Taking children out of school for a few days .... expecting backlash!

I'm about to inform my children's schools that they will be missing 3 days next week for a family wedding. They are in CE1 and CM1. I have a feeling it will go down really badly, and in fact I had originally planned just to phone them in sick, but have decided honesty is the best policy. I have not taken my children out of school as yet in France for any reason other than illness. Would love to hear from anyone vis a vis the reaction I should expect from their teachers......

Hi Christine, just wondering how fees don’t apply to french residents but they do to uk residents… Having been to uni in the UK and France I’d go for France any day - the education’s about the same (very different pedagogically as with school education but same sort of level) and the fees are far far less. Add to that the caf, resto U, crous and everything else… I know which way I want mine to go (although as they’re 99% French at the moment (born here and their mum’s french, we only speak french between us but I speak to them in English)) I’d like them to go to the UK for a while as they are technically anglo-french!

Hi Cynthia, it’s interesting that your children all decided to stay in France for Uni. I have a feeling both of mine will want to go back, but I might be wrong and luckily the English university fees don’t apply to french residents. I think you are right about the attidude to greves being different according to the size of the school. We live in a very small rural community. There is a real feeling that to close the school would be to make life very difficult for a lot of parents so it’s individual teachers only, and they often offer a Garderie for the class of a teacher on strike (which helps).

My children were also born in France, in fact I have been here 11 years now. I went to England to work for two years during that time, and the kids went to school there. I was amazed that they forgot EVERYTHING. They were bilingual when we first went. They have got their french back again now, and are integrated, and I also work to keep their English up. Not so much spoken, but written. My children are more culturally English than I am (their father is English and on my side we're all expats). But my only concern is if they go to Uni in the UK. It was such a cultural shock for me that I dropped out, as did quite a few of my fellow class mates.

Speaking of the 'greves' in my children's school it's individual teachers, not 'whole school'. My son's teacher last year always chose to opt in while all the other teachers worked.

(sorry, I've wandered off topic!)

I would like to add that I wont take them to the funeral but they will stay with my parents while we go!

I don't think there is any danger of them becoming more British than French. My daughter has only spent about 10 weeks there in total and my son about 5. The eldest is very good at French grammar, it is the English that I have to teach her so that she is totally bi-lingual, not just able to speak English. Her biggest problem is that she can't understand her maitresse when she speaks in English to her!

We haven't chosen to put our children in the French system, they have naturally fallen into it as they were born here. As for adopting French culture, it is the English culture they have to learn about it as they are rarely exposed to it - which is not necessarily such a bad thing.

Schoolwise, they have attended an excellent school since they were 2 years old without one single strike day (or unauthorised absence). As one of the few foreigners in the school (us and a half Japanese family) we are welcomed for bringing a little diversity in the school despite my refusal to go in and help the English lessons! And yes the Japanese mum has been in and taught Japanese and origami (blushes from me).

However, for a close family wedding or funeral I wouldn't hesitate to take them out of school while they are in Primaire. Primarily because if we have to attend, we have to take the children, no option. Fortunately this hasn't arisen in the past but is quite likely to within the next few months and to the UK we will go, as my husband will not attend his brothers funeral without me and I can't go without the children. C'est la vie!

I'm glad it hasn't been a problem for you- now you can go, have a good time and not worry that you're doing something wrong.

Enjoy your wedding and the break from routine that it'll give you :)


And yet at our school they have always told us that as we are foreigners, it is very important for us to maintain our links to our home country, especially as we have no family over here. I was only talking to my son's GS teacher today (who has had my kids for the last 3 years) and she was emphasising how important it is for me to teach my son to read and write in English and not to forget British culture and family.

Great answer about the 'greves' I would be tempted to do the same except our school is a 'privée' and never goes on strike!

That is a good point. My son missed about a week last academic year through all the greves! Now it’s out of the bag it may well just slip out of my mouth if I get challenged! The good news is that I have heard back from my daughter’s school and they are fine with it.

When we first moved here 3 years ago our daughters were in CE2. We had already planned a holiday to Cyprus as we at the time of booking we thought we would be in the UK. Our head master was not impressed and told us ‘tant pis pour vous’ ! I felt so guilty but there was nothing to be done about it. At the end of the day in CE2, Cm1 and CM2 they repeat the work each year in more depth. I knew that the girls would not be hugely scarred by missing a week of schooling even in MR le Directeur thought so. Several months later a French friend asked for some time of as her husband was a farmer and they simply cannot go away in July and August. She asked the head master in front of me and I decided it was pay back time. I simply assured her that as he took a day off every time there was a ‘greve’ then not too worry too much about her children having two days off in return. She nearly choked and he didn’t look too impressed! Luckily we now have a new head mistress and she is wonderful and understands that we have family ties in the UK (not that we have taken them out more than once in two years). I agree with the others honesty is the best policy and maybe don’t mention ‘les greves’ like I did!!! xx

Thank you for all your replies. Everyone seems to have understanding teachers. I am expecting a reaction like Kathryn experienced. My son was out of school on Friday because he was ill, the first time in 12 months. On collecting him from school on Monday I was confronted by his teacher asking why I had not come to collect his homework on Friday evening. I explained that the whole family was ill, and in no state to come out, and I asked if it was a particularly important homework he had missed. No, but apparently being ill is not a good enough excuse to miss one day of homework according to her. He's only 6 years old. I have sent the letter this morning in the Cahier de Liaison, and am awaiting their response!

