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Why are private school fees in France usually cheaper than the UK?

The amount paid in French private school fees depends on whether they are 'sous contrat’ (under contract) with the government

Girl in classroom working at desk

Many private schools in France still have agreements with the French state Pic: BearFotos/Shutterstock

Reader question: Why are fees lower in French private schools compared to the UK?  

It is true that you will usually find that private education is much more affordable in France than the UK, and the answer is similar to the reason why many private medical clinics are more affordable here – most are not completely private, but have an agreement with the state.

This is called being sous contrat (under contract) and the school agrees to follow the national curriculum and prepare pupils for the usual French state exams. The school must also operate no selection by beliefs or origins, though in the case of private ‘under contract’ schools run by religious organisations, they may offer optional religious instruction and activities.

Teachers in schools under contract are paid by the Edu­cation Ministry, and local authorities give grants towards the running of the school: mairies for primary schools, departments for collèges, and regions for lycées. An exception to the latter is certain primary schools that have a so-called ‘simple’ contract with the state.

As a result, much less of the cost is left to parents to pay in the 98% of French private schools that are sous contrat.

Primary school fees therefore cost around €400 a year, around €700 a year in collège, and €800 or more in lycée

Fees will generally be on the higher side in Ile-de-France, compared to the rest of France. 

Read more: ‘Our son is thriving after move from state to French private school’

In comparison, average school fees for day pupils in British private schools are €18,000 a year. Comparable fees can be found in some French hors contrat (no contract) schools, which are completely private, with no state funding.

These often have a special educational ethos, such as Montessori schools, or prepare children for different exams from French state schools, such as international schools which might teach entirely in English and work towards the International Baccalaureate.

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