Good evening Folks,
my wife and I (and our 10 and 12 year olds), currently live in the Middle East. We are considering a move to France and have been looking in Aquitaine and Languedoc. We would consider elsewhere also, and plan to come across in the summer to take a look round. The issue that we are struggling with, is finding decent international schools in places where property is affordable. We would welcome any pointers from you folk who are already there. I am in the education business myself as CEO of a schools provider in the Middle East. We are thinking of a small business in France but again would appreciate any advice.
Regards and thanks
At the risk of sounding obvious, rather then rely on the advice of an audience that will invariably tend to know only its own area, you would be better off finding a list of all the European schools, delete those in areas you don't want, then look at house prices in the others to see which fit your budget. Then, with a shortlist in hand, is the time to ask peoples experiences of those on your list.
Alternatively - and your kids are at a difficult age - it might be worth considering integrating properly via the deep end and sending them to a French school, possibly in an area where there are plenty of other expats and their children. Might sound cruel but kids are amazingly resilient - at least thats an issue others who might have made the same decision can advise on. But good luck whatever you do!
Thanks Paul, yes I've looked at the list of schools but a bit of local knowledge about them always goes a long way. There's one in Toulouse and a bilingual one in Montpellier. We havent looked in Bordeaux and Dordogne so may try there too.We have considered the immersion option but our 12 year old is fast approaching GCSEs.
Thanks for your quick response.
OK well I do know those two regions...Montpellier is the drier region of the two but horrendously expensive compared to Toulouse. A quick search of the usual property sites will tell you if its in your budget or not?
I live about 100kms SW of Toulouse in the Languedoc Roussillion region of the Hautes Pyrenees. If you want somewhere slightly less dry but still with excellent sunshine, mixed with the availability of some good ski-ing in the Pyrenees, you could do a lot worse. West and North of Toulouse (within school run distance) prices are a lot cheaper than Montpellier, while heading south a bit, prices will fall somewhat, but in either case, your requirement for an international school means you probably need to be within striking distance of the city. Toulouse certainly has excellent airport links to the UK and elsewhere and you are not far from Northern Spain either. If you want a surfeit of expats, although prices climb again a bit, Bordeaux or the Dordogne are probably the better choice.
What kind of business were you thinking of?
But whatever else you do, don't rush into buying. My advice would be rent somewhere and look at local agents rather than the usual overpriced internet sites.
Some of those 'usual overpriced internet sites' are often cheaper than the local agents. Selling directly online with the vendor often saves the extortionate agents fees. Look on sites like Leboncoin etc to see the difference in prices.
That is not to say the local agents are all bad, some are very good.
That's good advice Paul, thanks
It's touch and go whether kids will do well in French schools if they arrive at that age. At around age eleven, children's capacity to learn a new language changes and they learn more like an adult does. Some do very well but I've seen a lot fail miserably. Intensive French language lessons before they arrive would be helpful. Obviously they will learn faster once immersed but it's not a good experience for them to be landed in a French school with absolutely no ability to communicate so any preparation will help.
I believe the international schools are quite expensive but if you can afford one and would prefer to make that investment then I agree it would be a safer way to go.
An alternative to consider is to try the immersion method but back it up by continuing to study for GCSEs or be ready to take them out to do so if you don't feel they're doing well after a couple of years. My eldest needed some GCSEs for his intended British Army career and he studied with an online tutor via Skype and took the exams at a GCSE exam center in Lot et Garonne. He managed to do this while still attending college and studying for his Brevet.
The exam centre he went to organises education packages for English speaking children both locally and at a distance. If you give them a ring or send an email they can talk it through with you and give general advice. They're very experienced at helping with children who move at a difficult age to transition into local French schooling or who are already near or have started GCSE study and want to continue with it.
See their site here: http://oldschoolfrance.com/
The international school near Toulouse (in Colomiers) is quite good but property is quite expensive around the airport because of the Airbus executives.
But if you head south for 40 minutes or so there are any number of nice properties. Have you thought of buying a property with a couple of gites - a going concern? It is a simple way to generate an income stream while you are setting up something else. Here's an example of what you can get in this area for under €500k: old watermill with 3 gites on 7 hectares of land
What a lovely looking property, thanks for this Simon
Thank you Debra, that is very helpful