Our new (young) teacher insisted I wrote to the Departement inspector to ask for his permission to take Primary children out of the country for my parents’ golden wedding - I finally got a response 3 weeks after we got back which basically said they had to stay in school and I was not to do it again! I’ve never heard of anyone else being asked to do this and there are lots of Brit children around here who are constantly missing school, particularly either side of holidays. I wonder if this is a new requirement or an over anxious teacher?

We are doing the same today. They are out today, tom, Monday and Tuesday. (our only flight options short of paying 3,200 eur) I sent a formal application to the school back in September and it was fine. I gave them plenty of notice and asked for all the school work in advance. In fact one of the teachers actually said “enjoy your trip”. Like you, I’ve never done it before so I think that went in our favour. Also, I didn’t fancy pulling the sick one, in case one of them told the truth when they went back to school. My children are in CE2, CM2 and CE1 also. Good luck and enjoy the wedding !!!

Hello Christine, just to confirm what all these others are saying, we’ve done it (in Maternelle and Primaire), been upfront and honest, taken work and once even helped the teacher with a little project (posting a postcard back to class from UK with photos of red postbox, etc). I have never encountered a problem at all and the French families do the same too, one of Ed’s friends ski’s for a week every year and it’s never been in the holidays! Have a great time at the wedding.


We took our two out for 2 days to travel to a Christening in Nice in Septemeber and will be doing so again in December for a long weekend in to catch up with family in the U.K. I just write a note and put it in the Cahier de Liason, assuring them that I have no choice and no-one to leave them with in France. I also take homework. There have been no problems at all. They seem to understand that sometimes we need to do it.

Good luck.


Hi , We have taken ours out in the past. Our work maens the only possible time for a family break id=s in January / febuary and the school got to know that.

I always asked permission, but in a way that made it a fait accompli but politley. I would say , family circumstances mean that we have to take the children to ...... I realise this is term time but I have no choice when I am so far from my family. I will be taking them from this date to that date, I hope you can give me all the work they will miss please while they are away so that they can do some every day. Thak you very much for being understanding.

Even when it was for holidays rather than a family wedding/funeral I made sure the homework was done and was handed in on the 1st day back . Once when it was along trip just over 2 weeks I got them to keep a holiday diary each day writting up what they were doing and the children showed it to the teachers when they got back to classes.

An english friend of mine at the same time with the same head teacher asked for permission to take her son and got told no way. I have never asked for the right to go as such just told them politley what was going to happen . If they had said no I would have had to rethink but luckily they never did.

We stopped taking them in term time once they got to college. I hope that helps

Best is indeed to discuss with the teachers, explaining the occassion. But most of all ask for the classes’ program for that week and assure the teachers that your kids will do the (home)work they’re supposed to do in those days missed.

I’ve taken ours out loads over the years (much less so once they are at secondary though - just too much to catch up on) and no-one has ever batted an eyelid. If anything, I think we’ve been cut a bit of slack for being foreigners and having family in the UK, so of course, “c’est normal” that we need to travel back there for weddings etc. Bonne chance!

We took our 2 boys out of school when they were in CE1 and CM1 I think, it was several years ago now. We had a holiday planned in the USA and as we had enough air-miles for all of us, we had to go out of school holidays. We decided to go in May when there is all the Bank holidays so the boys only missed 5 or 4 days out of 9. The teachers were very laid back about it but afterwards said that it took the boys longer to get back into school work! Think they said this to be difficult!

Good luck, and remember that the children should catch up with the work when they go back.

Hi Christine,

Like the U.K, once children are officially school age they are expected to be at school during term time unless they're ill. At my son's school however they are pretty relaxed about absences for 'special' occasions. I'm ashamed to say I take my youngest (7/CE1) on airport runs if it's to see off or welcome a 'special' visitor (although i hasten to add not very often). Hopefully, when you explain it's a family wedding and not something that happens everyday they won't make a fuss. But, this is France- so who knows :)

Just remember, you're going anyway, whether they're happy about it or not- it's an occasion that you can't miss and provided you offer to help the children catch up on any work they miss, what real harm will it do?

I hope you all enjoy the wedding