Our French Life, Our School Life

What’s The Deal With Lycee?


This may not be high on your list of priories if you move to France with children. I am in the minority in that we moved, when our children were that much older, 13, 11 and 7. I know lots of people who either gave birth to their children here or moved when they were a lot smaller. Either in a UK primary or pre-school. So no one, if truth be told is, thinking about lycée when they come to France.  Hell, they’re just thinking about the first year, maybe two. If we like it we’ll stay. If we don’t we’ll worry about it later. You’re too busy wondering if you’re making the biggest mistake of your life. Or if you’re going to ruin your kids lives and will the world implode at the same time. Gawd, no one is thinking about what happens when your child is 15 and needs to move on in the education system.

If you’re really smart you may have thought about where your house is in relation to the local primary school and college. You might even be right on the ball and bought a house whereby your kids, as they get older, can stroll into their little town/village and hang out with their friends.  Or you might be pondering your move to the back-end of no where as your children are getting older and are not happy anymore playing your version of The Good Life. But it is all workable, it is all doable – you just have to get a bit clued up about where your kids go to school.

tom and barbara
Tom and Barbara in The Good Life – this might me your idea of your life in France but it isn’t your kids as they get older!

You can read my previous posts on school in this section of the blog – conveniently called “Our School Life” – I’m not a creative wordy for nothing.

My main concern was their primary and college. I was aware there were some lycée’s nearby (nearby here is 20 mins away) and one that Master Normandy can get a school bus to, however, there’s only so much a woman can think about in one go! I was too busy thinking am I ruining their lives and how much I love the British school system and GCSE’s.

So, now I’ve got to think about lycée and pretty darn quick as he goes in September. Wow, how did that happen? If truth be told I feel a little sad – okay maybe a lot sad – I feel like his time with us is coming to an end and whilst he might be totally ready for this, I’m not. Someone did say “don’t worry they never leave – they always come back!”.

Whilst we’re on the subject of the age of the children I thought this might be a good time to digress slightly. When I started this blog it was to give others a positive view-point on moving your slightly older kids to France. Master Normandy was 13 – a tricky age and one that many forums shouted “don’t do it!”. Of course, I ignored all their advice and was glad that I did.

However, what I hadn’t factored into all my “to worry lists” was how radically your children change at this age. My son has changed enormously from the innocent, conscientious 13-year-old, that came over bursting with enthusiasm and his passion for cycling.  And cycle he did with a local team and races. I mean France was the perfect place for him and only today he said “it is pretty cool being able to speak in French”.

When we moved into our house (only 8 months after our arrival into France) and I unpacked their clothes, toys etc it struck me how much they had all changed. Both physically and emotional.  So what I’m trying to say is that even when you think you’re got it sussed with your decision to move – be prepared that they will change and at times your kids might not think it’s so great, particularly as they get older. My son believes us to be too rural – even though we have all the services you could want in a small village.

Master Normandy gave up his cycling in September.  You can read about that here. He also really got into some popular guy on youtube and yes, he has still done well academically (he got the top result in his mock brevet – the brevet blanc with a trés bien) but he has become a typical teen.  He has only recently decided to try out football as he needs to do something. At some point we will have to get him a scooter (cue another worry) so that he can go out and see his friends.

Next week he’ll be in London with my sister for work experience. When we lived there and could hop in and out of London, he wasn’t fussed about it at all. In fact, they all moaned that it was too busy – the best bit of the trip for them was the bus ride. Now he’s older he can’t believe how nonchalant he was about living so close to the centre of (arguably) the most bustling and exciting city in the world.

I asked him about this earlier and he said “well I was an introvert then and now I’m not so I can now appreciate London”. He is ‘bored’ at the weekend but I am sure he would be bored in South London. Everything is boring at this age.

So turning back to lycée. What is it? Well it starts earlier than our sixth form but is more like a cross between high school and sixth form. He is so bored at college in his last year. He finds the work easy and boring as this is like an extension of primary and don’t forget he’d already done 2 years of a UK high school. In addition he is one of the oldest as the school year runs from January – December.

If truth be told I’ve always felt a bit apprehensive about lycée like I don’t totally understand how it all works, so please feel free to add comments below.

