You are coming to France with your child or children and would like to learn more about childcare, the French educational system and financial aid. Here you will find all the necessary information that will allow you and your children to embark on this new adventure smoothly.
You are coming to France with children under 3. Find out the childcare options that you can choose from.
In home childcare services
An assistante maternelle agréée is a registered childminder who provides childcare for 1 to 3 children in the childminder's home. They can be directly employed by the parents who then receive financial aid from the government (prestations familiales d’aide aux jeunes enfants, PAJE). Most French parents choose this childcare option. Assistantes maternelles can also be employed in family childcare centers (crèches familiales).
A nanny is a childcare provider that looks after your children in your home. They are directly employed by the parents who then receive financial aid from the government (prestations familiales d’aide aux jeunes enfants, PAJE). An employment contract must be signed. This childcare option is rather expensive, unless you have at least three children under the age of 6 or you share the nanny with another family.
Daycare centers cover a wide range of group settings offering professional and registered childcare for young children.
Nurseries (crèche collective) can look after your children every day, on a regular basis, full-time or part-time. This childcare option is in great demand, so space is usually limited. In France, the crèche and public nurseries are funded by local authorities. The cost of sending a child to a crèche is determined by the parent’s income. Please note that nurseries are closed for a whole month during summer holidays.
Other childcare centers, such as halte garderie, provide occasional childcare. This childcare option allows your child to interact with other children.
Family childcare centers (crèche familiale) or parent’s childcare centers (halte-garderie parentale) are small facilities managed by a group of parents working alongside childcare professionals.
Contact the city hall of your arrondissement or commune for further information. You can find their address and phone number on internet by typing "Mairie de" and the name of your place of residence. We recommend you to contact directly the person in charge of the Early Childhood Department (Petite Enfance).
Word of mouth
One of the best ways to learn about the different childcare solutions is through word of mouth. You can join the association Accueil Ville France (AVF) Bures-Gif-Orsay that connects expatriate mothers.
A baby-sitter who can help out a few hours providing "as needed" childcare can be an ideal option, as long as the baby-sitter has a civil liability insurance and is over 16 years old. In general, baby-sitters are young girls who want to earn some extra pocket money. Ask around you what is the average babysitting rate. Visit the national personal care services' website for further information on the current legislation and to find the nearest licensed agencies.
Other interesting websites:
In France, every child has the right to go to school, no matter where they come from. Public schools are mixed-sex and free. Children go to kindergarten or nursery from the age of three, and school education is compulsory for children aged between 6 and 16. It covers both elementary education and the first four years of secondary education. The educational program is regulated by the French Ministry of National Education (Ministère de l’Education Nationale).
How do I enrol my child in a French school?
You need to go to the City hall (Mairie) of your commune or arrondissement with the following documents:
- your child’s valid passport,
- your child’s birth certificate translated into French by a sworn translator,
- your child’s health record: you must prove that your child has been immunised against diphtheria, tetanus and DT-Polio,
- a proof of residency (lease, rent receipt or an electricity bill).
If there are several schools in the commune or arrondissement, the local city hall will tell you what your option is. If you want to enrol your child in another school, you will have to fill in a form to seek approval for a derogation. After the enrolment procedure the city hall will issue a certificate. To finalise the enrolment, you must go to the school with this certificate.
Nursery school (école maternelle)
Children go to kindergarten or nursery from the age of 3. It is optional. However, in France, most children between 3 and 5 attend nursery school.
Elementary school (école primaire)
From the age of 6, school education is compulsory. Your children must be enrolled at school in the year they turn 6 and start school in September. For example, if your child turns 6 in December, he/she must start elementary school in September of the same year. During the first year of elementary school (called cours préparatoire, or CP) your child will start learning to read and write. Students in elementary school have one teacher, called maitre or maitresse and the educational program consists of French, math and science classes amongst others. The elementary school has 5 levels:
- Cours Préparatoire (CP),
- CE1 and CE2 (1st and 2nd year of Cours Élémentaires),
- CM1 and CM2 (1st and 2nd year of Cours Moyens).
