My son is 7 months into CP and indeed the French language. His teacher has written a note in one of his auto dictee books suggesting he might need a Bilan Orthophonique which I have deduced is some form of test to check his ability to recognise and reproduce sounds.

Now my son (aged 6.5) had completed one year of phonics learning in English in the UK and is now obviously replicating that learning in French in CP. He is able to replicate orally everything he learns during the school day including the technical terms for accents, letters etc etc but does seem to have problems with spelling certain words and auto dictee tests. I have a lot of trouble getting him to sit down and practice his spellings and he gets very frustrated with himself but I have put that down to a mixture of a) not liking homework and b) he finds spelling more challenging than other homework. I also think that although he eventually gets his spellings correct at home, he panics in the classroom situation. He does have a tendency to get his vowels back to front i.e. instead of eau he might right eua or ou as uo. He does this with numbers as well i.e. he will sometimes write 12 as 21.

He had a similar problem with some English sounds and spellings but these tended to me more sight words than phonetic sounding ones. He is able to read at a good level for his age (albeit perhaps not as fluid as other readers) - Level 6/7 Oxford Reading Tree.

Personally we think he is doing extremely well by being even able to read, write and speak French but I would be happier if I knew if other parents had come across this problem at this age, what they did to help their children to overcome their problems and whether anyone actually had to go through the testing process?

I do find that he is exhausted a lot as he has 4 long days including extra tuition with his teacher on Tuesday evenings. He has 2 sporting activities on Wednesdays and then by the weekend, is glad to have some time to relax at home. Giving him any more exercises and tests just seems at this point to be likely to tire and frustrate him further, especially as I am now trying to pick up where we left off with English language practice.

I hope that I am just worrying for nothing and he will find his way in time. It may well be that the teacher, who is quite pedantic about correctness, is making too much of his mistakes but I would not wish to leave a real problem unaddressed.

Hi Carly

Please remember that some of the countries that have the highest literacy only start learning to read when they are 7 years old... I hate the pressure of the French System ... As a teacher I also do not always value the judgement and attitude of some of my colleagues. I have seen and heard so appalling things... I actually saw and heard a teacher ask a student (of 14) to show if he could put his hands out and turn his palm up and then down again. Then she said, "Oh that is good, you don't need to worry about school. You can always get a job in McDonalds." I reported her to directly the Headmaster, he completely dismissed me and asked me if I would please use the correct chain of command to make a report...

I am pro school as apposed to home schooling - which I also respect and value - But it is really important for parents to do what you are doing a question "the System" - which is far from perfect...

There are many things that you can do with your son to help.

First - let him develop at his own pace (always acknowledge the teacher's concerns and listen to suggestions but...)

Second - try another method - for example

If he constantly gets a word wrong - take one word at a time and over a few days make it in as many different forms as possible - play doh, those rubber letters from the bath, shaving foam on a window, out of ear-buds glued to some cardboard, out of string and glue, masking tape pieces - a really fun one is to make it from ribbon on a fence - also apart from the visual and physical you can make up silly songs, "Water is eau. E A U spells eau, just to let you know, if you freeze flakes of it you will get snow because E A U spells eau." or stories, "The Elephant, Antelope and Unicorn had a water fight but they were more scared each others tusks than of the water." (if you can do this in French, of course it would be great but bilingual children can often easily cross over.)

There are, as always pedagogists that will frown on this but you need to look at all ways that would work for you and your child...

be gentle and make it fun and go slowly ... frustration is horrible to see and work with in children.

My son loves Ben 10 and we often click our imaginary omnitrixes, transform into Upchuck (or any other appropriate Alien) and shoot explosions at things we get upset or frustrated by - maybe this will help you too

Sending love xx

Nine years here for me, David, and I still can't remember the spelling for beurre.

I am a little shocked that people are saying do it. Sometimes it is naturally necessary. If it is CP then at least wait until CE1. Do people, especially teachers, not know just how stressful that school year is? I find it shocking that the medicalisation of 'problems' is the only answer there seems to be in France. The approach to autism horrifies me as it is, ADHD seems to be at the discretion of psychologists whether they believe in it or not and other issues are simply thrown at the feet of psychologists. That children are shy, stressed and tired by school, slow learners and so on seems to be irrelevant. Children are people, not objects to be push from one 'expert' to another.

