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Schools and moving a child to France

October 1, 2010

My daughter was 9 when we moved here, and she goes to a small village catholic school in a village near Lamballe. It’s not an international school and she’s their first english pupil. However, her french is off to a flying start, thanks also to an hour’s private tuition once per week.

She finds the style of schooling more rigid than in the UK, and at first this really got her down. However, even she agrees now that she’s learning more here than she did back home.

She is looking forward to moving up to Collège (secondary school) next year, as she will meet more people.

As I mentioned before, in french primary schools there are not many extra-curricular activities, but luckily there are sports and hobby clubs everywhere, and they are not too expensive. I believe that they do more art, drama and sports at school in Collège, which we look forward to!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 8:15 pm

    I just found your blog through the Expat France website. I’m glad to hear your daughter is doing so well. I imagine it must have been a bit of a shock for her!! Good luck as you try to re-start your career here 🙂

  2. October 8, 2010 11:15 am

    Hi Penny

    Yes, it was a big shock for her! She also acknowledges that she’s getting a better education here though.

    I may train to be a translator, though with my daughter, another baby girl and a third on the way, it’d be very tough.

    I hope that as this blog gathers pace it’ll be a source of useful information, for others as well as for me.

    All the best to you too!

    • Hazel duke permalink
      January 17, 2011 4:37 pm


      I read your post about your daughter transitioning to a French school and it gives me hope. My daughter is 12 and we hope to make the move from the US to France in 2012, I have been having a bit of anxiety over where to go, schools, etc. As a single parent, I cannot afford a private education so I am considering public schools. She is currently in a British school here but we get grants.
      At your daughter’s schools, is she taught in French only? How do you feel about the public education system?

      Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Hazel(who is afraid of the unknown)

  3. January 17, 2011 7:39 pm

    Hi Hazel

    Are you definitely coming to France, or just thinking about it? My daugther was 9, and learning the language was difficult enough for her, so unless your daughter’s already got off to a good start (she may have already started French in school, being a bit older) – if she doesn’t speak French, I strongly encourage you to get her some good french lessons before you go!

    My daughter did have some lessons, but they were so basic that really she couldn’t speak any french when she came here. After 6 months she could understand and make herself understood reasonably well. After 15 months here she’s taking the national tests for entry to Collège (Junior High, I think), and is expected to pass – but it hasn’t been easy. Now, however, she’s enjoying life as she can finally be herself, now that she can communicate and build relationships with others.

    Will you be coming alone, or to join someone over here, as I did? Having my husband’s support has been good, though at times it would’ve been nicer to be free to be myself a bit more, without the pressure of having to fit into his life, and especially his high expectations.

    French life isn’t as free as it looks, for adults. French people are perfectionists – perhaps less of a problem for American people than for the British, as I think American people aim high also. British people do too, but in a different way. It’s difficult to explain. Careers and qualifications are a difficult subject!

    Going back to children and young people, I find the quality of education far superior to the English, whether French private or public. My daughter’s in a private school but the fees are miniscule. Research it, you’ll see (they’re a bit higher after age 11 but not anything like in the UK, I don’t know about the USA). Whether you feel the need to go private would depend upon where you go to live, I expect that, although the education methods would be similar, the private system would be markedly stronger on social discipline than the public if you were in an inner city. Here in rural Brittany, however, I doubt the local public school is much different to the one my daughter goes to, except that the class sizes might be slightly bigger (though still smaller than in the UK).

    Let me know how it all goes!


  4. Julie permalink
    March 5, 2011 2:43 pm

    hmm 12 might be a bit old. Our daughter was 8 when we came with little French, and she was in a large primary school. Not private. They were lovely and she was the first English child they had had. Her teacher arranged for her to have 1 hours one on one session every day with a couple of retired teachers who gave up their time freely to help her, whilst the others in the class were having their grammar session. She didn’t have to redouble at all and at the end of the year was pretty much up with the class average. However she did not say a word to the teacher out loud, only a whisper for the first year. She took 6 months to talk to any others in her class, and at the end of year only 4 in her class had heard her talk. So it was difficult for us, but she was happy to go to school every day, and she understood, she just didn’t want to talk out loud. In her 2nd year at school she joined the drama club, and at the end of that year she was on stage and had the school in fits of laughter with her weather girl performance so there is hope. Now she is 12 and doing very very well.

  5. Rebecca permalink
    September 12, 2013 2:36 pm

    Hi there.

    Its so lovely to hear such positive comments about the kids in school. I have just moved over to Brittany with my two daughters. 5 and 8. Its only the second week at school and my little 8 year has been hysterical most mornings.
    I feel like the worst mother in the world!
    I moved them over here to learn French but she is missing her friends terribly.
    Hoping it will get easier. x

    • September 12, 2013 6:02 pm

      My daughter was 9 when we moved over here, which she did with more or less no French. At that age they do miss their friends, but still make more, and the language will not be a problem after the first year (and will probably be nearly a non-issue after 6 months – sooner if your child is super-child!) We are in Lamballe if you want to catch up any time.
      Take care, Emily

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