Saturday, 7 February 2015

C'est les vacances (It's the holidays)

Posted by Rosie

The boys are on holiday for half term. Yay!! You might think this is early for French holidays and you would be right ... although if you live in Nice or Paris or  Lille or Strasbourg or many other places you would be wrong.

Confused?  Let me explain.

France is divided into 3 school zones.  We are in Zone A but for example Nice is in Zone B and Paris is in Zone C.  The holidays at Christmas (2 weeks), Summer (8 weeks) and October half term (2 weeks) are the same across all of France.  However for February half term, known as the winter holidays (2 weeks) and the Easter holidays (2 weeks) the dates for school holidays vary according to the zones.  Some school will have the first 2 weeks of the holiday period and then go back to school.  The next zone will have the second week of the aforementioned holidays and the next week the final zone will have the second week of the second zone and the following week.  

Are you still with me?  This means that at February half term/winter holidays and Easter, the entire French school holidays are set over 4 weeks each time with one weekend in the middle when everyone is on holiday. The reason, as far as we can work out, is skiing.  Skiing is a big tourist earner for the French economy and many families go in either the February break or at Easter so by spreading the holidays over 4 weeks, they lengthen the family ski season.  In France it is severely frowned upon to go on holiday in term time (even for young pupils) and whilst there are no fines, as in the UK, families in France just don't do it.

The zones rotate round each your so this year our zone is on the first 2 weeks and next year we will be on the middle one before finding ourselves on the late one in 2 years time.  In the summer term there is no half term so when you are on the early Easter break it does make the summer term rather long.  This year the boys will return to school after their Easter break on 27th April but and will break up on July 4th.  That's a 10 week term without a break.  It does include 4 Bank Holidays but as some of these are date specific, with no extra day made up elsewhere, one year, the boys were on the early Easter break and then only has 2 extra days off before the summer holidays.  That made for a very long term. 

I suppose you could argue that French children make up as they get 2 weeks at February, Easter and October plus 8 weeks at Summer.  Yes, but they also start school at 7.50am and don't finish until 4.35pm. That is a very long day. 

How do school holidays work where you are?  Does everyone have the same time off or does it vary across the country. Please do let us know in a comment.


  1. I've recently written about all the controversy over school holidays over here. I love the zone system in France and think it would be great to do something similar here. Also, you make a great point about the fact that there are no fines for term time holidays there, they just don't do it. I believe this is out of respect. It's the same reason why the children don't misbehave. I'm not sure when or why we let respect escape from British society but we could learn a lot from the French in that respect.x

    1. I'll check out your post on this, Natalie. In France there is some naughtiness but I believe it maybe less than in the UK and children certainly do respect adults and likewise the adults respect rules like not holidaying in term time.


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