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SCHOOLING FOR YOUR CHILDREN

This webpage aims at informing you about the French educational system and the way to enroll your child at school. The Espace Ulys remains at your entire disposal to advise and assist you with regard to all aspects of your children's schooling.

The French educational system

The French school year starts in September. School is compulsory for all children aged 6 to 16 residing in France. Public schooling during this period is free. Private schools offer education for a fee. However, both public and private schools follow the same scholastic programmes.

School schedules

The school week stretches from Monday to Friday at most schools. Classes usually begin between 8 and 9 AM and end between 4 and 6 PM, except on Wednesdays when nursery schools and primary schools are closed in the afternoons. 15- to 30-minute breaks, in the morning and afternoon, allow schoolchildren to recharge their batteries.

Two-week holidays are scheduled about every six weeks, with the summer holidays including the months of July and August. To spread out the students' departures during the holidays, three separate geographical zones have been established: Zones A, B and C. This means that a student attending school in Paris (Zone C) will not share the same holiday periods as a child attending school in Lyon or Saint-Étienne (Zone A).
School holiday calendar for Zone A

The various class levels

  • École maternelle (nursery school): For children aged 3 to 6. Although not obligatory, many French parents choose to send their children to nursery school to improve their social and learning skills. The children are assigned to the petite section, moyenne section or grande section according to their age.
     
  • École élémentaire (elementary or primary school): Obligatory and for children aged 6 and older. Here, children learn the fundamentals: reading, writing and counting. Early-learning (artistic or fun) activities are also offered. According to their age and level of knowledge acquisition, the children are assigned to various classes: CP (cours préparatoire), CE1 and CE2 (cours élémentaires) or CM1 and CM2 (cours moyens) for the older children.
     
  • Collège (lower secondary school): Collège follows primary school and marks the beginning of secondary education in France. Lasting four years, collège welcomes children aged from 11 and 12 (classe de sixième) to children aged 14 and 15 (classe de troisième). Collège is obligatory.
     
  • Lycée (upper secondary school): Lycée covers the last three years of secondary education (seconde, première and terminale), welcoming children aged 15 or 16 and older. At the end of the last year (terminale), students must take the national final exam called the baccalauréat.

 

Sending your children to school

Public schooling

You can register your children for nursery or primary school at your local town hall (mairie), where your children will be assigned their school.

For collège and lycée, we recommend that you also go to your local town hall, which will then direct you to the appropriate service. Please note that secondary-school registration can take up to several months, especially if you arrive during the course of the school year.

To register your children for primary school up to secondary school, they must first be evaluated by a team of professionals; your children will be assigned to the appropriate class according to the results of their French exam and the assessment of their scholastic knowledge. 

To register your children for school, you will be required to furnish the following documents (be sure to bring these documents with you to France, so as not to delay your children’s registration):

  • Each child’s birth certificate (if need be, translated into French by a sworn translator certified by a French court of appeal).
  • Each child’s vaccination record.
  • Proof of residence in France, less than 3 months old. 

Private schooling

To register your children at a private school, you must directly contact the private school of your choice.

Just as for public-school registration, you will be requested to furnish the following documents (be sure to bring these documents with you to France, so as not to delay your children’s registration):

  • Each child’s birth certificate (if need be, translated into French by a sworn translator certified by a French court of appeal).
  • Each child’s vaccination record.
  • Proof of residence in France, less than 3 months old. 
     

Multilingual education

Lyon offers a great diversity of public and private schools offering international education at all levels (nursery school, primary school and secondary school).

Some of these schools offer their students the opportunity to acquire the International Baccalaureate (IB), the German Abitur, the Spanish Bachillerato and/or the French International Baccalaureate.

Consult the list of international schools in Lyon

 

Cost of schooling

In France, public schooling is free. However, families must pay for certain services.

Related services
Many schools offer lunch services for a surcharge. A few (rare) schools allow their children to bring their lunch with them to school.

Likewise, nursery schools and elementary schools offer child-minding and extra-curricular activities for a fee.


School materials
The children’s school materials (pencils, notebooks, etc.) must be purchased by their families. Schoolbooks are provided for free in primary schools and in collèges (lower secondary schools), in both the public and private sectors. However, in lycées (upper secondary schools), schoolbooks must be purchased by the family.


Transport
Families must also pay for their children’s transport to and from school. Some schools benefit from their own bus line, but most rely on public transport. Please note that schoolchildren and young university students can benefit from special reduced transport fees. Be sure to ask for details regarding all such fees!
More information on public transport services