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La rentrée - Back to school support thread

(21 Posts)
ViveLesVacances Wed 24-Aug-16 20:55:24

It's almost time to go back to school here in France (la rentrée for those not living here!) and my oldest son is off to collège!

I'm feeling really nervous about him starting. I know it's ridiculous and he'll be fine, but I've heard so many stories about how difficult the secondary years are here in France, I'm worried for him all the same. His primary school was a lovely, small, very community based school and he was very loved and cared for. Collège is so much bigger and everything just seems so foreign. DH is French but he hated collège and has stories of teachers belting blackboard erasers at students... so he doesn't ease my mind much!

The other two school aged children will be in grande section and CE1.

Please come and ease my mind with stories of your children thriving at secondary here in France! Is there any advice you can give for managing these school years?

ViveLesVacances Wed 24-Aug-16 23:16:43

Up feeding new born DD, no night owls around for a chat?

Ancienchateau Thu 25-Aug-16 07:53:57

I don't have first hand experience of Lycée yet but compared to the two primaries my DC have been to in France, yes the two collèges they have been to have been, er, challenging.

I have to be careful what I say because I have been in huge trouble for criticising the French system before despite every French person I know thinking the same. Feel free to pm me.

frozentree Thu 25-Aug-16 09:36:59

I think a lot depends on the college and your child. It's very difficult not to get sucked into the stress that French parents seem to make of the whole progress to 6eme, but all 3 of mine were very ready to go and have enjoyed it so far.
We're lucky, my girls are quite academic so the French system works well for them. They all do a lot of sport outside of school so have had to be very organised in terms of homework as otherwise they just don't have the time to fit it all in - so Wednesday afternoon and Sundays are vital for catching up with everything.
The teachers have been varied - some good, some not so good - but on the whole not nearly as strict or old-fashioned as I thought they would be. Again I don't know if this is because my 3 get good results, but the majority of teachers have been encouraging and positive. The college is relatively small (600 students) so after the initial week of it seeming huge compared to primary, it became very manageable.

My eldest is off to lycée this year which is huge (1500 students) so for us now college seems like a walk in the park in comparison. I'm sure your child will be fine, good luck!

ViveLesVacances Fri 26-Aug-16 09:57:12

Thank for your replies!

Overall we've had a really good experience with the school system here in France. Of course things are different and there are some things I don't agree with - but what system is perfect?

Glad to hear your DC do well, I'm sure DS will do well too. It's just his poor old mum who fusses!

sayatidaknama Fri 26-Aug-16 11:14:49

If you have clever, French DC collège won't be a problem. Although it is not an exciting place to be for early teens, just a place of dull lessons. If you don't have clever and/or French DC then it can be a problem.

Bobochic Fri 26-Aug-16 11:39:20

The challenge of college is how tedious it is. This then tends to become a breeding ground for challenging behaviour. Some heads of college are better than others at managing this.

CoteDAzur Fri 26-Aug-16 11:45:28

DD is starting collège in two weeks. It's a huge school, inside which we haven't even been allowed yet. They had no problem sending us off with a 5-page list of books and fournitures to get together, though.

I know this probably isn't meant to be a thread to whine about the French education system but... What is wrong with these people?!

Bobochic Fri 26-Aug-16 12:15:30

That sounds 100% standard practice, Cote.

Ancienchateau Fri 26-Aug-16 13:11:40

Er, coteDAzur where would you like me to start? grin

Sorry OP. As you were.

usuallydormant Fri 26-Aug-16 22:09:43

My eldest is going into Cm1 so 2 years before college, but the local one seems to do orientation days at the end of CM2 and have a buddy system where you can nominate someone from your old school to be in the same class. They reports back from parents and kids seem to be generally positive (although a few too many comments on the great cantine..) However they are moving from a lovely family style school with 80 kids to 1000+ so it is going to be a shock! We have had the standard spiel - if they get lost in college, they will stay lost but good/enthusiastic students will be ok. Not exactly inspiring...

