In France the large majority of school pupils attend a free state school. Paying (private) schools are sometimes available, though commonly at a low price, and there are International schools, where lessons may be taught in English, in some of the larger towns and cities.
The French academic school year
The three levels of school attended in France are called maternelle (lasts 2-3 years, children aged 2 or 3 to 6 years old); ecole primaire (lasts 5 years, primary school, for ages 6-11) and collège (lasts 4 years, ages 11-15). This is usually followed by up to three years in lycée.
The school week and the hours in the school day vary from region to region. All schools have classes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Some schools also have classes on Wednesday mornings, others on Saturday mornings. Wednesday afternoons are traditionally reserved for extra-curricular activities e.g. arts and sports
French school holidays
The academic year in France falls into three terms, separated by the school holidays. The summer holiday is approximately eight weeks long (July and August), the Christmas holiday is two weeks starting just before Christmas, and the spring holiday is two weeks at the end of April. Note that the spring holiday does not usually include Easter.
There is also a shorter holiday during the autumn.
To ease the burden on holiday resorts, each region of France is designated as belonging to a particular category - A, B, or C - and each of these categories has slightly different holiday periods.
There is no school on the French public holidays
Enrolling in a French school
Birth certificate and school records will be required to enrol. You will also need a medical record, showing the history of vaccinations the child has received. Some vaccinations are given earlier in France than in other countries - if this applies your child will be asked to have the vaccinations.
Otherwise the process is straightforward and schools have an obligation to accept your children if you live in the commune.
Other French school information
Schooling in France is secular, no religious training or instruction is provided or allowed. Pupils may not wear religious insignia to school (e.g. a cross on a chain).
The idea of 'segregation according to wealth' - i.e. expensive private schools which try and attract the best teachers and pupils - is not common in the French education system.
The 'rentrée' - the return to school after the summer holidays - involves parents in buying many items of stationery and books. You will receive a (long) list of items that your child needs before the rentrée. Less wealthy families receive a grant that pays for most of these items. Schools themselves do not provide these items.