Back to school in France: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?

Back to school in France: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?
You could save money by exchanging your child's old schoolbag. Photo: Philippe LOPEZ / AFP.
With children in France set to go back to school on September 2nd, parents are beginning the annual rush to stock up on essential school supplies. New figures reveal how much most families will have to shell out.

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Family group Familles de France has estimated the price of back-to-school supplies this year for a child in 6ème – the first year of collège (secondary school) – at €199.64. 

The association totalled up the cost of 45 items children are instructed to have ready for September. The average family will need to spend €48 on sports materials, €51.01 on notebooks and folders, and €100.63 on stationery, schoolbags and other supplies.

The government has also released an example list of the supplies schoolchildren are likely to need. Back in 2019, we took a detailed look at the list, and most of the items remain the same year on year.

READ ALSO Back-to-school Covid-19 health rules in France from September 2021

The Confédération syndicale des familles (CSF) consumers’ association released its own study on Tuesday, and estimated the cost for a student in 6ème at €383.93, although this includes additional costs such as photos and insurance.

For a child in the final two years of primary school, the CSF’s calculations came to €239,17, while a student in seconde générale (the first year of lycée / high school) will have to pay €425.47.

How to save money

One of the best things you can do to save money on supplies is to shop around. In their report, the CSF compared prices between different shops and websites.

Many associations de parents d’élèves (parents’ associations) also offer the possibility of making a commande groupée (grouped order), so parents can come together and buy in bulk to make the most of discounts. They may offer packs de rentrée as a result of these large orders.

READ ALSO These are the 29 stationery items your child will need for school in France

There are also several platforms which allow you to purchase second-hand supplies, such as Geev or Leboncoin. The former is dedicated to donations so you might be able to find stationery or other items for free, or alternatively give what you are no longer using to another family.

Another option is to trade in your old equipment. For example, Bureau Vallée offer to take your old cartable (schoolbag) in exchange for credit worth up to €8. Top Office has a similar offer, worth up to €10 if you spend €50 in store, and Monoprix, Leclerc and Cora supermarkets will also buy your old schoolbags.

Of course, you might not need to buy everything on the list. “More and more parents are inciting their children to reuse their supplies from one year to the next,” according to the CSF report.

Help from the government

Purchasing school supplies can be a heavy financial burden, particularly if you have multiple children. That’s why the government helps around 3 million families with the allocation de rentrée scolaire (back to school allowance).

This year, families received the payment on August 17th, and amounts range from €370 to €404 depending on the age of the child. However, this is a means-based grant, and is only allocated to low-income families.

In 2020, the government gave eligible families an additional €100 to help them cope with the financial strain caused by the Covid crisis, but this year the rates are back to normal.

“What justifies a return to normal today when masks are still obligatory in schools, and more and more families find themselves in difficulty as the economic crisis continues,” the CSF wrote.

Year-round costs

Of course, costs related to schooling don’t end with la rentrée. According to the CSF, the average family spends €1,358.50 over the course of the year, including costs such as school meals and transportation. This year, that includes €150 on masks.


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