I was a school governor in Wales. Not because I have a special needs daughter but because I showed an interest. I was the SEN committee chair and link governor. I was also the children's rights governor who collaborated with the school council, therefore met with children. I have been very much engaged in children's rights since the 1970s and know my way around the topic and can relate it to children's issues as they express them very well. I learned there about their stresses and the issues they brought to the school management through me. After all my years working with children I learned a great deal of new things.

I am trying to transfer that all round experience to people here. However, bearing in mind we have had the experience of one orthophoniste who went bilan after bilan with our daughter who needs it but also with other people's children who as soon as she went on maternity leave were told they did not need to be doing it by somebody we have come to very much trust. Teachers should not be allowed to recommend them, but parents find their own. Too many people are 'pally' and a child is labelled before he or she reaches an initial assessment because the word has gone before from the teacher who has no business influencing these people. As for children, how many people ask their views and take that into account? They are human beings with minds and no matter how young have feelings. Please people, listen to them too and do not be herded into these situations like so many cattle.

I would absolutely go ahead with what the teacher suggests. We went through exactly the same situation with our daughter at the same age and the orthophoniste worked wonders and gave her her confidence back. Before the orthophoniste we would spend hours and hours learning a list of ten words and both of us were drained by the end of it. The orthophoniste unblocked the blockage and she never looked back. She had 20 sessions I think. The bilan is when you go and see the orthophoniste and she does some simple exercises to diagnose the problem. It was very informal for us. After that she told us to go and get a prescription from the doctor and we were reimbursed for the sessions. You have the right to do the sessions during school time as it is considered to be part of the child's education. Good luck.

Children who have learning difficulties tire faster than those who do not (they tire too, of course, as we have stupidly long days at school and the system is far from perfect), so I would go ahead and get the "bilan" done.

You might want to find out where other parents got theirs done, or if the teacher has anybody to recommend. It's more or less run of the mill nowadays and orthophonists are almost always kind and helpful, they will be able to tell you if it's a "side effect" of being bi-lingual and will pass with time, or if the issue needs to be addressed.

I think it will help all of you, and the teacher will be happy you listened to her advice..... that's the way we teachers are:-)

I know and I shouldn't let myself worry like this. Unfortunately I have become an infinite worrier since parenthood and have trouble stopping myself from doing it! my husband gets very frustrated as he is the other end of the spectrum and probably chillaxes too much! Thanks for the help and advice.

ps - he's only 6.

Great advice - I should pin this on my fridge and refer to it frequently and often!

Yep, I reckon we've all been thought it. Don't worry, he's bi-lingual and will get there in the end. I brought my daughter over here at 8 years old, my son was 4. Both my daughter and son went to the orthophoniste, both got the all clear, but I was told to get them to read more and maybe try and do an extra 10 minutes a day of spellings etc. My daughter struggles still, is 15 and in 3eme. She redoubled, but the teachers are very supportive and looks like she's going to pass her brevet. Her spellings were awful but suddenly things seem to be clicking in place. My son is now 11 and spellings are atrocious, both in English and French, but it must be pretty confusing sometimes with the written word, considering how totally stupid some of the spellings are! lol. I stopped worrying when my daughter started college and took more notice of the moyenne of the class, of a lot their 'French' friends' moyenne's are lower! I do think that the French think the glass is half empty rather than half full, meaning they're not great at seeing the positives just the negatives. Chillax, just give him as much help, love and support as possible and he'll be fine.

Love the idea of Mrs Rigid-Tinknikers - lol

oh dear I feel for you. Really brings me back to when we first moved over - quite a few black days of profound guilt for the kids especially for my very eldest who had to leave a good secondary school in the Uk to finish her education here - luckily she went to the American School here and so got a lot out of the process. My other two are in mainstream French schools.

It is impossible for others to advise you on your situation. It is possible that your son would be having adaptation issues wherever you moved - even if you had moved within the UK. I think a lot of children who move do have these issues because everything they have ever known and their sense of identity is uprooted and they must feel that everything is out of control. I can very much sympathise. What is difficult is to work out is, given time, whether he could overcome these challenges or not. You are clearly a very supportive parent and so this will count for a huge amount. If it were me I would give it a fixed amount of time and then decide. But be warned - a child may be in the class of a great teacher one year and then back to Mme Rigid-Tinknickers the next and so the problems resurge.

