Enroll your children in school
What is it?
In France, children go to school from the age of 3. School is compulsory for children aged 6 to 16. Public school is free . Children who do not speak French are also welcomed in schools. There are also private schools, but they are not free.
If you have children, you must enroll them in school . The process varies according to the age of the children:
- from 3 to 5 years old, children go to nursery school,
- from 6 to 10 years old, children go to primary school (or elementary school),
- from 11 to 14 years old, children go to college ,
- from 15 to 18 years old, children go to high school or other structures depending on their level of education.
Please note: For children arriving from abroad, an assessment is carried out to determine the educational level and the level of French. This helps to know which class the child should go to. If the child does not speak or write enough French, he first goes to a special class to learn French.
Children go to school all day, Monday to Friday and sometimes Saturday mornings. Hours vary from one school to another. In middle and high school, schedules can change every day. In nursery and primary school, they are fixed. There is never a school on Saturday afternoon, nor on Sunday. In some schools there is no school on Wednesdays.
The school year is organized in terms. The 1st quarter ends in December, the 2nd quarter ends in March and the 3rd quarter ends in June. At the end of each term, the "class council" (made up of teachers in particular) meets to assess the students. Parents are then informed of their children's results: they receive the “quarterly bulletin” or for small classes, the “school booklet” .
Canteen and childcare
Children can have lunch at school or at home. When children have lunch at school, they eat their meals “ in the canteen” (it is also said that they are on “half-board”).
In kindergarten and primary school, it is possible to bring children early and pick them up later after school. It is useful if the parents are working sooner or later. During this care time, activities can be offered to the children.
Childcare is also offered when there is no school on Wednesdays and during a large part of “school holidays”.
The canteen and childcare before or after school are not compulsory. They are chargeable . The price depends on the parents' income. This is called “ extracurricular activities ”. These activities require additional registration, often at the town hall.
Who is it for?
What to do?
Enroll a child aged 3 to 5 in kindergarten
To enroll a child aged 3 to 5 in kindergarten, you must first go to the town hall and then to school.
Registration must be done before June to enter school in September. You have to go to the town hall to find out.
Please note : Entry during the school year is however possible, as soon as the asylum application is made, as long as the child is of the required age, i.e. 3 years.
Documents to bring for registration:
- Your identity document and that of your child (for example: family record book, identity card, passport, copy of birth certificate or sworn certificate)
- A “proof of address” (for example: a copy of your rental contract, an electricity bill, a sworn statement)
Please note : In France, the school year begins in September and ends in early July. If the child is 3 years old before December 31, he starts going to school in September, before he is 3 years old. Some kindergartens accept children from 2 years old. This can be useful to promote learning French.
How is the day at nursery school?
The children are in a “ class ” of 20 to 30 students. The teacher offers them a variety of activities throughout the day. A second adult assists the teacher in the classroom for the practical aspects: this is the ATSEM .
In the middle of the morning and during the afternoon, the children go out into the schoolyard: it is " recess" , they play freely. At noon, children can go home for lunch. In the early afternoon, the youngest children are resting. It is the “nap”.
Enroll a child aged 6 to 10 in elementary school
To enroll a child aged 6 to 10 in elementary school (we also say “primary school”), you must first go to the town hall and then to school.
Registration must be done before June to enter school in September. You have to go to the town hall to find out.
Documents to bring for registration at the town hall:
- The family record book, a parents' residence permit or a copy of the birth certificate (translated or those from OFPRA).
- Proof of address (for example, an electricity bill or a rental contract, or proof of accommodation or domiciliation),
- A document certifying that the child has received the compulsory vaccines: these are vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and polio, to be requested from the attending physician.
After registering with the town hall, you must go to the school indicated by the town hall. The school principal then registers your child's registration.
Documents to bring to school registration:
- the registration certificate issued by the town hall;
- the family record book, a parental residence permit or a copy of the birth certificate;
- a document certifying that the child has undergone the compulsory vaccinations for his age (vaccination record for example).
How's it going in elementary school?
Elementary school lasts 5 years , from 6 years to 10 years. Each year corresponds to a level: CP, CE1, CE2, CM1, CM2.
Each class has its teacher (we also say “master” or “mistress”) who deals with all subjects (reading, writing, mathematics, grammar, history, geography, English, science, sport, plastic arts). In the evening after school, children have to do their “ homework ”: this could be, for example, reading or writing practice.
Enroll a child aged 11 to 15 in college or high school
To enroll a child in college or high school, you must first have their educational level assessed. To do this, you must contact an organization called CASNAV (Academic Center for Schooling). To find the CASNAV in your city, you can search the “CASNAV directory” on this site: click here.
The CASNAV will give you an appointment for your child with a " guidance counselor ". The counselor will analyze your child's school career. He will also organize an evaluation of his school level.
