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What changes in French schools this year

Twelve million children headed back to écoles, collèges and lycées on Monday

Twelve million children headed back to écoles, collèges and lycées across France on Monday, September 2 - and walked straight into a series of changes to the education system.

Here are some of the new requirements for parents and pupils to get to grips with:

Compulsory education from the age of three

As reported, it is now obligatory for three year olds to be educated. For the majority this will mean going to an école maternelle, although home schooling will be permitted.

This is not the huge change it first appears, as 97% of children already attend école maternelle but President Emmanuel Macron said making it obligatory was important to allow everyone the same chance to have a good start in education.

Parents who opt to home-school their children will be subject to stricter regulations.

Read more: School age matters in France

Class sizes

A measure initially planned for 2020, but brought forward to September 2019: in schools with high enrollment, classes at maternelle, CP and CE1 will be limited, where possible, to 24 pupils - with additional classes created where necessary.

The scheme will be extended "during the 2020 and 2021 intake periods". To cope with the additional staffing pressures, particularly at CP and CE1 level, some 2,300 new jobs will be created in primary schools.

Free breakfasts

Schools in 'priority areas' must now offer free breakfasts as part of the government's anti-poverty plan. The scheme, which has been tested in eight schools, has now been extended to all so-called priority areas, and will benefit up to 100,000 pupils.

The Bac

Plans to reform the baccalaureate prompted strikes at the end of the last school year - which in turn have led to a warning from Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer that those teachers who refused to mark exam papers would have part of their salary docked.

Read more: Uncertainty clouds bac choices for students in France

Until now, pupils have had a choice of three types of academic baccalauréat: science (S), social economics (ES) or literature (L), all of which still included subjects such as maths, French, history and languages.

With the reforms, pupils will, in theory, be able to choose three subjects from a potential 17, ranging from physics and chemistry to literature and philosophy, with seven arts subjects, including dance and circus.

They will drop one of these in their third year to specialise in just two subjects. Students can add one option in première (the second year of lycée) and another in terminale (the third and final year).


All classes a French and EU flag will be hung in all classrooms. The motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" and the words of the national anthem should also be displayed.


Children with disabilities have, from Monday, September 1, the right to an education at a school in their neighbourhood - some 14 years after the loi Handicap established this right. The loi Blanquer includes provisions for support centres responsible for day-to-day requirements of individual pupils. An additional 4,500 assistant positions have been created.


School enrolment forms in France will include three options for parents in a bid to recognise same-sex families. As well as 'Mother' and 'Father', parents can choose to tick 'Legal Representative'.

Environmental issues

To address the issue of environmental concerns, Mr Blanquer said that 250,000 eco-delegates would be created - one for each class in France - to "help ensure there is environmental awareness in every classroom".

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