Very best of luck


Carly, do not ask yourself that question please. I have a 42 year old son and now daughters 9 and 11, with the first I allowed myself to do what you are doing. In so doing I probably got it wrong by trying to keep my professional and lifestyle elements of life as they were. Children are highly emotionally vulnerable and that is what needs to be kept in view at all times. If there are options they must be explained to our children and decisions shared with them. It is their life too. If you have doubts about being here in France then discuss it fully and get your children to inform you how to decide and share the actual decision.

A word of warning though, is beware of leaping out of the frying pan into the fire. What Gove is doing to English education right now is going to make it very much like it is here. By reducing trained teaching staff and taking in more untrained people I see it heaping up all problems there are here. So where do you go? There are good and bad schools here, some teachers are outstanding but others should not be let loose in a classroom and parents share more than a bit of what is wrong with education. Here and elsewhere. I got it wrong, after his mother died and his grandparents agreed to share caring I forgot to ask him if that was OK. Had I done that things would probably have been different. That is not education in my case, but neglecting what he really wanted and needed. If your children tell you they are not actually happy here, then ask them what they would like. Act on that. I do now and with school things particularly it informs us what to do next and do it together.

Thank you for all your kind replies. I have been trying to determine whether the school system is better here than in the UK since I came here. I come from an area which some would say is affluent with only one or two schools who are not rated 1 or 2 by Ofsted or commended for their results and approach. That said I found the UK system to be too results driven and too much time was spent planning lessons rather than giving them. My son, who I believe to be very intelligent and capable, had started out well in Reception year but it was very obvious when his learning was not structured or managed that he started to lose attention and concentration. His first French teacher has a background in special needs, is from a large town and is able to talk English. This was a problem in itself at first because she always spoke English to him, which has now been addressed. However her dedication to teaching is really refreshing from the teachers he had in the UK. She has a clear learning and homework structure, is open to ideas and parent discussion, is a caring but very strict teacher. However I totally agree with the comments regarding the rigidness and perhaps outdated methods of teaching. He only practices reading through the LIRE CP (Nathan) reading system. If I try to get him to read anything else (of which I have bought many different reading books), he gets very agitated and refuses to attempt it (unless I point out that he knows most of the words!). It is very frustrating because I really want him to use other means to practice his reading and extend his own vocabulary.

My personal situation is probably a little different to others in that I still have my toes half into the UK life. My husband works and lives there most of the month and as such I do not feel quite like the secure family unit, working through this transition together. I think I am worrying over every little thing because I still very much have a choice to return to the UK and pick up where I left off. My other son is in Moyenne Section and will be eligible to start school in the UK in September. I should not say this but I do not think he will be as academically minded as his brother and I worry that he will find the change from Maternelle to CP much harder than his brother. My eldest son has always been a very sensitive little boy who finds it hard to make friends and deal with his frustration. I have noticed he is becoming increasingly agitated and angry since being here and although I know he has had a matter of bullying to deal with (or should I say I dealt with it in the playground) I am obviously worried that perhaps the competitiveness you spoke of within the class (I believe until recently he was within the top 5 if not at the top for a time) is having a negative impact on his emotional wellbeing. Again maybe I am making a mountain of a molehill but I do worry a lot about whether I have made the right decision for him. I would really like him to have an opportunity to learn new languages and cultures but at the end of the day I would prefer for him to be happy and not feeling resentful for feeling overwhelmed. Its a very hard emotional battle at the moment and this is just another one of those little things that is making me question whether I have made the right choice for the children.

Brill idea!

I CAN'T believe it!!! Phsychologue just phoned and persuaded me to go along with child for a bilan and then see!!!!! Whooooo spooky!

@ciara no we didn't - the waiting time to see the opthalmo was 8 months! When we phoned again the secretary did a big effort and reduced it to 3 months - his french appointment is scheduled for the end of April - where interestingly I am hoping they will prescribe optometrie. We live 45mins from Eurotunnel so I phoned around in the south coast and got an appointment in Ashford within a week! We also took the opportunity to have him colorimetered and now he has coloured lenses and a slight correction which is making him less tired as his eyes are working less.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. So would our daughter's orthophoniste in fact, but she needs the speech therapy so no issue, and also my teacher friend who thinks out of the French education box. I know the UK is going through the grinder at present, but the rote learning and competitiveness within the class here are appalling. As for homework. Our younger daughter can sometimes be two hours (exceptional but not unknown) and she is one of the top of her class, what is is like for the slow ones at the bottom, especially those with very 'ordinary' and hardly educated farming families?