Our big fear is with Lycee - the standard one in our area is apparently awful but there are good private and public options outside our area but I still have to figure out what, if any leeway there is for moving outside school district. We're hoping to get him into a good private college nearby but they don't want to know about applications for college until the year before.

I have to say our experience of primary here has been excellent (but I think my Irish perspective is v different to UK experiences) but I am dreading secondary. Mine are currently chomping at the bit to get back to school...

ViveLesVacances Fri 26-Aug-16 23:28:56

We had an orientation day with the parents and the kids also had an orientation day with their primary school.

DC were all born here and DH is French, so they're very French. I'm pretty scared of all this redoublement business - do you need to help/manage their revision quite strictly to make sure they stay on track?

DS is a normal student, strong in a couple of subjects, does average in others. I really don't know how he's going to go with the amount of study and the need for self discipline. I get that this is something he'd need to manage within any school system, but it seems here that they're expected to get into it really suddenly and the consequences for not keeping up can be steep.

ViveLesVacances Fri 26-Aug-16 23:29:37

Also, what do your anglophone children do in English class? Do they get to do different work if they wish it?

Bobochic Sat 27-Aug-16 07:21:07

Vive - please don't panic!

The one really big difference in expectations between England and France is that, in addition to set homework, DC in college are supposed to reread/revise every single lesson from that day in the evening. This isn't a big deal (not very much ground is covered each day in 6eme) but you should supervise your DC initially to get him into the habit.

Bobochic Sat 27-Aug-16 07:22:43

Policy for MT DC in LV1 English will vary school by school and even teacher by teacher. You can very legitimately ask about this at the Parents' evening.

Ancienchateau Sat 27-Aug-16 10:21:07

I too wouldn't worry about the work side of collège ViveLesVacances. My DC have only been in French schools for 3 years and have managed averages (well) over 75% every term. This has been achieved through no extra work (my eldest especially) and certainly not learning every single bloody lesson by heart every night!

At DS's last collège which was a private French one, during English lessons he went and had an extra French lesson. Currently they are at a collège with a section internationale. Might this be an option for your DC? I recommend it for Anglophones. It's the only 6 hours of the week they enjoy.

LillianGish Sat 27-Aug-16 12:56:01

I think if your dc have only ever been in French schools they will be fine. College looks horrendous from mine and Dh's British perspective, but our dcs know no other way and are actually really happy at school. They do have loads of homework, long hours and no time to do anything else, but so does everyone else and that's what school is like for them. They just get on with it. Re. redoublement, as I understand that doesn't happen any more since this year as part of the education reforms. Redoublement only happens now if the parents ask for it.

LillianGish Sat 27-Aug-16 12:57:42

It's the only 6 hours of the week they enjoy. Same here! It's six extra hours on top of the French curriculum, but they LOVE it

CoteDAzur Sat 27-Aug-16 13:22:06

Ancien - My DD is starting section internationale this year at collège. We have high hopes that it will be different than the very French way of teaching kids suffer around here, but we'll see. Some lessons (history, geography, literature) are going to be taught in English, by native English speakers, which has to be an improvement over the "teachers" she has previously had who frankly could not even speak English.

Bobochic Sat 27-Aug-16 13:28:07

Also - to reassure you - even though the French system looks tough to some English sensibilities, our experience has been that DCs who have been successful in the French school system are far better prepared for university in England than are English DCs who have done A-levels even - than those.who--.--went to.very expensive schools such -as-.Eton wink

Ancienchateau Sat 27-Aug-16 13:58:59

Cote - she will love it. Not only is SI taught in English, it is taught English style so instead of spending the lesson copying notes from the board, they have lots of discussions, acting, group work, FUN! I've been really impressed by the quality of the work too. As Lillian says, it is extra hours but my DC don't mind as it's such a welcome relief for them from the tedium of the French curriculum.

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