Teaching English or training people in France and getting your own 'déclaration d'activité'

I was wondering how many of you teach English as your main job or train people in other capacities, equally, how many of you have got your own 'déclaration d'activité? Do you know what it is? Have you had more work since you've had it?

I've been teaching in France for around 18 years now and ended up writing about how to set up on your own as an independent training business or 'organisme de formation' and get your own 'déclaration d'activité:

Getting your déclaration d'activité

It's been written to help teachers or trainers of other types, earn higher hourly teaching rates and take on the role of the training company. Albeit, on a small scale.

The book doesn't go into the details of setting up large training centres, as it's really about being able to take advantage of occasional business opportunities that may come your way. Often, once settled down into your new area, you'll come across business situations that are unique to you and having your own 'numero formateur' will enable you to take better advantage of them.

The book came about after having gone through a gruelling process of refusals, incomplete 'dossiers', and complete bewilderment, alongside a genuine wish to help out the 'small' independent trainer earn a better living from their profession, which is sometimes quite poorly paid in relation to the mileage, reports and administration involved in the job. It's a great 'back-up' to your other training company work if you're motivated enough to do the paperwork involved.

After having helped out some French businesses I had it translated into French too under : 'Formateur Independante - obtenir votre déclaration d'activité' (available on lulu.com)

obtenir votre déclaration d'activité

For anyone who's read the book and is still having difficulties understanding the process, I can offer help at reasonable prices, so please feel free to contact me.

Firstly, many thanks for all your comments.

As you quite rightly point out, alongside your experience it's extremely important to have a passion for any subject you decide to teach, before ever deciding to work as a trainer or teacher.

From a semantic point of view I was looking at the verb 'to teach', and noun 'teacher' (someone whose job it is to teach) in the capacity of ' to help someone learn about something by giving them information' (Longman's dictionary of contemporary English), rather than the profession of teaching as a vocation in Schools and educational establishments.

I realise that I wasn't very clear on that point, however it has led to a very interesting discussion and enlightened me as to the nature of the CAPES.

The book isn't aimed at persuading those with a CAPES or other teaching qualifications who work in Educational establishments, to work elsewhere. It's aimed at those who are self-employed and qualified in their respective subjects, either through professional experience and/or exams, and who wish to teach or train mainly in the business sector.

I always hesitate to jump in on educational subjects in France, as mainly they ALWAYS are predicated about getting this piece of paper or that piece of paper, but Veronique makes the most important point I feel, in that she wants people teaching her children who have 'excellent subject knowledge, be passionate about it, and want to share it'.

My own experience in several even many other countries is exactly that. I ran my own small advertising agency in Australia, was Divisional Head of JWT Direct Marketing, Partner with Lintas-Clark in Hungary, taught MBA and BBA for two Business Schools in Brussels (plus Vietnam), plus did public seminars, and private courses (I have even just re-released a course on marketing for SME's on Kindle). Yet I left school at 15 years old and spent a lifetime actually DOING what I ended up teaching whilst still doing it at the time as well.

I NEVER had one piece of qualifying educational piece of paper, but my then and now passion for my business of Marketing and Advertising, gave me the hands-on knowledge of the real-world. I have published books on the subject generally, and also a library of books on my particular passion of posters and their social impact, and even now am working up my tome on a History of Propaganda.

This is what I call a) Experience b) Passion and c) (immodestly) why I always had people coming to me to prepare educational materials for them. I didn't advertise as I had the best of all - word of mouth reputation. Now I am very proud of that and of what I did, and the successful students I had (with other profs of course), but I never did anything in France owing to the idiocies of the systems here. But I did work physically in 12 different countries (lived full-time in eight) plus did projects in 20 other countries (I have the samples to prove it)

I did find, which may not apply today although I suspect nothing much has changed, is that too many students get pieces of paper of dubious value, and think that is enough to carry them through life. At best, it is a 'starter for ten' but nothing more.

I love France and love living here which I regard as a privilage, but as I have said repeatedly anyone who wants to start a business here had better be prepared for a continual Course in Applied Lunacy.

That you needed only, not that you only needed.

Most people going into teaching do a subject-specific degree and then a MA Education which means practical & theory, then they have 1 year probation with a fairly heavy training load in there as well. I don't know if the equivalent of a BEd exists here. FLE (equivalent of TESOL) is another specialisation people can do as well. Many people don't decide they want to teach & do Ed degrees & I think that's a very good thing, I want the people teaching my children to have excellent subject knowledge & be passionate about their subject & want to share it above all.

Time was in the UK that you ONLY needed such terrible A level grades to get on a B Ed course that it was completely devalued, certaInly it never crossed my mind, or any of my clever friends' minds, to do one. We all went for degrees in something we found fascinating & wanted to spend 3 or 4 or more years reading writing & discussing & learning about. What we were going to 'do with it' didn't really figure - but that was then, far fewer people went to university in those days. (I have British German & French university qualifications so I feel I can generalise a bit).

Only one year of training? I did 3 years learning how to teach as well as subject matter, followed by one full year of fulltime teaching in order to be given a teaching qualification. That's 4 years in total specialised training. Since then I've got TESOL and other experience. I'm a wasted resource now in either country. Some of us oldies have a LOT to offer but we are discriminated against or ignored. Might be time soon for a blogpost on that.

people, obviously, not paople.

