Moving to a French School for a 13/14 year old from the UK

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One of the things our son found most challenging at first was the fact that science and maths is taught differently here to the UK, in maths they are taught very much as I was a few years ago, he knows how to use a slide rule as well as a calculator and has learnt a whole load of calculus. We are lucky as hubby is a talented at maths and was able to help. Geograghy has also been alot of facts and not the softer approach that was taught at our sons’s school in the UK before we left. depending on your sons learning style this may be a big advantage or a real challenge. You are obviously doing your homework thoroughly though, so all the best

In response to Rebekah’s comment, I would completely agree that , while my kids are doing really well here after two years thrown in at the deep-end (they are 2,6,8,&& now), THEY HAVE ALL WORKED VERY HARD to become fluent and follow at school. AND even still, they are at a language disadvantage at the moment, to be blunt. I only say this, as I think one should be realistic when making a big move with children. People say its 3easy3 for the children, but its not, it takes effort and hard work on their part too, and unfortunately I know many children who have not coped as well.

Personally I think it is very important to lead by example, if you want your children to cope well, catch up quickly and be positive, then you have to be willing to lead the way and do exactly the same !

Having said all of that, we love it here, are very happy and there is no reason why with effort and willingness children will not do well !

Hi Tania, so good to hear that it’s going well for you. What a good idea to let your daughter take the first year just to learn the language without the pressure of getting work in. Hope it continues as it’s started for you.

HI Tania
We are about half an hour by car from Carrefour so not far. I come into Macon about once a week for shopping etc.

Perhaps we could meet for a coffee next time I’m thru?

Hi Janet, we absolutely loved Sallies and the Pyrenees and the idea of being not far from the Atlantic but for us it was taking a bit of gamble with finding work. We already know people in Alpe D’Huez so they are a good source of information and job prospects. I would not be surprised if we look again in your area once we have settled into the Frnech way of life.:slight_smile:

HI Tania
Sounds like you are settling in fabulously! where are you in Creches sur Saone? We are in Sivignon - a bit west of Cluny and have been here nearly 10 years, on and off. I have a 12 year old in college in Cluny and a 10 year old at CM2 in Sivignon…


So you are looking over the other side now! Hope you love it over there - have just found a house in Salies for a couple from Grenoble who cant take the summer heat and the winter cold - isnt life funny! Our youngest went to an International School in Bordeaux. Frankly, for the size of classes and the cost of the education, he did not do well as we expected. He is now in Portsmouth reading Law. I think at his age, the Interntional School is the only option. Our kids were 12 and 14 when we brought them over and they really struggled with the change in tempo and ethos. The language they got to grips with.


I don’t know Grenoble but try searching on Brevet OIB - the brevet are the exams taken at 15 I guess close to our GCSEs and OIB is the option internationale -

Good luck

Our son loves it here and doesn’t plan to go back to the UK but plans to study medecine here in due course

Hi Liz, were looking at Le Bourg D’Oisans area. He’s not fluent in Frecnh yet but this will be his second year he is taking French as part of the curriculum. Were visiting his school in England on Tuesday to see what he’s got coming up over the next two years (if he was to stay in England). They may be able to provide other support options for us in other ways, like extra French. I have just started private French lessons myself to improve on what I already know so this might be and option for my son(s) also.

As far as France goes, so far were looking at the Six Valleys college in Bourg. I’ve yet to research the international school route as yet. I would imagine there would be an international school in Grenoble. Does anyone know if there is ? Unfortunately, his Grandparents aren’t with us any more but it still may be an option to consider with other relatives, however he’s pretty much made is clear to us he’s quite up to the challenge of moving to Frannce, whichever option of shcooling he takes.

His favourite subjects (and no surprise then that these are the ones h’es top of his year in) are Sciencne, Geography, Maths and History. We’ll see on Tuesday what his head of year says on Tuesday as to which levels he can study for.

Where abouts are you planning to move to, his age may prove a little challenging but not impossible with the right help and support, if his French isn’t fluent - but there are international schools around where some teaching is in English. Our son came over at 10 not speaking French and has just started Lycée but certainly the first couple of years although he didn’t have to redouble were har work for him (and us). Getting him a head start with as much French before you come will be a help and then seeking out all the support you can once you are here.

The thing our son found hardest was the social studies because things his classmates just knew about France - he didn’t, he also said that learning history from a French perspective somewhat different to that learned in England.

Does he have any idea what he wants to do already? This may impact what you / he wants to do -maybe either home schooling and taking GCSEs or even staying with grandparents and completing his schooling in the UK? Not the ideal but possibly a compromise to consider…all the best with whatever you decide

It seems as though you and your son are preparing yourselves as well as you can. It’s good that he’s looking as it as a challenge as you and your son’s attitudes and expectations will have an enormous impact on how well he adapts. It very much depends on the school too, so it’s worth getting recommendations from others who live in your area (we’re in Haute-Garonne in the Midi Pyrenees, so a long way from you). Personally we didn’t have a great experience with our local college for our second eldest son, so we changed him to a private college which was much better (and was very inexpensive).
In response to your question about finishing our eldest son’s education in England, he got an accedemic scholarship to a private school at 11 which he attended as a day pupil when we were living in England. When we decided to move to France he became a boarder at the same school and so it was a fairly easy transition for him. Luckily, as he had a scholarship, we only had to pay 25% of the fees (although that was still pretty hefty). He comes home for holidays and really loves his duel life. He’s now doing a Masters in Chemistry at Bristol and studying for his 3rd year at Montpellier and loving it.
Hope that helps

