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Lingo Map: School/College Life

31 March 2017

Bonjour à tous ! This month I have been given the title of School/College Life. Despite France not being hugely different to the UK, there are a few significant differences in the way in which their schools function.

Pas d’uniformes!

First of all, (and this is always the first thing to come to mind), children in France don’t wear school uniforms. When you talk to them about our uniforms in the UK they seem to think they are ugly, yet a huge proportion of the class always put their hands up when you ask who wishes they could have uniforms in France. Despite the fact they are not obliged to dress in a certain way, as I mentioned in my last blog, all of the students in my school appear to wear virtually the same clothes. French teenage girls are fans of skinny jeans, leather jackets and adidas stan smiths and the boys love tracksuits, football tops and stan smiths too.

Different types of schools:

When talking about school life in France it’s really important to understand how their schools work in comparison to ours. Firstly they have école maternelle, école primaire, collège, lycée then université. I’m going to try and break down the school system a bit because it’s a bit complicated!

  • École maternelle is equivalent to our nursery. There are 3 classes: PS, MS and GS (petite section, moyenne section and grande section) and you go to an école maternelle from 2-6yrs old.
  • École primaire (primary school) is from 6-11yrs old. Whereas our classes usually go from reception, yr 1, yr 2 etc. until yr 6, the French classes have different names. They have: CP, CE1, CE2, CM1 and CM2. CP is the youngest class and CM2 the oldest.
  • Collège in France is not the same as college in the UK. It is actually the equivalent to our secondary schools. There are four classes that are: 6ème, 5ème, 4ème and 3ème. 6ème is the youngest class (11-12yrs old) and 3ème is the oldest (14-15yrs old) which is the opposite to our system where we count up from yr 7 – yr 11.
  • Finally we have lycée which is the equivalent to our college/sixth form. There are three classes: Seconde (15-16yrs old), Première (16-17yrs old) and Terminale (17-18yrs old).

Long days

My biggest surprise when starting work in a French secondary school was how long their days are. Classes start at 8am and go on until 5pm/6pm. This is a huge contrast to my secondary school in England that started at 9am and finished at 3.15pm. Most of my students don’t think anything of getting up everyday for school at 6am. However, on Wednesdays they have a half day and get to finish classes at midday!

Furthermore, they have crazily long lunch breaks! The lunchtime here can vary between 1-2hrs. In the two schools I work in it is 1.5hrs which is quite hard to get used to if you’re used to a 45min lunch break! This gives the children (and teachers) some time to chill out and have a break during their long days.

Another big difference with the schools here is that packed lunch doesn’t exist. The children either eat in the canteen every day or they go home. It is equally common to go home for your lunch as it is to stay and eat in the canteen. Many of the teachers also go to nearby cafés for lunch rather than staying on site.

Substitute teachers

One thing I’ve really noticed is that if teachers are absent, the students get to go home! Substitute teachers don’t appear to be a thing here so the children either stay and hang around in the playground or go home (this is what I’ve seen in the collèges anyway). You will often see children hanging around in the school as they also have free lessons. This again, was a big contrast for me as in secondary school between 9-3.15pm we had continuous lessons with no frees.

School sports teams

School sports teams don’t exist here in France on the same scale that they do in the UK. Even in university if you want to play a sport you usually do it in your own time with a club outside of your school/university. Lots of my students play for the local football team (another popular t-shirt that’s always worn in the school) – RC Grasse.

Un petit jeu

There is a lot of information in this blog about school and college life in France, so I want to break it up with a little game to finish. I had a few of my 3ème students write a note about French schools. I have copied their notes and translated them to English and you need to try and match them up!

Margaux, 14ans

Nous ne portons pas d’uniformes. On a 1 ou 2 heures de pause le midi. On a deux semaines quand on est en vacances.

Quentin, 14ans

En France, la cuisine de la cantine est meilleure et nous avons entre 1 et 2 heures pour manger.

Lula, 14ans

Au collège, on a cours du lundi au vendredi toute la journée sauf le mercredi où nous travaillons que le matin. Nous n’avons pas le droit aux téléphones. On apprend l’anglais en classe 3 heures par semaine.

Janko, 14ans

Au collège en France, les cours sont variés et nous avons beaucoup de temps pour manger et les vacances sont plus longues qu’en Angleterre.

Axel, 14ans

Le collège en France est très bien car nous avons assez de temps pour manger le midi. De plus, nous sommes souvent en vacances.


A. Secondary school in France is great as we have enough time to eat at lunchtime. Also, we’re always on holiday.

B. In secondary school, we have lessons all day Monday-Friday, apart from Wednesdays where we only work in the mornings. We are not allowed to use our phones. We have English lessons for 3 hours a week.

C. In secondary schools in France, the lessons are varied and we have lots of time to eat and the school holidays are longer than in England.

D. We don’t wear school uniform. We have 1-2 hours for our lunch break. We have two weeks off when we have our school holidays.

E. In France the food from the canteen is better and we have 1-2 hours to eat.


À bientôt !