Friday, 24 May 2013

School Change

Posted by Rosie

11 years later and he's off to secondary school
In September Tom will start secondary school.  Yes, our first born is growing up - FAST!!  Soon he will soon be leaving his small rural primary school for something a bit bigger and a bit more urban.

The somewhat grandly named Collège Dumont d'Urville in Condé-sur-Noireau is where he will be going.  Children in France go to "Collège" from 11 years old to 15 and then move to Lycée for the next 2 years.  There is no school choice - your children go to the their allocated local Collège but if you do want them to go elsewhere (perhaps for work reasons) you have to put in an application which may or may not be accepted.  The other alternative is to pay to go to a private catholic school, although we are not talking about the fees of English private schools - about €250 per term from what I can work out. 

Yesterday, Tom spent a half a day at the school with his teacher and class-mates, being shown around by the deputy head and having the chance to eat at the canteen.  He was really excited going in and came home saying he loved it. Well, why wouldn't he?  He had chips for lunch and there is a large school library!  For those who don't know Tom, he loves his food and is an avid reader!  A bit more quizzing though and we gleaned a few more facts from him.  There are around 400 pupils in 16 classes spread over 3 buildings; the school day starts at 7.50am and finishes at 16.35pm (12.05pm on a Wednesday) and he will get to study English on 4 days of the week!  No doubt when he actually starts there we will learn more!

The jump to a much longer day could be a bit of a shock - I believe the school bus leaves Lénault at 7.10am and gets back around 5.30-6.00pm.  That's a big change from 8.15am to 4.30pm .... for me as well!!  Tom likes his sleep so I do foresee a dozy boy possibly getting some extra kip on the school bus in the mornings.

Change is also afoot at primary schools in France. When we first moved to France, all children (primary and secondary) went to school for 3 out of every 4 Saturday mornings (we only found out it was not every Saturday on the fourth when we arrived to find school all shut up!).  Secondary pupils went on Wednesday mornings, as they still do, but primary pupils have never gone on Wednesday mornings.   However, after one year here, Saturday school was abolished with the school day slightly lengthened to try and make up for the  missing hours.   Ever since then the teachers have complained that they have not had enough time to fit in all the curriculum ... in inimitable French style >>> Strikes!!  Enter into power, M. Hollande and now the plan is for all primary school pupils to go to school on Wednesday mornings AND the school day will start earlier and end later!

Schools have the option to begin these changes in either September 2013 or 2014.  From what I understand, out local primary school has chosen 2014, by which time Ben should be starting secondary school anyway - so he, at least, will have finished primary school without doing Wednesdays.  Well that is except the odd extra Wednesdays they have had to go into school to make up for other odd extra days that have had as holidays!

For those of us from across The English Channel, the idea of school on Wednesdays is as normal as school on Saturdays is odd.  For French parents though, they may well find waving goodbye to their young children on Wednesday mornings somewhat strange ... and I am sure there are many child minders across the country who might not be voting for M. Hollande come the next election!

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