It’s back to school – in France?

The quality and culture of French local schools is one of the reasons that many British families move to France. But how to approach this? Here is a brief ‘lesson’ with three great properties near good schools…

There are many good local schools throughout France so when choosing where to move to, you have plenty of options. It is only if you prefer the idea of an international school – because you are not staying in France for more than a year or two; your preference for a global oriented curriculum, or maybe special needs – then you should look closely at areas where these are located. Paris and the Cote d’Azur tend to offer the most choice. These schools generally offer a rolling admissions policy as they are designed to deal with transient expat families.

There is also the option to choose a state-contracted private school, but many families feel that local state schools are perfectly adequate, both in the vigorous teaching standards and a fast route to their children becoming fluent in French and adjusted culturally too.

There are three levels of school: primary level (école), elementary or middle school (collège) and high school (lycée). Primary and middle schools in France have catchment areas so do bear this in mind when house-hunting. You need to register by June of the year you want your child to start primary school (or earlier if you want to go to a school out of the local area), and by the end of the spring term for collège. Contact the ‘service des écoles’ at the local mairie for information and advice; or for collège or lycée, you must contact the educational district’s administrative head, the rectorat.

When you apply for a school you will need a certificate d’inscription from the local mairie (or rectorat service for secondary schools) for which you need various documents including passport, carte de sejour and health/immunisation certificates, and possibly health insurance documents, officially translated into French. Seek further information locally, or from the French government website.

On the edge of the village of Bournazel, in the Aveyron in the Midi Pyrenees, this is a fabulous property for a family – with plenty of scope for income-generation as it comes with three gites. A beautiful historic stone house oozing with charm.

Located in the much-loved Dordogne, this three-bedroom property has been reduced in price and is now a real bargain. In Mareuil, a lovely village well-serviced with schools from nursery through to secondary.

Chocolate-box cottage in Loire Valley town centre, in Le Lude, Sarthe, close to the Loire Valley. A lovely three-bedroom property – also reduced in price – it offers everything for a family, including the proximity of a private primary school.

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