The French public school system is excellent, with a high level of instruction and extremely well-qualified teachers. It is also free – even some, if not most, of the most competitive and well-regarded schools in France are public ones: Lycee Henri IV (http://lyc-henri4.scola.ac-paris.fr) and Lycee Louis le Grand (http://www.louis-le-grand.org/albedo/index.php) are two public French high schools which are considered the very best in France; admission is by competitive exams.
To register at a public school, it is necessary to go to the Service des Ecoles at the mairie of your arrondisement. French schools can be over-crowded, and applications should be made in the early spring before the fall term. If you are in doubt regarding your application deadline, it is prudent to contact the school directly. Late applications are frowned upon but are sometimes given consideration depending on school enrollment.
Documents for the mairie:
- livret de famille (if you have one)
- your child’s birth certificate
- proof of address
- proof of your child’s immunizations.
Once the mairie has your file, they will issue a certificat d’inscription which you must deliver to the school. The mairie will advise you when you should contact the director of the school. At that time, you will call and set up an appointment to complete the registration.
Documents for the school:
- same as above
- certificat d’inscription issued by the mairie
- attestation of health and school readiness issued by the doctor
- proof of up-to-date vaccinations supplied by the doctor
French public schools will accept foreigners whose French is adequate to follow the class instruction. All students follow a national curriculum, with a rigorous schedule covering French, mathematics, literature, languages, history and at least one foreign language (normally two).
In general, you register at the public school which is attributed to you because of your address. In some cases there may be more than one from which you can choose. Make sure you have a sense of which one you prefer when you visit the mairie so that you can request it. If you prefer that your child attend a ‘non-local’ school, specific applications must be made through the mairie. You must request a ‘deviation’ (dérogation) from the standard rule if you would like to apply to a school outside of your area. Do not hesitate to approach the school directly regarding enrollment (in addition to the mairie) as in some cases, it is within the director’s discretion to permit your deviation.
If your child has already attended school, then you may be required to furnish:
- End of term reports for the past year
- Exit certificate from the school
- Certificate of admission to the next grade
- Vaccination certificates for BCG, DT-Polio
- Two passport photographs with name and class requested.
All in all, do not be alarmed by the ‘administrativeness’ of school enrollment. Be thorough, be patient and be assured that your child will be enrolled in a school.