14 vital tips for expat parents with kids in French schools

Here's how to make life easy if you have young kids at school in France, according to one mother in Paris.

14 vital tips for expat parents with kids in French schools
All Photos: AFP
Putting your child through school in France might sound like a headache for any foreign parent, but it's honestly not that bad, says Aussie mum Bree Barclay, whose blog can be viewed here
Here are 14 tips to make life easier.
1. First and foremost, be nice to the door lady — she knows everything and can keep an eye on your daughter if you’re running late and don’t have time to take her out of the pram and wait for her to meander up the stairs, down the stairs, sit in the book corner and refuse to leave etc.
2. Source an ally – find a friendly parent who speaks your language so you can double-check things you may not understand. I found an absolute gem who even accompanied me to the parent-teacher interviews to translate, which was an extremely kind gesture and a huge help to me.
3. Don’t be disappointed if the teacher fails to gush about your child’s every achievement. They generally seem better at letting you know if something is wrong. Red lines and upside down smiley-faces are not uncommon on incorrect work.
4. Attend as many school functions as you can such as fêtes, cake sales and excursions (not possible for everyone I know).
5. Familiarise yourself with the weekly timetable – our school has a different pick-up time every day which requires some forward planning.
6. Read the school menu. If everything else is failing at least you know your child is being fed extremely well.
Children at a school in northern France's Caen. Photo: AFP
7. Be prepared to come to enjoy the routine of school. Equally, be prepared for a barrage of school holidays where you suddenly find yourself reprising the role of chief entertainer (or find other arrangements if you’re working).
8. Embrace the Doudou. Australians tend to frown upon 4-year-olds cruising around with dummies and raggedy comforters in public. Not so in France – it’s simply a tool to help your child settle themselves and be you know, comforted.
9. Be prepared for France’s near obsession with your child’s independence. This is wonderful and a bit snaggy on the heart strings at the same time. On one hand, they teach children clever tricks to put on their own coats and gloves. On the other, parents are invited NOT to linger in the classroom.
10. Discipline is a thing and French teachers are unafraid to dish it out. Don’t be surprised to see your child sitting in a corner as punishment for disobedience or disruptive behaviour.
11. Ensure your child has a substantial breakfast. Morning tea does not exist in France and the kids don’t eat until lunchtime.
12. Try to be on time! It will keep you in everyone’s good books and reduce stress for you and your child. If anyone has any tips for me on this I’m all ears (yours sincerely, Perpetually Late).
13. Try try try. Make it clear that you are trying with language and the French way of doing things. If staff/parents get a sense that you have no interest, you will be left in the dark about what is going on with your child and the school.
14. Finally – make sure your child has a good wash daily. French schools may be super at developing your child’s independence but they do not account for the bottom-wiping capabilities of many 3 and 4-year-olds.
By Bree Barclay, an Australian mother of two who has lived in Paris for a year. To read the rest of her 23 tips for expat parents you can visit the site Mama Loves Paris blog, where is story first appeared. 

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School closures rise in France as government relaxes rules for parents

The number of school and class closures in France has increased, the education minister reported on Wednesday, but the government has relaxed the rules for parents sending children back to class.

School closures rise in France as government relaxes rules for parents
Children over 11 in France have to wear masks during the school day. Photo: AFP

A total of 81 establishments and 2,100 individual classes have closed after discovering Covid-19 cases on their premises.

The number was a rise on the figures last week when 28 schools and 524 individual classes were closed.

“We have around 1,200 new Covid cases among pupils compared with last week,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told the LCI channel on Wednesday.

“We shut down a class as soon as there are three cases,” he said.

Blanquer noted that the closures represent just a small fraction of the 60,000 schools across France, calling the beginning of the new school year “the best possible given the health crisis.”


French officials have warned nonetheless that new restrictions might be required to stem a worrying increase in coronavirus cases since August.

IN NUMBERS: How fast are France's Covid-19 rates increasing?

No more official sick notes

Despite the surge in cases registered in schools, children with Covid-19 symptoms will no longer need to provide a doctor's sick note (une attestation) to return to class, Blanquer told BFMTV on Tuesday evening.

Instead, parents will need to fill in what in French is called an attestation sur l'honneur, a written document signed by the parent, stating either that the child tested negative for the virus, or a doctor has ruled out that the child has Covid-19.

READ ALSO: The vocabulary you need to fill in French forms (including the coronavirus 'attestation')

This followed a series of complaints from medical establishments across the country that they were overwhelmed with demands for sick notes and that parents were sending children with very light symptoms such as runny noses to get checked up.

According to the new rules, children who are identified as contact cases must get tested for the virus seven days after their last contact with the confirmed case. If the result comes back negative, the child can go back to class provided that a parent has provided a signed written attestation saying that the test came back negative. No proof for the test result will be required. 

A child with Covid-19 symptoms can also return to class if this attestation indicates that a doctor has ruled out the virus as cause for the symptoms, without providing any proof for the medical appointment.

The new health protocol will be updated and published on the education ministry's website shortly.

READ ALSO: The French school vocab parents need

'Chomage partiel'

Parents affected by the school closures can access to the partial unemployment scheme bolstered by the government at the beginning of the lockdown in March to help businesses foot their employees' salaries to prevent mass layoffs.

Those concerned will “benefit from income reimbursement from the first day of their stoppage of work, and at the latest until the end of the period of isolation,” the health ministry said in a statement.

Only one parent per household will be eligible for the help scheme, and only if they can document that their child's school or nursery closed down due to Covid-19, or that their child has been identified as a contact-case.

Higher education 

Late Tuesday, the University of Montpellier in southern France said it had suspended classes at its medical school after some 60 students tested positive after a party.

The University of Rennes in western France also suspended classes for second- and third-year medical students this week after 83 tested positive.

The government has placed 82 of the country's 101 departments on red alert, and officials in Bordeaux and Marseille this week tightened restrictions on public gatherings and retirement home visits after seeing a surge in new Covid-19 cases. 

READ ALSO: Why are Bordeaux and Marseille facing tougher Covid-19 restrictions but not Paris