Moving to France with 7 year olds - Advice please!(5 Posts)
We're moving to SW France with my 7 year old daughters and looking for advice from other ex pat/French mums about the school system and social integration.
The area is stunning and idyllic for young children, and I love being there too. My girls love the countryside and that area and both have said they feel free there and don't want to come home at the end of holidays, but I know that's different from actually living there permanently.
The school system seems for elementary at least, much less pressured than London and no real pressure/exams until the Brevet. BUT then after that Lycee etc it seems pretty intense. We'd love to avoid the pressure of 11 plus and London but then I worry that we might be giving them more pressure later on (if we stay) with long school days and tonnes of homework.
They will start in local catholic French school (Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri with Wed off) and will be totally immersed (feeling nervous for them!). We've had a French Au Pair who is helping them learn in advance - work through some CP and CE1 work books, plus TV in French and a few French playgroup sessions, but I'm sure they won't really pick it up until they're there. My French is patchy but improving all the time.
We have the option of staying for a year or so, or permanently. Would it be crazy/or even possible to go there for elementary and return to UK system later? Is Lycee/Bacc really such a nightmare? PISA report shows French children have much less exam related anxiety than UK and are generally happier at school, but anecdotal evidence (forums etc) seems to suggest otherwise.
Would love to hear your experiences positive and negative!
Also it would be fantastic to meet any mums who might happen to be living close to us (near Auch, Gers).
Sorry for the long post!
The SW is absolutely gorgeous, sounds like a wonderful opportunity.
The kids will pick up the language quickly once they meet new friends. Maintaining it in the UK I think would be the issue if you return after one year. I don’t think they’d have problems once back in the UK system.
I would say approach with caution - the system is very heavily test-reliant, even in primary. My daughter had tests every week from about CE1. Then around CM1, end of year tests to put them in groups for the next year.
If it’s only for a year, I would simply
We live in SW France and have two teenagers currently at a state lycée in a small town.
My kids went to a small village maternelle (one class for four year groups), then a catholic (private) primary in a very deprived setting (very good caring school with a socially mixed intake), a state college (middle school) in the same deprived town (a surprisingly good school with some excellent teachers) and now an ordinary state lycée in a slightly wealthier town about which I have more mixed feelings - some very good teachers but some awful. My oldest is in her last year and is set to do extremely well in the bac despite having attended very ordinary schools.
We have been globally happy with French education, although it certainly has its faults. My kids are academically able and good at exams - the French system tends to serve kids like this quite well (if you are a bit switched on and make the system work for you). It is also good for all rounders like my DD who is as good at maths as she is at languages and humanities.
A lot of British people struggle with the French system. I think there are a number of reasons for this:
- the French system is objectively not very good for some groups of students. It can be harsh on the less able, and SEN provision is poor unless you are very clued up about how things work and very proactive (the burden is on parents get to a diagnosis and a statement).
- British people generally don't understand the system and as a result struggle to get the most out of it.
- Many British parents choose selective (semi-) private catholic schools for their kids. At lycée level in particular (but also collège to a lesser extent) these schools often have rather rigid and unimaginative teaching and can put a lot of pressure on students.
I can't compare with the UK as my kids have never been to school there, but here in France even during the brief period that primary SATS were a thing, there was never anything like the pressure that my UK friends with primary school kids report. And the brevet is a non event. The pressure at baccalauréat level is not so much to do with passing the thing (most students pass as long as they make a minimal effort) but the pressure on good students to have the perfect "dossier" for post-18 applications.
I have experience of both. Ime college are the worst years so you could see out the primary years in France and then return to UK (if you want to) to start secondary. PM me if you want to know more. There's also a really nice FB group with a lot of mums in the area you are going to.
So good to hear directly from those who have experienced it! All really useful info and lots to consider.
It seems the most sensible thing is to just see how it all goes and make a call depending how they settle in.
Thanks again! Really appreciate you all taking the time to reply. X
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