Parents will be thinking about where to send their children to school ‒ collège or lycée next year, particularly if he or she is at an age to change establishment. The signing-up procedure starts in spring.
Your choice will depend on where you live and whether you choose a public or private school.
If it is private it is up to you to choose and contact the school directly.
If it is public you have to be aware of the carte scolaire rules which govern your rights to choose a school according to its location. You are generally expected to sign up to your local school and need to ask for a dérogation, a dispensation, to go elsewhere.
In primary, this is done via the mairie. First, ask permission from your mayor to change and then ask the approval of the mayor of the commune where you wish your child to go. You can only get a place if there are some available.
Priority is given to local children.
If your school has no canteen or garderie after-school care, and you need these services because you work, agreement from your mayor is not needed, but you still need permission from the mayor of the other commune. If the move is for health reasons (for example if another school is nearer to a hospital which your child needs to visit regularly for treatment), you also do not need your mayor’s approval.
I have four children who have been through all stages of schooling in France. One of my daughters changed school in CE2 (age 8-9) when two of her best friends and their mothers, who were teachers, moved to a neighbouring village, and it was all straightforward.
Rural mayors may not be best pleased to lose a pupil when the school roll is low, but that means they are often happy to say yes to an incoming one.
My daughter was pleased to be with her friends and I knew she was getting a good education as I liked the way her friends’ mothers approached teaching.
It is worth trying for a move if you think it would be beneficial.
The carte scolaire for public collèges and lycées is governed by Académies, the local education authority representing the Education Ministry in each region.
Normally, pupils go to the local collège and lycée and in spring these establishments hold Portes Ouvertes open days so parents and pupils can visit. The first papers concerning choice of school and subjects are sent home to be filled in.
Pupils starting sixième (age 11-12) at the rentrée receive the dossier d’inscription from the primary school before the Easter holidays. Decisions are made on régime, either internat (boarding), demi-pension (eat in the canteen at lunchtime) or externat (eat lunch at home); première langue étrangère (depends on what has been taught at primary school; usually English, but sometimes German) and, if this is offered at the collège, another non-obligatory subject, which is in addition to the general timetable.
You may be told – if not, then find out – whether you give in the papers yourself to the collège, or whether the school does it and whether you should confirm the place by a telephone call or letter.
Children have an automatic right to attend their local collège. You can ask for a dérogation via the primary school for permission to go to another collège but only in limited circumstances such as handicap, medical condition or specific education cursus, for example sport, where the facilities are not suitable at your local collège.
There is more choice when you sign up for a lycée, because there are so many different types of Bac plus CAPs to choose from (See January education article in Connexion), so you need to go where you can find your study option.
Again, you have the right to a place in the local lycée, but you may want to look elsewhere for a particular option. It is generally easier to stay within the confines of your region, but not impossible to go to another one if you are looking for something specific.
Families are first given un dossier de demande d’affectation to put in choices of lycée and subject. Once this has been approved by the head of the establishment, it is up to the Académie to say whether or not there is a place for that pupil in the chosen lycée.
In some instances, where there is much competition, the pupil may have to take an exam, for example for a place in a Section Internationale.
Once the lycée place has been allocated, the pupil has to sign up to the lycée, itself. Often you can do this online.
You may want to change course and lycée during your three years and this is possible, usually by writing to the Académie, explaining your decision.
I did this for one of my daughters after she had an unsatisfactory first year at a very small lycée which was some way from home and she had to board.
I wrote a letter – asking a teacher friend to get both the content and the French right – and, after a nail biting wait, she was allowed to change schools.
She had had low marks in Seconde but her results improved, and she was much happier, so it was worth the effort.
The choice of lycée is taken very seriously. Each spring, the government produces a list showing the baccalauréat results from 4,500 private and public lycées, and many newspapers add their own classifications to show which they think are the best lycées.
The government list shows the percentage of passes for each type of exam.
It also shows the percentage of pupils who have passed the bac having been in the same lycée from seconde to terminale, which is an attempt to show the fidelity of students to a lycée, another criteria by which to judge its success.
This also takes into account that a lycée may have a high pass rate due to its catchment area.
Find lycée results at education.gouv.fr look under Etudes & stats then Découvrez les indicateurs de résultats des lycées