Our older daughter started with a local speech therapist who saw Down Syndrome and arranged for sessions weekly for the rest of the school year without seeing her! She fortunately became pregnant so we moved our daughter to her present one who is supportive, has said that she wishes she could say that it is time to stop because she could become too dependent on the sessions and has supported our daughter moving on to a regular college, ULIS, rather than a special school that she too considers a 'dumping ground'. Thank providence for the good ones.

Here here Brian! Very well said. I cannot agree more!

You will probably get loads of replies.

My two children have both been put through orthophoniste, orthos.... psychologistes - you name it they've had it. The oldest arrived at 18 months and the younger was born here. I also consider my kids to be within the normal range, but the French education system is an animal that I think I will never understand. Perhaps you are at the beginning of that journey! As far as I can tell it is not like in UK when they only refer v serious cases (I think anyway as I never had to face it in UK with my very oldest who was educated there). The education authority is not responsible for these things which comes under health. I think teachers are very keen to syphon kids off very early on.

The education program here is unremittingly academic and pushy and although they do subjects in repeating cycles over the cycle of about 3 years, nevertheless, time for reflection and assimilation is non existent and in the meantime they judge and test children on what they cannot possibly assimilate in the first stages of the cycle. Some of the work I have seen is almost incomprehensible to me - I am not dim. For example - they learn (by rote) at the age of 8 - 9 very complex grammar rules which are incomprehensible to most normal adults except lexicographers. It is strange then that I see so many errors by French people in their written work - very straightforward things like the misuse of the accent on the word for mother (mere) I have frequently seen the acute accent being used instead of the grave. I have seen worse and I believe there is an acknowledged problem. So a question to the French government - why is the teaching not working? In the meantime my children are being made to feel they are to blame!

Homework on top of their very long day is unrelenting. It breaks my heart to force my kids to do homework but as I say to them - you have to do it - so you choose - do it and go to school feeling ok or don't do it and go to school worried with the likelihood the teacher will tell you off (which they do at anything).

Praise and rewards are few and far between and any awards ceremonies are slap dash and half hearted. I have found it to be a system which sucks any self esteem out of many children. I am so sorry to be negative but my children are finding it pretty tough and I don't know what to do (except of course go back to UK which we don't want to do).

My son also went through the spelling horrors - but suddenly (probably at the moment his brain reached a critical maturation point) he got it and it has been ok since.

I have gone through giving them extra lessons at home myself, private home tutors, sending them to an English speaking psychologist, punishment/reward regimes - you name it I've done it and I've fretted and bickered with my husband, felt guilty and still do.

As for the orthophoniste bilan itself - I will predict that you will take child along and they will do a test and the Orthophoniste will tell you in very grave terms how your child will need x sessions and then another bilan probably followed by more sessions. You will go along with it and there may or may not be a perceptible difference. Then in another academic year you will get it all again (possibly fuelled by a teacher who has a slightly unhealthy fascination with the English thing).

At first I treated these offerings (with a good Ortho) as free french lessons for child number 1. For child 2 - different Ortho - they amounted to nothing. I came to the conclusion that his brain was not yet ready for these complex phonics and I was right. Instinct counts for a lot, I have found.

I have for two years now refused intervention for my son based on our experience with poor number 1. I basically tell them that I have found intervention rarely works, more importantly, I have also found that intervention seems to reduce the self esteem of the child in his own eyes and also in that of his classmates and so begins a vicious cycle. I always then fear what reprisals will follow as a result of my refusal. I am certain this year that he will be recommended for redoublement. I have also refused that in the case of my older daughter for the same reasons but also I felt it was not offered in an appropriate year.

I realise this makes for grim reading and probably won't help you but perhaps to be forewarned is to be forearmed. I may come across as someone in denial. I truly am not - I started off trusting the authorities believing that they knew best and embraced these wonderful services. But a complex web involving amongst other things, a disinclination to teach to differentiated learning styles and the liberal use of sledgehammer interventions have, I believe, seriously harmed my daughter's prospects.

I think us Brits and probably Americans are at such odds to the approach to education here that there is in fact no meeting of minds. Steel yourself and protect your son.

I am sure I am not alone.

Best wishes