Can I volunteer at a French primary school?

Volunteer programs are often aimed at a specific audience

An agreement with the headteacher of a school may allow volunteering on an informal basis
Published Last updated

Reader Question: I would like to volunteer in a French primary school for a day or two a week. Is this possible? Would I need the French equivalent of a criminal background check and what would I need to get this?

The French educational system is quite strict, and it may not be possible to just look for places to volunteer online.

There are some volunteer positions available for young adults as part of the Service Civique program, however this is only available to those under 25 (or those under 30 who are disabled).

Some positions are advertised online although these are usually full-time volunteer positions aimed towards young adults who do not live in France, working in a school for an entire term or year as part of a cultural exchange.

There is no large-scale online platform to volunteer services at a French school, be it primary or secondary.

However it may be possible on an informal basis to agree to volunteer, provided you have an agreement with the headteacher of the school – this is more likely in rural areas.

It may also be easier in private schools, where a higher adult to child ratio is usually expected.

Note a role as a volunteer is unlikely to involve direct teaching but more in assisting in the classroom, either by helping the teacher or by working with a particular child.

It is unlikely you will need to have any formal degree or certificate, such as some English language teachers, but previous experience in similar roles is likely to be important.

The exact details of the role will depend on the agreement you have with the school.

A criminal record check may be required

The French version of a criminal record check (previously a CRB, now known as a DBS, Disclosure and Barring Service, in the UK) is called a casier judicaire.

Many job roles will require potential hirees to produce this to prove they do not have a criminal record. This includes civil service roles such as police officers or firefighters, and those working with children.

It is free of charge to request and can be applied for online here. It will be sent to you either online (within 24 hours) or via the post.

It is likely that even though you are only volunteering, you will be asked to provide a casier judicaire before being allowed to volunteer in a school.

You will need to discuss this with the head teacher of the school in question.

Alternative volunteer opportunities

However, if you still want to volunteer and cannot find a position in a local school, there are plenty of ways to do so, including after school clubs, holiday camps, local associations etc.

If you live in a small commune, you can contact your mairie to see if any positions are available, or via word of mouth with neighbours.

Larger towns may run a Forum des Associations once or twice per year, where organisations such as language classes, sports clubs, and other activities are offered to children. There may be volunteer slots here. In some cases, the position may come with a small payment.

Related articles

What do you need to teach English in a state school in France?

Irish teacher cannot teach in French schools as failed English test