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Lycee Français Charles de Gaulle London - who can tell me what it's really like in the collège?

(13 Posts)
Chenille Mon 31-Mar-14 15:05:04


My son (very average, active, not bookish, has to be cajoled into doing homework etc) is currently in CM2 - his last year of primary. I'm English, but also speak fairly good French. Dad is French-speaking.

We speak mainly English at home and my husband travels a lot for work so it's up to me to help with homework. There isn't really much exposure to French apart from visits to and by French speaking family & friends. My son feels more comfortable conversing/reading in English.

He has managed to keep up so far depending on the teachers he's had. Some more laid back than others. But it's been hard work. Teachers say that he needs to speak more French outside school and have mentioned more than once how hard it is in the collège.

I am concerned whether he will manage. My husband insists that he will be fine and that overcoming difficulties and having to work hard will stand him in good stead for the future. He doesn't think that kids in English schools are pushed to work hard and believes that the French school system is the best in the world.

Can anyone tell me what it's like from 6ème upwards especially for kids who speak mainly English at home? Also, does anyone have any experience of the new international section as I wonder whether my son would be better off there as pupils do more English.

Thanking you in advance.

unobtanium Tue 01-Apr-14 08:21:00

I can't tell for sure, but to me he's not getting enough exposure to French and it will become increasingly difficult for him to keep up with his class if he stays in the French section.

Sorry I have no info on the new international section -- is it double curriculum or more like bilingual (some subjects taught in Eng and others taught in French?). If the latter it could be a nice compromise but if the former, too much of an additional burden.

French is not best for everyone and certainly not best for someone who feels more English than French (as I suspect your child does), who does not currently live in France and who may not be headed towards a French university.

Hope that has been helpful though I do not know the collège at all. Since you are the person who will be supporting your son through school, I would hope you get more of a vote than your H. Have you asked your son what he feels?

castlesintheair Tue 01-Apr-14 09:41:08

I don't know the school either but my DS is in 6ème in an entirely french collège and it is becoming increasingly difficult for him in as the work becomes harder. He is very bright and this has kept him afloat/ahead in some areas like maths but the cracks are starting to show as he has had no extra support with French or in anything, despite promises, and he started in September with zero French. He's coped well, has loads of friends and has very good French now but my advice to you is make sure your son will have a lot of support, not just in extra french but in understanding the curriculum. DH is fluent and mine is good, particularly written, but I still struggle with the differences especially in SVT (so overly complicated and wordy imo and not enough practical work) and maths which has to be different. If I could put my son in an international/British school I wouldn't hesitate but there is nothing like that where we live. I'm seriously considering going home (which will mess up our family in every way) or home ed'ing but he loves the social side and I will go crazy with him at home. Sorry for ramble but hope this helps.

hattymattie Tue 01-Apr-14 11:02:34

I have two bilingual children in Lycee in France, they were born here - you should understand the system that you're opting into - the French baccalaureate is extremely demanding and if I had the choice I'd put mine all in for A levels where they could choose to study subjects they love and not obliged to study a range of subjects such as sport, and philosophy which will have a bearing on their future results and consequently their university entrance.

I haven't personal experience of the London Lycee but I understand it is and extremely good and therefore demanding school. If you are British opt for the British system for all the reasons above.

Bonsoir Tue 01-Apr-14 17:15:37

OP - is your DH actually French? You say he is "French-speaking" in your OP.

I wouldn't inflict French education on anyone who wasn't a French national or living in France! Sadly my DCs are French nationals and you don't qualify as a proper French person unless you have been to French school.

LillianGish Tue 01-Apr-14 17:46:22

Do I know you? I also have a son in CM2 and a daughter in 5eme. We are English and only speak English at home so in a similar situation to you. The thing you need to know about the lycée is that it is extremely academic and and absolute factory (indeed the previous proviseur described it as such when we went for an introductory meeting when my dd was in CM2). There are too many students for such a small space so lessons run from 8.30 to 6 with various gaps in the timetable and a variable start and finish times. The workload is tremendous and there is a lot of homework. It is a big step up from primaire- not in the level of the work (which is pretty much a repetition of CM2 in 6eme) but in the level of supervision and nurturing which is pretty non-existent. That said my dd absolutely ADORES being there - loves having to be self-reliant and takes a pride in the fact that she is up to it. Your husband is probably right - your ds will almost certainly be fine and like my dcs, never having experienced the English system, won't know what he is missing. Having said that the lycée is what it is - my husband says the school motto should be Fit in or F* Off - so you have to decide whether that is what you want (especially as it is you who has to deal with the school).

Chenille Mon 07-Apr-14 09:43:22

Thank you so much for your advice. It is a difficult decision, but I'm starting to give more serious thought to moving him to an English school sooner rather than later. One concern I have is that he would then be having bog standard French 'je m'appelle' lessons and will be bored stiff and his French will not develop further. I am hoping that as he has been immersed in French at school since the age of 3 that he will not lose it. I will look into one to one French tuition for him. Does anyone have experience of a similar situation? And of how much French input would be needed to help him maintain and progress his level of French? Thanking you in advance.