Following this meeting, you will be informed of the decision to assign your child to a college or high school class. The class could be a “normal” class (with French pupils, sometimes younger) or an “adapted” class (for example, if your child has had little or no schooling in your country of origin, or if he does not. don't speak French at all).
You must then contact the college or high school of assignment to register your child. The college or high school will tell you what documents are required for registration.
Please note : An “allophone” person is a person who speaks a language other than French. “Allophone” students are generally directed to specific classes for learning French, called UPE2A (educational unit for newcomer allophone students). In this class, the pupil follows an intensive learning of the French language and progressively follows the other subjects. This stage lasts 1 year.
If your child is 12 to 17 years old and their mother tongue is not French, they can take the French language studies diploma ( click here ). It is an official diploma recognized worldwide. It is suitable for the age of children.
How is the day at college or high school?
- The college lasts 4 years . Classes are numbered from 6th to 3rd (students start with 6th and end with 3rd). In 6th grade, students choose a foreign language among those offered by the college (very often, English but it can also be Spanish, German, Portuguese or Italian, for example).
- High school lasts 3 years. The classes are called the second, the first then the terminale. In first and final year, students take an exam called the baccalaureate (“bac”). Success in this exam is necessary to pursue higher education.
At the start of the school year, pupils are given a weekly “timetable”. Each subject is taught by a different teacher. The subjects taught are mathematics, French, history, geography, science, sport, music, visual arts, civic education, foreign languages.
After the day at college or high school, the pupils have to do their “ homework ” (example: learn lessons, do math exercises, etc.).
Each teacher explains how the student's level will be assessed in their subject: for example, with written exams in class, homework or oral examinations in class.
Enroll a child over 16 in school (high school, vocational training)
From the age of 16, schooling is no longer compulsory. But up to the age of 18, the young person still has the obligation to “train”.
- If your child wishes to continue his studies, you must carry out the same actions as for enrolling in college or high school for a child aged 11 to 15 (see step 3).
- If your child has never been to school or no longer wishes to go to school, you should contact the Information and Orientation Center (CIO) or a local mission ( click here ) in your region. These organizations will help your child define a professional project. They will be able to direct him to a professional training that suits him. You can also request a Professional Development Council (CEP) for your child.
Please note : Some vocational training takes place “in alternation”: the pupil has an employment contract in a company. He has days of classes at school and days of work in a company. Usually, the cost of training is funded by the company.
Prepare for the start of the school year
You have to check with the school to find out the date and time of “back to school” , ie the first day of school. The school usually provides a document with the class schedules for the year.
In middle and high school, a “timetable” is given to students on the 1st day. Be careful, it may change slightly in the following weeks.
Usually the school gives a list of “school supplies” to buy. This can be for example specific notebooks or pens.
Until the end of primary school, the school provides much of the material. Children must have a school bag (a backpack) and a pencil case (to put pens and pencils).
There is a “ back-to-school allowance ” for families with low incomes. To benefit from it, you must register with the Caisse d'Allocations Familiales.
Please note : Also read: the Réfugiés.info sheet “Registering for CAF”
Class books are lent by the school at the start of the year. They must be returned to school at the end of June. Be careful, if a book is lost or damaged, the school can ask parents to pay for it.
In college and high school, the French teacher sometimes asks students to buy a book. It is usually possible to find the requested book, on loan, at the college, high school or city library.
The school often asks to fill out a lot of forms at the beginning of the year.
They concern, for example:
- information on the parents' address and telephone number.
- your child's health: for example, you can specify whether your child needs medical treatment.
- the canteen (or “half-board”): you must indicate whether or not your child will eat in the canteen.
- “Image rights”: you must indicate whether or not you agree to having photos of your child used in school documents.
The school gives the children a “correspondence book”. It is a notebook that allows the teacher and parents to communicate with each other. Parents should regularly check the correspondence book and “sign” next to any new information to show that they are aware of it. They can also write to the teacher in this notebook.
Holidays and public holidays
The school closes regularly for “school holidays”: these are periods without school to rest!
The school year begins at the beginning of September. School holidays are:
- two weeks end of October - beginning of November: the “All Saints holidays”
- two weeks end of December - beginning of January: the “Christmas holidays”
- two weeks in February or March: the “winter holidays”
- two weeks in April or May: the “spring holidays”
- eight weeks in July-August: the “big holidays”
The school also stops on “public holidays”: November 11, Easter Monday (variable date), May 1, May 8, Ascension Thursday (variable date), Whit Monday ( variable date).
The dates of “school vacations” and public holidays can be found in a calendar. It is easily found on the internet by searching for “school calendar”.
For example, on the site: https://www.education.gouv.fr/calendrier-scolaire-100148