This week is la rentrée in France for most children. La rentrée, in this sense of the word, has no direct translation to English. It literally means the return and is used for when children go back to school. It's a word you will hear a lot at this time of year: People will ask you when la rentrée is, they may wish you a bonne rentrée or how did la rentrée go? For our boys, la rentrée was today.
All About La Rentrée
School in France is somewhat different to the UK. Some differences are better, some are perhaps not.
French school hoursIt is a little past 7am as I am starting to write this blog post and I have just dropped the boys off at the bus stop in Lenault. Yes, you did read that right - 7am. In France children have a much longer day than in The UK and for our boys their first lesson starts at 7.50am. Today, Wednesday, they only go for half a day and finish at midday but on every other day of the week they will not finish until 4.35pm and the bus will not get back to Lenault until 5.45pm. It's a long day. They do get a longer lunch break as well as morning and afternoon breaks plus several free periods through the week and longer school holidays but I think they (and I) would prefer hours more like those in the UK.
UniformFrench children do not wear uniform with the exception of a very few schools. Uniform was phased out in the late 60s but there have been mutterings to bring it back. Some feel that too many girls dress too provocatively and for many there exists peer pressure to be seen wearing the latest (expensive) designer clothes. At the boys' school it seems to be a uniform of sort exists in that almost all pupils wear jeans, trainers, a T-shirt and a hoodie. Tue pupils seem happy with and I can cope with this.
SuppliesIn France parents have to supply exercise books and other school equipment and each year we are given a long and very specific list of the things we have to buy. At least now, 3 years in to the secondary school system I am just about getting my head around what is needed but the first year of secondary and first year of primary when we first arrived were a nightmare! Have a read here about the horrors of getting prepared for school that I wrote last year.
School BagsThe standard school bag, known as a cartable, is, for secondary pupils, a large rucksack of sufficient size to carry all the books etc. they need each day and you will see vast numbers of them for sale in supermarkets at the end of the summer holidays. There are school lockers but school rules do not allow pupils to leave anything in them overnight so all pupils must carry all the exercise and text book plus other supplies on their back for each school day the result is a very heavy bag. Back problems in French children is not unheard of because of this.
Lunch in French schoolsAs today is only a half day at school there is no school lunch but on the other 4 days the boys will get very well fed. In France there are 2 options for lunchtime. Pupils either go home for lunch or they eat the meal supplied in the school canteen. There is no option to take in pack lunches. As we live 13kms from school coming home is not feasible so the boys eat the excellent school lunch. The meal is a "proper" French lunch with 3 courses plus cheese (but no wine or coffee!) and I hear no complaints from them about the quality. You'll not see turkey twizzlers, chicken nuggets or a daily serving of greasy chips on French school dinner plates.
DisciplineCertainly in the boys' school, they are very hot on discipline. Pupils must stand when the teacher comes in the room, not dash out as soon as the bell goes and be well behaved in class. Many a small misdemeanor will result in the offending pupil being given a cross and a certain number of crosses leads to a detention (an hour after school on a Friday). Chit chat in class, forgetting to get a test or other paper signed, leaving a book at home etc. could all give the pupil in question a cross.
So how does la rentrée compare to going back to school where you live? I'd love to hear from you in a comment.