I think it might have been about 12 am when I gave my husband a nudge – and not in a good way as he would say – “I just don’t want to ruin their lives!” were actual words that uttered from my mouth before we moved.
My main concern (and I am sure it is for most parents) was how would the children adjust? How would they manage switching from the UK school system to a French one? I’m not going to lie, on occasions, it did keep me up at night.
In particular, my eldest who had just selected his GCSE options in Year 8, in readiness for Year 9. My daughter, who was about to embark on her high school journey – all her friends were talking about this excitedly, which made her feel a bit left out as she knew she was leaving the country and those same friends behind. And not forgetting my reluctant 7-year-old who was concerned that he wouldn’t make any friends and, not unreasonably, was worried about not understanding what was being said. You and me both little fella.
Apart from that, yeah I was really chilled out about it! In this section “Our School Life” I will blog about anything and everything I can think of related to school life in France. Please leave comments and drop me a line if you have anything you would like to be covered.
Firstly, I started with research. A lot of research. In fact, too much. You can over do it. I went on forums years before we moved and that actually put me off moving for a long time. I decided (without any experience) that I preferred the British system as opposed to the French one. Job done. Not moving.
On paper the French school system appears to be horrific. In reality, it is anything but. Of course, this is my own opinion and it will remain that way all they way through this blog. This ain’t no forum!
I digress. In France the school day starts earlier, finishes later and lunches are long with the only option of having canteen food or going home for lunch. The meals are over 3 euros per child, per day – not great if you have a fussy eater – yep got one of those. There is tons of homework and 1970s style schooling i.e clip around the ear. Mmmm doesn’t sound great does it?
Compare this to a UK school finishing at 3.10pm, packed lunches (free up until Year 2), creative stuff going on, fun, homework at the weekends and teachers not being able to touch your precious cargo unless they want immediate dismissal. In addition, a fairly comprehensive anti bullying policy and other protective measures.
I like the British school system. I think it makes for individual thinkers and entrepreneurs. There’s a drive on reading and creative writing and if you’ve got a great Head it’s a fun place to be, especially in primary.
Still, there was still something that was saying you need to do this. Yes, GCSE’s are great, then A levels but look at the bigger picture – massive student debt, unaffordable housing even on a great salary, the daily grind of commuting into London and what a gift (as David, my friend’s husband, often says) to give to your child – being bilingual. Surely that opens a world of possibilities and even if it doesn’t, a child’s life doesn’t have to be pre-determined at age 13 with no possibility of diverting from the norm does it?
So I was delighted, after having extensively researched the local schools in this area of Normandy, that the private Catholic school was remarkably similar to our UK primary school and even better that the college (aka secondary) was just the same. I was also very impressed with the Head Teacher who was welcoming, enthusiastic and passionate about his job. He didn’t for a minute feel that the language would be a problem. The only problem he could foresee was “the attitude to learning.” I know a good Head when I see one – and this one, by jove, was formidable.
My heart lifted, my fears were practically banished and I knew in that one meeting that this was the school for our children.