LillianGish Mon 07-Apr-14 11:50:04

Friends I know who have done this opt for a different foreign language at school for the reasons you have mentioned. If your DH is French then it shouldn't be too difficult to keep up the French at home - does he usually speak to your ds in French? In terms of keeping up to scratch with writing and grammar most people I know do something called CNED - I don't know much about it, but you can google. Obviously this requires a degree of effort on their part to get the dcs to cooperate which in some case has resulted in them putting their kids back into the French system as they couldn't be bothered. It is not an easy decision. Personally I think that if you are going to stay in England and your child is not getting on with the French system then it is probably better to switch. However, I think you have to accept that once out of the French system - unless you are really reinforcing it at home - the French is going to go on the back-burner. Have you thought of letting him go into 6 eme and seeing how he gets on? My feeling is that the international section is probably not the answer since, as I understand it, pupils essentially follow the French curriculum (but without a second language) and then have an extra 5 or 6 hours a week in English. I don't have any experience of this, but looking at the workload my dd has at the moment, I wouldn't wish another five hours on her. The other possibility of course is to join the lycée and then transfer to the British section (in 3eme I think) for GCSEs and the A levels (though I believe the fees are considerably more expensive if you take this option).

unobtanium Mon 07-Apr-14 12:36:08

I think you're right to seriously consider switching back to English system.
As regards keeping his French up, I don't think CNED is going to be especially helpful for you as it requires support from someone who understands the French system, and real commitment in keeping up with the CNED schedule for tests etc. The real benefit of CNED is for kids being educated in France and temporarily unable to access a particular subject at school. Eg one of my dc's used it to fill a gap in provision for Mandarin just after switching schools. CNED allowed him to continue with Mandarin in his new collège and take it up again in school when he moved to his lycée.
Taking up another foreign language at school instead of French is a good suggestion, if you end up moving him into the English system -- then get private teaching to keep up the French at home. It's a good plan. Plus your DH will presumably often speak to your DC in French... But also look into whether his new school can also provide him some kind of accelerated French classes. Many can do this.

Bonsoir Mon 07-Apr-14 18:40:47

There's a special version of the CNED for French DC being educated in English schools but I am not sure whether it extends to secondary.

duckylou Fri 02-May-14 05:21:31

agree with the other posters.

the level of French in a british section will obviously be lower, however it depends on the year group. our dd is in an advanced class, theres another full french girl, teacher is french etc... can borrow extra books, teacher native speaks in french ...yes its easier, but still much beyond basic. in private education children hv been learning french since junior often.

cannot make decision i wd say until after sixieme as this is a tricky year. interestingly my dd now has better friend in the french section, even tho she moved into another class.

hereshegoesagain Wed 07-May-14 16:53:09


I don't quite agree with the other posters to be honest. I am in a similar situation to you, but I am the French one, my partner being English, and we speak English at home although I speak french to the kids as much as possible, consciously or not.
I have a son in 3eme, so the last year of the college, at CH. de Gaulle. He has been there since the age of 5. He is what they call an anglophone, like your child. He does well but he is fairly docile and quite bright, if a little lazy ( boys hey ). He doesn't really make much effort and he's doing fine. He doesn't have that much homework to do , but some of his friends do have tons, so it really depends on the teachers/class. I find that as they progress through the years, they are more and more mixed between francophones and anglophones, especially as a lot of anglophones ( his friends ) have moved to the British Section this year. We couldn't afford it so it was not an option for us. There are less and less kids as they get older, people change system in college/lycee years.
You could always try, the level is high and the teachers demanding but you will need to help ( I do have to , most nights or on the phone from work ) as well as encourage book reading, revision books for holidays etc. The teachers absolutely don't help in the french system, it is sink or swim. It's hard work but I think, really worth it. If anything, it's great for your kid's future,will look very good on the CV even for switching schools... On the other hand, if you child doesn't follow, you can always take him out, there are ideal years to do this, the best being just before they start to study for GCSEs ( we have thought about it and finally decided against it last year), so around 13/14 yrs old.
Beware also : what is your child's birthday month? Mine is september and he would have to drop one year if moved to the english system. At the Lycee, if your child choses the British Section in 3eme , he would then be a year ahead of the english system ( if that makes sense?) as the calendar is different. So GCSEs at 15 and not 16.
Anyway, hope this helps. I have a second son and we're still wondering what to do and if we should try the Lycee or not.... fees are going up and will be more steeply than recently I have been told. The tendency is to rely more on families to pay to fund more schools opening. So be aware of it. Families are reportedly taking kids out more in recent years due to fees increasing and bursaries shrinking.
I am considering the CNED for my second son in case he goes to an english school, I have been told it's surprisingly quite efficient, you can make a group with other parents and pay for a tutor....
good luck in your choice!

duckylou Wed 14-May-14 12:34:34

Re reading the thread, i agree w bonsoir.

If neither of you are French, and have not/do not, live in a French speaking country, why push your child through.

The French btw are desperate to get their kids into international !! Heheh

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