So the last year of college is 3eme (troisième) and for some reason they continue this on into lycée.

The 1st year is called…  Seconde (of course!)

The 2nd year is called… Première (1st) do you see my problem?!

The 3rd year is called… Terminale (which just makes me think of cancer)

So they enter when they are 15 and leave when they are 18. They can either go down the academic route or the vocational route and even those sound back to front! They study for The Baccalaureate in one of these two paths:-

If they are academic they study for a Bac General  (which sounds like it should be vocational) and if they are going down the vocational route its a Bac Professional (pro) and there’s also a Bac Technological (Tech). Now if they are academic and study the Bac General they have to choose which area they want to study. They are the following:-

L =  Literary studies

ES – Economic and social studies

S  –  Science

The Science is considered to be the toughest and is the route students take if they want to go to one of the Grand Ecoles – think Oxford, Cambridge etc for France’s elite. The Economic is then next in the pecking order and the lamest one is considered to be Literature. I have no idea why as they all sound pretty darn hard to me.

Not only that they have to study another foreign language, maybe two and all the other subjects. It sounds much harder than your bog standard pick 3 subjects at ‘A’ level. Time will tell. Everyone says they get stacks of homework etc and its very full on. In addition, it’s like a working day for them. They start at about 8.30 am and finish at 5.30pm. Then you have to add on travelling time if they live close enough to travel. As France is so huge it is often the case that they have to board there for the week. This is very common and is something that Master Normandy will have to do.

Just like with the primary and college and in the UK – there are catchment areas and if you live outside the catchment area there is no special treatment – however well your child did in their Brevet. However, if they do get top marks they get money! Yes, I’m not sure of the amount – I think approximately 800 euros for every year at lyceé. This can either go to the child, some of it or pay for private fees. Private fees, just like college, are nominal about 800 euros a year plus boarding. The most appealing thing about a private catholic lycée (asides from results being better) is that there is NO catchment area. So you can choose your school. This is something that is looking very likely for Master Normandy as, just like in the UK #groan, the lycée that is within our catchment isn’t deemed to be very good.

So there you have it, my very basic guide to what the deal is with lycée. I will write more about this as and when we go through the process. I do believe there will be ‘open doors’ soon for the various establishments.  I have been given details of ones that have a very good reputation. Whatever happens Master Normandy will have to get up earlier and finish school later. I really hope he enjoys it and finds it more challenging than college. I do believe he will love the freedom of boarding at lycée and socialising with his new friends.

So I intend to enjoy the last few months of dropping all my kids off at one establishment as come September I, along with Master Normandy, will be getting up that much earlier on a Monday (at the very least) to drop him off at the train station!

You have been reading Our Normandy Life.

Here is a more comprehensive guide on Lycée

A Guide To Getting The Bac And Going To Lycee

A guide To The French Education System

Education Structure In France








10 thoughts on “What’s The Deal With Lycee?”

  1. Beautiful Scooters, we have a small bunch of scooterists who get together in Manche now and again (not in this weather though).


    1. Hi Nick – they were Mr Normandy’s (he was a 1980s scooter boy) but he had to sell them prior to our move as it was too much hassle i. e no room to bring them over! He is looking at buying one for the spring so am sure he would be up for that! Thanks for reading! Come on over and follow me on the facebook page of the same name if you haven’t already!


      1. Hi, they were my husband’s and I think he misses them and will be looking to get one later on in the year if his back can take it! Thanks for commenting!


  2. Hi – have you looked into bac with option international (they do more english lit and other subjects in english.. kind of a step up from option european)). We live in the auvergne and our kids weekly board in clermont ferrand. Its a great option .. pretty difficult but good way to meet kids (mainly french) who’ve lived abroad etc)
    Just a thoight!
    Usually it is offered in one large city lycee per departement.


    1. Hi Belinda – yes I did yonks ago and it was in Rennes and thought it was too far at 1.15 although noting really and he could have boarded. I will certainly consider it again if this does not work out. Will do an update on the whole lycee thang! He is down to go to a private one about 25 mins from here and with boarding – it had a lovely feel and the girl who showed us around was English and was raving about it so fingers crossed.


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