‘The French are looking to see how we do things’

For this week’s My French Career we meet the headteacher of the British school of Paris, which he describes as "unashamedly British", to hear about his job, life in the French capital and the advantages of the British education system over the French one.

'The French are looking to see how we do things'
Keith Pearey (second right) with pupils from the British School of Paris. Photo: British school

Keith Pearey, 53, who is originally from Billingham in the north east of England is the current headteacher of the British School of Paris. He has been there for the last 24 years so he knows a thing or two about the place and the ups and downs of living and working in France. He also has possibly one of the best officers in Paris,as it over looks the River Seine at Croissy-sur-Seine.

The former deputy head was asked to take charge of the British school for the next year but he will then hand over the reins to Nick Hammond, whose appointment was announced recently. Pearey will then return to being deputy headteacher, a position he favours.

What’s it like being the headteacher of the British School of Paris?

It’s very, very challenging. Previously as deputy head I had more time with the children but as head you are much more involved in the bureaucratic side of things. We try to deliver a high quality product so with that comes challenges and quite a lot of pressure but the rewards are fantastic. It's nice to be with parents and families and to be able to offer something to them that they would only expect to get back in the UK.

What’s the best thing about the job?

The children, without question. Spending time with them outside the classroom beyond the day to day teaching on all the extra-curricular activities we offer.

What’s the worst thing about the job?

I will have to be careful what I say but I suppose it’s having to adhere to all the French laws and regulations etc.

What would expats in Paris send their kids to the British school?

We are in a privileged position to be able to offer what the British government offers as an education in Britain. We are obviously not obliged to follow everything and we tailor what we do to suit our needs but we are unashamedly British.

What do you make of the French education system?

Well it’s unashamedly academic. If you are bright and able you will do incredibly well.

What are the advantages of the British school over a French school in Paris?

I think the driving force behind the British system is the pastoral system of caring for the children. It’s not just about providing an education but also about looking after the children and making sure they are performing to the best of their ability and monitoring their progress all the time. I think the French are starting to look at international schools and they want to see how we are doing things.

We hope to tailor our teaching accordingly to the needs of each child. We hope to support them to help them pursue whatever career they wish to follow in the future and to allow them to follow their dreams.

Where do recruit your teachers from?

We have very close links to the UK and will recruit from both the state and independent sector over there. We had around 110 applicants for the most recent position which gives the school fantastic options and allows us to have a high quality of teaching.

You say the school is unashamedly British. Do you have lots of links with the British community?

We have very close links with the Royal British Legion and the British Embassy. The ambassador is actually our our patron. The school is a real link for the British community in the Paris area. It's a very tight knit and there' a wonderful atmosphere. But the school itself takes in children of all nationalities. I think the most recent figures showed that around 37 percent of pupils were British.

How did you actually end up in Paris?

I was teaching in the Middle East in a school in Amman, Jordan and an opportunity came up to move to Paris. I was actually advised by someone not to go to Paris. I said ‘why not’ and they said ‘Because you will never leave'. How right he was.

So why haven’t you left?

Paris has so much to offer. You just have to think about the cultural diversity here. There’s never a dull moment. There’s also the attraction of France itself, the lifestyle that we all enjoy. I have travelled a lot with the school but I always love coming back to Paris.

For more information on the British school visit


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‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?


One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”


One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”