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TRAVEL

MAP: The speed limits in different parts of France

If you're driving in France this summer you will of course need to know the speed limits. But this apparently simple question has a complicated answer and depends on where you are.

MAP: The speed limits in different parts of France
Speed limits vary across France. Image: AFP/The Local

In good news, speed limits on the autoroutes are the same throughout the country – 130km/h or 110km/h when it rains – and speed limits in towns are also standardised and clearly signed.

But it’s when you get onto the largely rural secondary routes (two lane highways without a central reservation) that things get confusing.

In these areas, the speed limit varies depending on where you are for complicated reasons that link to the 2018/19 ‘yellow vest’ protests and before that to attempts by the government to cut road deaths.

In July 2018 the government decided to lower the speed limit on secondary routes from 90km/h to 80km/h.

They insisted it was a safety measure, but the issue became one of the early rallying points of the ‘yellow vest’ protesters, who insisted that the move was merely an extra unofficial tax on people living in rural areas, where most of the secondary routes are and where residents are largely dependent on cars to get around.

Thousands of speed cameras were vandalised around France. Photo: AFP

Furious protests followed and thousands of speed cameras were vandalised – at one point it was estimated that 80 percent of the country’s speed cameras were out of action.

Eventually the government decided on a compromise which defused the anger, but lead to the current rather confusing situation.

Local authorities were given the power to reverse the speed limit cut on some or all of their roads if they wanted to, meaning a return to 90km/h.

In reality this has lead to some départements keeping the 80km/h limit, some going back to the 90km/h limit on some or all of their roads, and some yet to make a decision.

On the below map the 80 km/h areas are shown in pale blue and the 90 km/h areas in dark blue – although some areas have only partially reinstated the 90km/h limit. Areas that are still deciding are marked in purple, but for the moment they maintain the 80km/h limit.

Being clocked breaking the speed limit can earn you points on your licence and a fine.

READ ALSO  Driving in France: These are the offences that can cost you points on your licence

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EDUCATION

Fees to class sizes – what you need to know about private schools in France

In many countries, private schools are the preserve of the wealthy elite, but France has a wide network of private schools that are well within the financial reach of ordinary families - James Harrington explains more.

Fees to class sizes - what you need to know about private schools in France

The education system in France has its problems – at the start of the new school year some 4,000 teaching posts were unfilled and the government has launched an ‘emergency plan’ for English language lessons – but there’s no doubting there are wonderful schools and wonderful teachers making every effort to ensure children from aged three to 18 get the education they deserve.

However the country also has a sizeable network of private schools and around 15 percent of French children go to a private school. While some are undoubtedly expensive and elite, others are surprisingly affordable and provide an extra option for parents when deciding on  a school for their children.

Here’s what you need to know; 

Different types

There are two types of private school – sous contrat and hors contrat.

Sous contrat schools, of which there are about 7,500 in France, are part-funded by the state – teachers are paid by the Department of Education, for example – but also charge fees. France’s numerous Catholic schools, or regional language schools are usually sous contrat.

Hors contrat schools – which number about 2,500 – must still meet general education requirements but can choose their teaching methods and have no state funding. Private international schools found in most big cities, such as the American School of Paris, are hors contrat, but still follow mainstream teaching methods.

For comparison, there are around 60,000 state schools in France.

Prices

Yes, there are expensive private schools in France. Sending your child to the exclusive Ecole des Roches Private Boarding School, for example, will set you back more than €12,000 a term – not quite Eton or Winchester-level fees, but still well out of the reach of a large portion of the population. But, like Eton and Winchester, they’re not the norm. 

On average, fees for a day pupil – one who goes home at the end of the school day, rather than one who boards at the school – are in the region of around €2,250 a year. Meals are not included, and are generally charged at a slightly higher daily price than at state schools.

Financial aid, including scholarships, may be available for less well-off families.

READ ALSO French school canteens to cut cheese course as inflation bites

Boarding and hours

A large number of state and private schools offer Monday-Thursday boarding. It is not uncommon for pupils who excel at certain subjects or sports to attend collèges or lycées some distance from home, and board during the week.

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Daily school hours, meanwhile, are broadly similar, with children generally starting their school day at around 8am and finishing soon after 4pm on school days. Collège and lycée pupils also go into school on Wednesday mornings, and some may have classes on a Saturday, too.

Popularity

Smaller class sizes and a reputation for “better” results means that private schools are increasingly popular. The number of French private schools has increased steadily over the last decade, and now 15-20 percent of pupils go to a private establishment of some form. 

On the whole, private schools tend to do better in results league tables – perhaps in part because of the additional investment from parents, but also because class sizes tend to be smaller, which allows for more one-to-one education. Smaller class sizes and more individual attention mean they may also be a better option for children who struggle in big schools.

READ ALSO What kind of school in France is best for my kids?

Qualifications

State schools and sous contrat schools teach to the national curriculum, which leads, in turn, to brevet and baccalaureate qualifications.

In contrast, some hors contrat private schools offer different qualifications, including American High School Diplomas and SATs, British GCSEs and A-Levels, or the international baccalaureate.

Religion

Although many sous contrat schools are Catholic, most readily accept non-Catholic children and are not allowed to indoctrinate the Catholic faith. Hors contrat schools, on the other hand, may include a religious element to their teaching.

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