Age of starting Primary school

Hi all,
We are hoping to move to France in 2017 with our little girl. We intend to start her in Maternelle as soon as we are settled. She will be 4 years old by this point.

Please can someone explain something to me? My little girl’s birthday is 28th December, I have just learnt online, that this would make her the youngest in her year group!
I am now really confused - I thought the school year began in September and therefore she’d start primary school the September before she turns 6 (I.e. Sept 2018) However I now think she would have to start in the January of the year she turns 6 which means she’ll have to start in CP when she has only just turned 5! Surely this can’t be right? She will be losing virtually a whole year of maternelle if this is correct?
Help! I am very worried about this now as she is intelligent but very shy and we were relying on her time at maternelle to help her settle in before she has start primary school.
Many thanks

By default in France, it’s the year of birth that determines the school grade to be registered in. This also means that most of other school pupils of this grade will be a few months older than her.
Teachers and school managers are used to this kind of situation and her evolution will be evaluated a few months following her entry, probably near the end of the calendar year in December.
Don’t over stress about “loosing” a year more in Maternelle… education statistics clearly states that pupils born in the end of the year deserve to take their time accordingly to their own abilities. Don’t speed her in the superior grade or that would affect the rest of her education in Primary school.
I have a 7 years old trilingual girl and Maternelle was good to set and develop language. Actually, it had been like a kick-start :slight_smile:


Our son was born on 1st January, but was mistakenly put into the year above and was very much the youngest.

This didn’t cause him a problem and the staff at the maternelle were very supportive with the language transition.

He remained a year ahead until he went to Lycee but by then the priorities of competitive swimming had an effect on keeping up with the academic work.


You start compulsory education the September of the calendar year you turn 6, that means those born Sept to Dec are the youngest rather than the oldest in the year as theybare in the UK.

My son is in the same position, his birthday being the 27th December. He struggled in CP and they said he didn’t really master being a pupil (ie learn to work rather than play and day dream) until the May of the CP school year and recommended he repeat the year. He’s in CM1 now and is doing fine and doesn’t notice any age gap with his friends since he’s so close to some of their birthdays anyway.

It’s not a given that she’ll struggle though, just because my son did. One of my other sons started school in the UK and his birthday is 27th August, so exactly the same position in that school year. I felt he was far too young compared to his brother who was born in October - especially as he was timid in comparison to his brother. He’s done really well and when we came to France he started a year behind in CP (to give him chance to learn the language) and later skipped CE2 because they said he was too far in advance of the other children in his class. So now he’s in the correct year in France - unlike his older brother and sister who not only stayed in the year they started but repeated a year too. It’s individual to the child whether being the youngest in the year matters.

Thank you so much for all who have taken the time to respond to my question. Apologises for my late reply but the Christmas festivities have been keeping me busy.
I am reassured by all of your responses. When I posted my initial question, I had just found out that she will be the youngest in the year group and it was quite a shock. We were happy under the misapprehension that like in the UK she’d be one of the oldest so it was really upsetting to learn that actually it is the opposite way round in France.
However after reading your replies and having time to reflect, we now feel better about the situation and are certainly not going to allow it to stop us moving to France. It is comforting to know that she will be assessed and put into the correct year for her abiliities. We assume that because her French won’t be upto scratch straight away that she may have to repeat a year, which is fine.
All of your advice and comments are much appreciated.
Thank you and best wishes for 2017

1 Like

I have a December baby and a January baby who both ended up being moved up a year, and did fine: so don’t worry, the system does have a little flexibility!


Hi Vero,
Thank you for your response. Just for clarity, can you just confirm this for me? So, children start compulsory education in the September of the year they turn 6? So for example, my daughter will turn 6 in December 2018 so she will start school in September 2018. Have I got that right?
I was thinking she would have to start in January 2018, I think that is where I have got confused!?

Yes that’s it, child A, born on December 31st, will start compulsory school in September aged 5 and 9 months. Child B, born on January 1st of the same year, will start aged 6 and 9 months.
The possible confusion arises because while the academic year starts in September and ends in July, children are put into it according to the calendar year they are born.
There isn’t a staggered entry either as there is in some parts of the UK, everyone starts in September unless they have eg a health problem.

If you move in January 2018 your daughter will go into Grande Section of maternelle and that would (I think) make the transition to CP much easier and probably mean she won’t need to repeat a year since she will have had a few months to learn French before starting CP.

1 Like

That’s great, thank you for clarifying that for me. That makes me feel much better about the situation. I was thinking she would have to start in January 2018 having only just turned 5!
Many thanks ones again.

Don’t worry, she’ll be fine and starting in Grande Section will be a nice not too stressful way into school life :blush:

1 Like

Hi I have 3 little girls firstborn in April, then November and last one was due in December but was late and arrived in January…so she Is the eldest in her class but not the biggest (she’s small). I volunteer to do activities in the after school club and I teach computing in the primaire and I’ve seen the little ones love school. Your little one won’t necessarily seem like the youngest when you take her and she may not speak in French for a few months (my 2nd) took a good four months before she’d speak)but she will quickly pick up the language of her friends and become bilingual Ina year. All my 3 started speak little if no French but now are adorably bilingual and love their school. My youngest is in moyenne section and is looking forward to grande section. All the gs want to be cp and the cp want to be ce1… school life and they love it! So try not to worry, try to put her in maternelle as soon as you arrive if possible to give her the opportunity to enjoy learning French and making new friends x


Hi Suzanne, thanks you for the advice. Yes, we will be starting her in Maternelle as soon as possible. We are really keen to move over but are awaiting a sale on our UK house. Hopefully it won’t be too long so we can things going in France. We are so inpatient to move!

Sorry I know I should be able to figure this out but my brain is not working.
My daughter turns 4 on 25th August.
She’s due to start school in France on 1st September. Will she be in Petite section Maternelle or Moyenne section Maternelle?

Hello Zoe and welcome to the forum.

Please could you amend your Registration to show your full name ie First Name and Last Name as per our T&C’s

If you’re not sure how to do this… simply give me your full name… here on this thread … and I’ll amend things for you…


This might prove useful… I think you might be needing to get her enrolled asap… you could have a word at your Mairie…

She should be in Moyenne Section. You go into CP the September of the calendar year you turn 6. It doesn’t matter when your birthday falls, it is the calendar year that counts. 1st of January birthdays are the oldest in the class, the youngest is the person born on December 31st.

1 Like

Thanks for your reply!
So if a kid was born in November they would actually only be 2 years old when they start petite section? I thought they had to be at least 3 which is what was confusing me I think.

Hi, we went to the Marie a couple of weeks ago and did the pre registration. We are waiting for an email from the school giving us a day and time on the 28th or 29th of August when we should go into the school to register there.

1 Like