Secondary school (collège)
Secondary school is compulsory for children aged between 11 and 15. School years are numbered on a decreasing scale: first year of secondary school is the sixième (6th class), second year is the cinquième (5th class), etc. Secondary school students receive approximately 26 hours of tuition per week. At the end of the troisième (3rd class), students take the academic examination called the diplôme national du Brevet, equivalent to the GCSE in England and Wales.
If you have to enrol your child, go directly to the school they are assigned to. To learn more about secondary school, visit the regional education authority website.
High school (lycée)
Secondary education for pupils aged 15 and over is dispensed in high schools, called lycées. Pupils attend the lycée for three years:
- Seconde (1st year of lycée),
- Première (2nd year),
- Terminale (final year)
The Baccalauréat is the academic qualification that French students take after high school and is the main required diploma to pursue university studies. It can be obtained in streams, such as Sciences, Economics and Social Sciences, and Literature.
To find out more about high school, visit the regional education authority website.
The following list gathers some of the region’s international schools providing education in various languages:
- Bilingual section (French/English) of the Collège Martin Luther King in Buc,
- Lycée Franco-Allemand in Buc (French/German or French/English sections),
- Lycée international in Saint-Germain en Laye,
- Bilingual sections of the Sèvres International School.
Please note that some of these schools require entrance examinations and some of them charge tuition.
After-school childcare options
Daycare options: Centres de loisir (after school recreation centers) and after-school child-minding facilities (garderies périscolaires)
Outside school hours, centres de loisir and child-minding facilities organise leisure and recreational activities for children. Before and after school, your child can stay at the nursery school. Every Wednesday and every day during school breaks, your child can go to a recreational centre during your working hours
In-home childcare: registered childminders (assistantes maternelles) or nannies (nourrices)
If your child is under 6 years old, you may be entitled to CAF benefits from the Caisse d’Allocations Familiales. Find out more about the CAF benefits here.
School starts in September and ends at the beginning of July of the following year. It is divided into three terms:
- First term: September, October and November
- Second term: December, January and February
- Third term: March, April, May, June and beginning of July
France is divided into three zones that dictate when a school at a particular location will have its holiday. The Ile-de-France region is located in the C-zone.
School calendar 2017 – 2018 (zone C)
First day of school: September 4th 2017
All-Saints' mid-term break: from October 21st to November 6th
Christmas vacation: from December 23rd to January 8th
Winter vacation: from February 17th to March 5th
Spring vacation: from April 14th to 30th
Summer vacation: from July 7th 2018
If you have a minimum of two children under the age of 20, you can apply for allocations familiales which is a family allowance. It is managed by Caisse des Allocations Familiales which is the government body that helps families by offering different services and benefits. Please note that this allocation depends on your revenue, number of children, and their age. These benefits are received each month.
European Economic Area and Swiss nationals
If you are a EEA or Swiss national with children under 20, you have the option to claim CAF benefits if you meet the following requirements:
- Your country of permanent and habitual residence or your principal place of residence is France,
- Your children are permanent residents in France and qualify as your dependents or are under the responsibility of the person you have designated to be the beneficiary of the family allowance (such as your spouse),
- You work in France,
- Or you and your family have enough resources and are covered by a health insurance (applicable to students).
Non-European Economic Area or Swiss nationals
If you are not a EEA or Swiss national but have children that are under 20 years old, you have the option to claim CAF benefits if you meet the following requirements:
- Your country of permanent and habitual residence or your principal place of residence is France, you have a valid residence permit, and you can prove that your children have fulfilled the conditions of lawful entry into France if they were born in another country,
- Your children are permanent residents in France and qualify as your dependents or are under the responsibility of the person that you have designated as the beneficiary of the family allowance (such as your spouse).
To find out more about your rights regarding family allowance, go to the Caisse d’allocation familiale of your place of residence. To get the address, ask your City hall or search online.