France to scrap mask rule in schools for areas with low Covid rates

The French government spokesman has announced plans to end the requirements for children to wear masks in primary schools - but only in areas which have low rates of Covid infections.

France to scrap mask rule in schools for areas with low Covid rates
Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Speaking after the weekly meeting of the Defence Council, which decides on Covid-related restrictions, government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced a relaxation of the mask rule in some primary schools.

However he added that the health passport would remain in place in all areas of France for now, after suggestions that it too could be lifted in areas with low infection rates.

READ ALSO The Covid health protocol for French schools

Overall the Covid situation in France remains positive, with infection rates continuing a steady week-on-week fall. More than half of France – 41 out of 101 mainland and overseas départements – now have incidence levels below the alert threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 people.

Only one area – the overseas French territory of French Guiana which borders Brazil – has an incidence rate of over 250.

From Monday, October 4th, children will no longer have to wear a mask in primary schools in any département with a stable incidence rate of below 50.

The below graph from CovidTracker shows the areas with incidence rates of 50 or under green, although Attal said areas would have to have a ‘stable’ 50 rate before the mask rule would be changed – this was later clarified as meaning having a rate of 50 or below for at least five days.

President Emmanuel Macron had suggested that the health passport too could be lifted in areas with low incidence rates but, for now at least, it will remain, said Attal.

The government is currently preparing a bill to extend the use of the health passport past its current expiry date of November 15th – something that requires parliamentary agreement.

“The vaccination campaign is a French success story,” said Attal, adding that 14 million French people have been vaccinated since Emmanuel Macron announced the implementation of the health pass last July.

Over the weekend France passed the threshold of 50 million people given at least one vaccine dose, from a total population of 67 million and a total eligible population (those aged 12 and over) of 57 million.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


‘Section internationales’: How do France’s bilingual secondary schools work?

For foreign parents in France looking at secondary school options for their children one option to consider is the bilingual 'international sections' in certain state schools. But how do they work?

'Section internationales': How do France's bilingual secondary schools work?

What is an ‘international section’

Essentially international sections in French secondary schools allow students to learn a modern foreign language, such as English or German in much more depth than a standard state secondary. These sections also facilitate the integration of foreign students into the French school system.

There are about 200 ‘International’ establishments (primary schools, colleges and high schools) around France offering international sections in 16 languages.

Most are state run, so for many foreign families they are a much cheaper alternative to private schools, though it should be noted that some of the international sections are fee-paying.


Even state establishments can charge for enrolment into their international sections. Fees are usually in the region of €1,000 to €2,000 per year (although that’s still cheap compared to somewhere like the American school of Paris which charges between €20,000 and €35,000 a year)

American and British sections are particularly popular – and, as a result are usually the most expensive, while less-popular German sections are less costly. 

Why do they exist?

These sections are ideal for the children of immigrant families, as well as those where one parent is of foreign origin. Syllabuses are set up and developed by French educational authorities and those of the partner country.

In addition to lessons dedicated to modern languages, students benefit from lessons in another subject given in a foreign language. The international sections promote the discovery of the culture and civilisation of the countries associated with the section.

Top tips for raising a bilingual child in France

What languages are available?

According to the government website, 19 languages are available. But that’s not strictly accurate as it then lists American, British and Australian as separate ‘languages’, along with Portuguese and Brazilian. It’s more accurate to say these establishments offer education in 16 languages.

It’s more accurate to say that there are 19 “sections”, dedicated to learning with a linguistic and cultural education slant in favour of the following nations/languages:

American, Arabic, Australian, Brazilian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Franco-Moroccan, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian.

In total, there are two Australian schools, 20 American ones, over 50 British schools – most in Paris and the Ile-de-France (Versailles is very popular)

So, what’s studied – and what qualifications do you get?

As well as usual collège-level classes in core subjects, such as maths, history and the sciences, students have four hours of classes in the language, including literary studies, of their choice.

From troisième (age 14), an additional two hours of classes per week cover that country’s history and geography and moral and civic education – the latter is replaced by maths for those studying in Chinese sections.

They can obtain the diplôme national du brevet with the mention “série collège, option internationale”. The dedicated brevet includes two specific tests: history-geography and foreign language.

At lycée, students study four hours of foreign literature per week, as well as two hours of history-geography in the language of the section (maths for the Chinese section) as well as two hours of French as they study towards an OIB (option internationale du bac), often at the same time as a standard French bac.

How to enrol

The first step is to contact the collège you wish your child to attend. This should take place no later than January before the September rentree you want your child to go to the collège.

If you live in France, and your child is attending an école primaire or élémentaire, you should do this in the January of the year they would move up to collège.

Be aware, that some schools require potential students to pass a language test – written and oral – before they can enter an international section. A child wishing to enter sixth grade must be able to read books of the level of Harry Potter in English, to enter the international school of Sèvres’ British section, while another has said that only 20 percent of candidates achieve the grade that would allow them entry into an international section.

Find a school

You will find sections internationales de collège at educational academies across the country. For a full list, with contact details, click here.