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LIVING IN FRANCE

Heatwave lingo, music and the sales: 6 essential articles for life in France

From handy expressions to complain about the heat to summer sales, nationwide music festivals, and why we're upsetting tourists, here are six must-read articles if you live in France

Heatwave lingo, music and the sales: 6 essential articles for life in France
Tourists at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photo: AFP

The mercury is starting to dip again after last week’s record-breaking heatwave – which reached its peak on Friday and Saturday. But it’s only June, and it’s almost certain we’ll have another hot spell before the end of the summer. So here, we give you

Seven French expressions to help you complain about the heat

The 2024 Olympics hit the headlines again, recently – it seems most people enjoy the actual sporting jamboree at the time, but not the years of organisation that it and everything around it entails.

Lately, the ambitious plans for the opening ceremony along the banks of the Seine river have been up for debate amid growing security warnings.

Top French official dismisses fears for Paris Olympics ceremony

Speaking of which… You may have noticed that tourists are coming back to France in force, now that most Covid-19 travel restrictions have been eased. But, not all of them are happy – and it’s all because of preparations for 2024. We explain more.

VIDEO: Why selfie-loving tourists are disappointed by Paris

Normally, we try to keep politics out of our weekly “6 essentials” rundown, even during election campaigns. But it is occasionally impossible. Here, for example, we unpick left-wing newspaper Liberation’s take on the political leanings of the humble jambon beurre – yeah, it came to that in this campaign.

French sandwich politics: What your snack choice says about you

Of course, sometimes a sandwich is … just a sandwich.

Now, to more important matters. After the elections, it’s sales time in France. You may think you know everything there is to know about sales. But this is France. They do things differently, here. So, here’s our little explainer.

Everything you need to know about France’s 2022 summer sales

Something else to look forward to now that the temperature has dropped. The summer solstice is also the one day of the year where your neighbours cannot get cross at you for blasting the music, and where everyone across France gets their groove on. Here’s almost everything you need to know about the country’s big music party…

Five things to know about France’s Fête de la musique

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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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