Some really good points raised their Niki. My Son and I share a fairly close relationship and have discussed at length what it “could” be like for him living and schooling in France. We have done the “leaving your friends behind” thing on more than one occasion. He is under no illusions that it will be easy. He is a “very” capable and adaptable teenager. He is currently studying French as his main choice of language with German as his second. He is more than happy to take on extra French lessons to get up to speed if need be. He is top in his year in Maths, Science, Geography coming close second with rest of his subjects. In his owns words to me of late “I see this as a challenge and what’s the worse than can happen”. The last thing I want is to see my sons excellent achievements ruined but I take on board what you say. Out of interest, how did you go about finishing your sons schooling in England ? PS We are looking at Bourg D’Oisans (Nr Grenoble) as the place to live.

Personally as we moved for the eldest to start college (he was 11 now 16 and in premier/2nd year of lycee) we have experienced no real problems but the kids have worked incredibly hard and had a very supportive school (college). We had a choice of two and went with the public not privee (although fees are low enough not to really be an issue). They were given extra French lessons and took about 3months to settle in.
Nikki makes some v v good points- don’t underestimate the difference in what they’re taught e.g. history and geography. I know v little about French history and that’s what they’ll learn, so worth bearing that in mind.
It will very much depend on you son. My boys were brought up in London ( although I’m Welsh/Scottish husband) and moving here was thought out but very much depended on the boys taking to school and the whole thing i.e living in a v v quiet area, nearest town 10 miles in each direction. 5 years on they love it and have a very good social life (better than mine!!) and an awful lot of freedom which they wouldn’t have at home. And lastly going back in school a little will normally be expected as a two year run at the brevet will make a difference. Doing it all in a year would be unrealistic and far too much to expect when settling in and leaning/improving the language will take time.

Hi Sean
If it helps, I’m very happy to put your son in touch with our two teenagers (nearly 14 and 16) - that way he can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth…

As Rebekah said College is over 4 years from ages 11 - 15 (6ieme - 3ieme) and it will depend when your son is 14 as to which year he should be in. I think I’m right in saying they have the curriculum in 2 year cycles so whether your son is 14 this year or next it is most likely they will advise he goes into 4ieme so he has 2 years before his brevet.
I always shink a little from giving advice to people coming over with teenagers. I wouldn’t like to put a dampener on anyones enthusiasm, but I’ve seen many people come with teenagers who really struggle in local French schools and many end up going back to England. You give no background info, so perhaps you son already speaks French well or has experience of living here? So forgive me if this isn’t relevant to you but, for a teenager coming from the UK with school French its often very difficult for them to adapt here. Firstly they are having to learn everything in French which is very hard - even for a teenager who’s really good at French in England. Secondly the teaching methods are very different and the curriculum of course - your child will also have missed out on subjects like history and geography. My second eldest son (now 17 at Lycee) was 10 when we moved here and he still finds he’s at a disadvantage in these subjects. And finally the youth culture is very different and difficult for a teenager to relate to and fit in with. I won’t bog the post down with the details but our eldest was 14 when we moved here and we decided it was best he finish his education in England. For us (and most importantly him) it was the right choice as I know he would have hated it here as a teenager. That’s not to say it’s the right choice for everyone, I have heard of children moving here in their teens and doing well (but never met any) and you could maybe consider an International school? Our younger son loves it here and has really embrassed the french youth culture. Our other 3 children have all gone straight into the French system at 3 and so no problems there.
I really don’t mean to be discouraging and if I’m speaking out of turn forgive me. Just trying to help. Good luck with the move.

Thanks for the reply Rebekah, thats good to know. His Birthday is in January which means if all goes to plan he will be 14 by the time September 2012 arrives which is our target date to move. The youngest will be 10. We were intending to use the kids 6 weeks holiday in the UK as the time to move with a view to both boys starting after the French school holidays. In your experiences, did you come accross any pitfalls in getting the kids into schools that I should be aware of ?

Sorry, to clarify College is 4 years and lycee is 3, so they do there exams a year earlier here anyway at the end of college.

Hi Sean,

It will depend which month he was born in as school age here is jan to end of dec, not sept to end aug as in the U.K. My son is 14, 15 in nov this year, so born in 1996, he did his Brevet (eq of gcse’s) in June and is now in lycee (three years at the end of which they do a Bac).
It’s quite common here to re-do a year or even start in an earlier year to get your French up to a decent standard. Your local college should be happy to advise you. From what I’ve seen (my older son is 16) providing the kids keep up to date in school and get good average grades the Brevet exams go towards the final score, they are not stand alone exams. I hope this helps a little, Rebekah.

Sorry I seem to have pressed return on my keyboard too early.

We have gained various bits of knowledge of the French education system but there are some missing areas we need to clarify.

If my son is 14 by the time we move to France, how will this affect his educational status/ exams when he is older. He’s at the point of choosing his options at the moment in preparation for his exams when he is 15/16 in the UK.

Does the French system work differently to ours or can the college accomodate his needs ?