4. General Operation of French Schools

  1. Services for Overseas Arrivals
  2. School Term Dates
  3. School Transport
  4. Boarding Your Child
  5. Discipline & Attendance
  6. Costs & Insurance
  7. School Lunches

4.5. Discipline & Attendance in French Schools

Like most other countries in the Europe the authority of the school in France is in decline and standards of discipline are of growing concern.

Reported incidents of violence (between pupils and against teachers) have been particularly notable in recent years.

Nevertheless, despite the occasional vivid press headlines, as a general rule, the standards of discipline in schools compare very favourably with those of other countries in Europe.

Whilst there are inevitably problems of a serious nature in some inner cities, most schools can be expected to offer a protected environment, and one that has a clear sense of its pedagogical purpose.

One of the factors that greatly assists in reducing indiscipline is the general lack of tolerance of any misbehaviour. If a child misbehaves then they can be expected to be punished.

Moreover, a high level of supervision of children at school takes place. Auxiliary teams, called vie scolaire, assist in the general running of the school and the supervision of the children.

Thus, school playgrounds and school canteens are supervised at all times by ancillary staff and, in some schools, teachers also receive support in the classroom from education assistants.

Once at collège there is a report each term, called la note de la vie scolaire, on the child’s behaviour and attendance. In the final year of collège, the report forms part of the total assessment towards the school certificate, called the Brevet.

This report causes a great deal of controversy amongst teachers and parents associations, as many consider it inappropriate that a child's academic record should be tainted by marks for behaviour.

A detailed regulatory framework is laid down by the government and much of the emphasis of the advice focuses on the importance of instilling individual responsibility in pupils.

Wherever possible punishment is expected to have an educational value, and corporal punishment is strictly forbidden.

The punishment of pupils works on two levels, with teachers entitled to hand out additional homework or detention, and headmasters and school discipline committees the power to exclude, either on a temporary or permanent basis.

If the child has misbehaved at school, and receives a punishment, then the parents will normally be informed in writing and be expected to sign a note prepared by the school as having read and understood the nature of the misconduct and the punishment.

Where there is continual misconduct then the parents will be invited to discuss the matter with the head-teacher, with the child often also present.

Where the child is to be formally punished by either the head-teacher or the school discipline committee (which includes parents on it!) then the process takes the form of quasi-judicial proceedings, with the right of separate representation granted to the child.

For pupils who are exceptionally disruptive or regularly absent there are special referral units to which pupils attend.

A daily school register of attendance is maintained and a full attendance record for the year is prepared.

Parents are obliged to contact the school in the event of any absence of their child. Normally, the school will request you follow up a phone call with a letter of confirmation.

If the school has not been informed by the parent you should expect a letter or phone call from them asking for information as to the reason for non-attendance. You may then be required to state in writing the reason for the child’s absence.

There are strong penalties for truancy, and family benefits can now be suspended where there is persistent failure of a pupil to attend school.

The practice in the UK of parents taking their children out of school early for holiday breaks is rather frowned upon, although it does happen, even amongst French families.

Once a child reaches reaches collège there is a strong emphasis on homework.

Children are also expected to review work done that day and may be expected to be tested on it either orally or in writing within a few days.

Emphasis is placed on rendering the child more autonomous about their learning, so that by the time they reach the end of lycée, they are more used to a ‘lecture’ style of teaching, with pupils taking notes during the class.

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