The Educational supermarket

What is happening in Britain ? Facebook is buzzing with friends who are tearing their hair out choosing primary schools for their kids. There’s talk of league tables, achievement and attainment tables, Ofsted reports, gold standards, and most frightening of all feeder schools – are your kids going to be canabalised. It sounds excessivley complicated.

Out here in France, you just send you r kids to the school at the end the street, and if that in’t good enough, you go private.

Call it living between two cultures – out here in France, I am often the « token Brit » the cultural reference and « expert » on things British. – There is always the inevitable question « Is it the same in Britain ?? » on subjects such tax, education, buying a house, buying a car, doing the weekly shop … Do they have supermarkets in Britain ? ….

And back in the UK, there are all those « What’s it like in France » questions.

There are those Brits who tend think that onec they cross the Channel, they are entering the Third World.

What’s medical care like in France ? Do they have hospitals ?

When you go shopping can you pay with your credit card ?

Okay – health care. Yes we have hospitals, but we don’t always treat folks the same way. The occasion working on a campsite when I had to translate for a sick English lady – the doctor examined her, pronounced his diagnosis then prescribed medication in the form of suppositories – the lady was more than a little « shocked » up about the idea of shoving her medecine where the sun don’t shine – but, medicine diffuses quicker in the body when you introduce it via the back door. It’s the same with taking your temperature – the French stick the thermometer up their backside – Brits put it in their mouth – advice always sterilise that thermometer.

So back to éducation.

« Have you got schools in France ?

« Yes. »

« Are they like schools in England ? »

« Yes and no. »

Well you feed your kids into the educational machine and they come out fully educated and formatted at the other end – a kind of educational/intestinal transit.

So, you’ve got kids. From 0 to 3 they are your responsibility.You stay at home and look after your kids or you do what everyone does, give the kids to grandma and grandpa or get a child minder or get a place in a creche

In France kids go to school in their sixth year BUT you can commit your kids into the state system at three years old. Ecole maternelle starts at three and it is universal and free and 99% of kids go. Most parents send their kids to nursery school and you send your kids to the nearest nursery school, which is attched to their future local primary school.

Formal education starts at 6 years old. Pop along to your local primary school in March, sign up your kids and … well you don’t have the choice – all kids go to their local establishment.

We don’t have applications or parental choice – the school is there and that is where you go.

So, if your local school is complete crap, or at least it does not correspond to your priorities, beliefs , values and expectations. Well you have to get around the system.

No, you don’t have to sacrifice to move to a nice catchment area ; you just …

  • Ask to send your kids to a school near your place of work because you live a long way out of town and physically cannot pick up your kids from their local school at the right times because you work too far away
  • Get a child minder who lives and works near a decent school and can pick up your kids because you work too far away, or at strange hours that mean you cannot get your kids
  • Go private

I have to add that in France there are no such things as league tables for schools. You send your kids to the local school, be it good or bad.

In France there is basically no such thing as parentam choice and officially there are no such things as league tables, though parents know what is a good school and what is a bad school and you will use the limited tricks on offer to get your kids into a good school.

Of course a young couple with kids might but their house with schools in mind, but we don’t go as far as the Brits in relocating to an area with « nice schools »

French education is universal, fully comprehensive, free at source and obligatory from 6 years and upwards. I love the universality of our system.

I switched off on UK education years ago. I have ceased to understand the multiplicity of UK schools . I am fully committed to the French compréhensive system and what I appreciate most is the non-faith based secular approach. No religion in school.

In the UK, you want to get your kids into the local Anglican primary school. Prove to me that you are a regular   Church-goer. Your local school is catholic – do you send your kids to confession ? Are they baptised in the faith ? This is rubbish.

Education is a basic human right. At primary level it should be free, non selective, non faith-based and in proximity to your home. If you want sélection that can come later at secondary level.

There are so many kids in the world not getting éducation and in the UK we are selecting kids for education at three or four years old. Sod it they will get and education.

So in answer to the question

« Do you have schools in France ? »

« Yes we do »

« Are they like Britsh schools »

« Yes and no »

Because every successive British government uses education as a political football. « We will improve the quality of education. » There are now so many different types of school in the UK that I can’t even tell you what they correspond to under the French model. For French education – it delivers a universal and quality product, because despite the machinations and cosmetic changes that each education minister brings, no one will ever change the main ethos – a fully comprehensive, non faith-based and non selective system ,