Oh you have a year of training after you have done the hoop-jumping but still too many paople have poor classroom skills even though they may have good lang & lit knowledge. Do also remember that you need only a scraped pass in the Bac to go to university so many students are weak as weak can be, the hotshots go to Grandes Ecoles.

I'm sure you were an outstanding student at 51, I now rather think university is wasted on the young, frankly. I had a roaring good time & loved every second but I'm sure that if I were to go now aged 50 I might actually do some work, because I certainly didn't do a great deal of it between the ages of 16 and 23, which is when I was at university.

Thanks Veronique. That goes some way to explaining the appalling standard of English of my uni students. I guess I knew it was nothing whatsoever about being a good teacher. I don't have a Masters as I never had the opportunity to get one earlier in life and it's too late to be useful now. I was an outstanding student when I got my degree at the age of 51. We do what we can with what is given to us. I'm disappointed, time has run out for so many things but it's not for want of trying. My life is about to change drastically (not necessarily in a direction I'd want), I suspect, and am hoping France can still be a part of that.

Frances the CAPES is a two-part competitive exam, you need to be an EU national or married to one to enter.

To qualify for entry you need a BA + an MA and to make sure they are accepted otherwise no dice. The first round consists of written exams in linguistics, comprehension, translation & textual analysis. You have about 5 hours for each exam, they expect a lot of writing. This first part is supposed to weed out the hopeless.

There are set dates by which you have to get your application in every year on the Gouv. site. The actual exams take place on set dates in a set place in each academie, results and rankings are published on Publinet.

If you get through the first part you go through to the second round then you have orals (how you'd do a sequence of lessons based on documents you are given, 2 hours shut in a room to prepare, then speak for about 30 minutes in French, without being interrupted, to explain; then have it picked to bits in front of a panel; then an oral comprehension & explanation of same in English) again what counts is doing better than the others, not some notional pass mark. (I'll say it again, it is a competition and not an exam so even if you 'pass' you may not get through, what counts is beating the others).

To Frances Harrison in re “I imagine the CAPES for teaching English is a written exam in French and only available to French nationals or those married to them?” All EU nationals and their “spouses” are eligible. No EU member state may discriminate against EU citizens, their spouses, legal “long duration” CE card holders and their “spouses.” Sadly, non-EU nationals even with permanent residency, are second class residents and do not enjoy full benefits unless the EU national spouse also resides in the same country where the benefit is sought. So if you are an American married to a Spaniard and have permanent residency under the “regimen comunitario” of family scheme, your spouse must live with you in France. You can not have a cross-border, bi-national commuter relationship, e.g.: Girona and Perpinya.

Hi Frances + Veronique,

Véronique, you're quite right that looking for jobs takes a certain amount of time and if you've got a large family or other commitments, a stable monthly income is most probably a better choice.

I find there are many people who prefer and need the regular monthly salary and stability that Uni/school teaching brings and those that prefer self-employment and teaching adults in a their place of work. On balance both have their merits.

I find it terribly unfair, that Frances doesn't have the choice of either, due to not being in the EU. I've met many people from the US whose first years here were marred by permanent threats of being ejected just due to their passport.

I got my déclaration d'activité at the end of last year but not had any more work as a result of it. If I did get any students wanting to make use of this system would this mean that I would not be paid directly by them? Any ideas about where I should be advertising (I train in mainly business English online via Skype)?

I am currently teaching at a French uni. It's extremely stressful as it's extremely precarious. I am blocked from teaching in schools, blocked from having my own business and cannot be a vacataire without a salaried job elsewhere. Currently facing being ejected from France (after 5 years) if I can't find a CDD of a certain standard as my current Maitre de Langue position is a once in a lifetime only. There are so many roadblocks to working and surviving in France if one is not EU. France desperately nees experienced anglophone teachers like me but they can't be bothered. So a déclaration d'activité is not an option. I hadn't actually heard of this term. I imagine the CAPES for teaching English is a written exam in French and only available to French nationals or those married to them?

Thanks Louise, but what I was wondering is why someone who actively wants to TEACH (rather than train) would go for being self-employed, for permanent residents in France the CAPES/Agreg looks a safe option.
I suppose though it depends, like everything else, on what else is going on in one's life.

(btw I'm a fonctionnaire, I have Bac+6 + the CAPES & teach for the EN. I wouldn't, personally, like the uncertainty of running around looking for jobs as well as the time-constraints as I have 5 children still in full-time education. Obviously there are constraints, as in any job, but for me they are worth it.)

Hi Veronique,

The CAPES/Agreg, is for teaching in Schools, universities, educational establishments and yes, working in a school or uni as a 'fonctionnaire' has many benefits, such as paid holidays and a regular monthly income. If that's what you're looking and you're flexible about where you're going work, then it's worth doing them. For me, setting up as a self-employed independent trainer is very different. I've never taught in a school or uni by choice, as I enjoy working in companies. I think being indepedent gives you more, rather than less choice. You're still able to work as a vaccataire in schools and universities if you wish, but with your déclaration d'activité you also have the possibility to work directly with companies and continue with training centres too.

Hi Louise, I found this post interesting but I have a question, if someone wants to teach, why not do the CAPES/Agreg & teach as a main job that way? I can see being an independent teacher/trainer probably offers more flexibility than the EN but there are certainly benefits to being a fonctionnaire.