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La rentrée: Everything that's new about schools in France this September

The Local France
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La rentrée: Everything that's new about schools in France this September
Children will be heading back to school on September 2nd. Photo: AFP

Some 12 million pupils returned to school in France on Monday. Here's what you need to know about everything that's new in the French education system.


Pupils go back to school, or start school for the first time, on Monday, September 2nd in 2019 and the date also marks the start of some changes to the system.


1. Lowering of the school age

The age that children must start education in France has been lowered from six to three.

In practice this won't make a huge amount of difference, as 98 percent of children in France already attend nursery (école maternelle) from the age of three, before moving up to école primaire (primary school) at the age of six. However the attendance at nursery will now to compulsory. 

Although it is part of the schooling system, the curriculum at the école maternelle generally revolves around arts, crafts and games with the basics of reading being started in the final year to prepare the children for school. The aim of the école maternelle is to develop a child's social skills and co-ordination and children can take their own toys and teddies and have a sleep in the afternoon.

Children must be toilet trained before they start at nursery.

2. Increased monitoring for private nurseries

Private kindergartens or jardins d'enfants are also available in France.

They generally take children from the age of two and until now have been free to follow their own curriculum. However due to the lowering of the compulsory age of education, nursery directors will now have to report to the Ministry of Education and their local mairie on both attendance of children over three and their progress.

3. Increased checks on parents who home school their children

Home schooling is legal in France although it is a lot less common than in the UK and the US.

The curriculum is already quite tightly regulated and parents must register as home schoolers and undergo annual inspections. Two failed inspections can mean that parents will be compelled to send their child to school.

Now home-schooling parents will face unannounced checks to ensure that their teaching is up to standard and their children are acquiring the same "knowledge, skills and culture" as children who are enrolled in school.

The decrees, which have all been published in the Journal officiel, are part of a wider change to the French education system which has been causing some controversy.

The Loi Blanquer - named after Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer - changes the administration of schools so that nursery, primary and secondary schools are grouped together under one headteacher.

Student teachers will also be allowed to teach in schools.

The changes have infuriated teaching unions - who say there has been a lack of consultation - and before schools broke up for the summer there were several protests and one-day strikes.

READ ALSO What is France's new education law and why is it so controversial?



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