england the draw is in september, in france in december.
maternelles is from 2 and primary from 6.

SchrodingersCatFliesToOz Sat 26-Feb-11 19:01:40

Sorry (I type the wrong key)
Your youngest will be in maternelle (petite ) 1st year and your oldest in maternelle last year.

SchrodingersCatFliesToOz Sat 26-Feb-11 19:04:54

The one's who skip a year will be born in jan. The ones to double in dec, according to maturity at that age (or pushy parents). Further up, it will due to performances and abilities.
Again sorry for the multiple posts.

wiggetywac Sun 27-Feb-11 09:09:22

Thanks all! Very useful.

Just another quick question - if we went when my eldest was 6.5 do you think she would pick up French ok? It is unlikely she will have had French classes before we leave the UK

natation Sun 27-Feb-11 10:13:53

Our children arrived aged 10, 7 and 3, after 2 1/2 years the youngest 2 speak French more or less as a first language and English second now, the elder one speaks French as if he is a Spanish apparently!! Ok his French is not perfect but he is getting fine marks in secondary school.

So a 6 year old should find it a hge culture shock at first, don't expect anything amazing for the first 6 months, comprehension comes way before production (eg speaking and writing) just like it does for toddlers. Our 7 year old was pretty fluent by 12 months.

frenchfancy Sun 27-Feb-11 17:50:40

Just to add that it does depend on whether you are in a town or a rural area. In a rural area with a small school your 2 yr old may well be accepted in September, provided they were out of nappies. Our school would certainly take them. The choice of half day or full day is up to the parents at that age. In the afternoon all the children are put down for a siesta anyway.

In terms of your eldest, in an ideal world you should make sure that she doesn't miss the CP year (so for a child born in 2006 - the year starting september 2012)

That is where they learn to read in France, and the methods used are important for the following years. Even if your daughter can already read in English this year is an important one.

Obviously the younger the better though. If you can't get french classes try the Muzzy DVDs.

flyingcloud Sun 27-Feb-11 20:17:16

What's CP?

Greythorne Sun 27-Feb-11 20:22:15

CP is cours préparatoire

It is the equivalent of Year 1 in the UK.

Grand Section = Reception
CP = Year 1
CE1 = Year 2
CE2 = Year 3
CM1 = Year 4
CM2 = Year 5

flyingcloud Sun 27-Feb-11 20:43:54

Thanks - not English though, so Reception, Y1, Y2 don't mean a great deal to me! Thank you for explaining though.

Greythorne Sun 27-Feb-11 21:06:42

Sorry, flyingcloud....

Petite section is for children aged 2.9 - 3.8
Moyenne Section: 3.9 - 4.8
Grande Section: 4.9 - 5.8
CP: 5.9 - 6.8

frenchfancy Mon 28-Feb-11 07:31:02

I don't think is has been mentioned yet - compulsory schooling does not actualy start in France until 6 yrs, or rather the cp year. pretty much all children go before then, but it is not law.

wiggetywac Mon 28-Feb-11 14:11:07

Thanks for the advice and info.

Natation - it must be so odd to see your child speaking another language within the year. I cannot imagine my kids babbling away in French!

I am quite daunted by it all - the going to the Mairie to register my DCs, the first day at school (how do I prepare them for the language barrier? Should I expect them to refuse to go to school for a while?)

Do you remember what it was like for you and your DCs in those first few weeks? I would love to hear your experiences - and your coping mechanisms!


SchrodingersCatFliesToOz Mon 28-Feb-11 14:32:26

I would say stop worrying so much! grin

DD1 was 3.4 when we put her in a 3rd language school she had no knowledge of. She is fine, perfectly fluent in her 3rd language (on the contrary of her parents blush). She was a bit frustrated at 1st not being able to understand everything but communication is not entirely language base, she was really good at body language mimics, games... which helps her cope.
Everyone wanted to play with her because she was having so much fun on her own.
I must admit her teacher is excellent and she had the same one since day one (she is 6 now).
I would try to ask to meet the teacher before you start (might be difficult in a french school). A lot depends on him/her.

yes DD1 complained about getting to school for a while. If they have fun it shouldn't last long.

You can't prepare them really, they will be worried and have no real knowledge of time, so they will worried for a long time. The only think you can do is starting to teach them french now. ANd educated them about the new culture (making it fun)
good luck

wiggetywac Tue 01-Mar-11 20:39:24

Good point. I will chill out!!

Thanks everyone x

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