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

4.2. French School Term/Holiday Dates

The school year in France is separated by five periods of schooling and four holiday periods, comprising at least 36 weeks of study.

As a general rule, in maternity and primary schools, each week comprises 4.5 days of schooling, with the half-day each Wednesday (in a small number of cases, Saturday morning).

However, since 2017 schools have been given discretion to opt for a 4-day week (a return to the pre-2013 order), leaving Wednesday free of classes. Over one-third have chosen to do so, mainly rural schools. Most have done so for financial reasons, as it generates savings on school transport and in extra-curricular activities.

This means the school days are longer/holidays slightly shorter for those only attending 4 days a week in order to comply with the minimum annual hours. The maximum permitted number of hours each week is 24 hours.

The change is a hugely controversial one (and subject to perennial debate and change) due to the concentration of school hours over a shorter week. It means that pupils on 4-day week attend school for 144 days a year, when the average in the OECD is 187 days.

At collège (lower secondary) and lycée (upper secondary) there are 5 days of schooling each week.

In the interests of traffic and tourism management the country is divided into different geographic zones for school term and holiday dates.

The primary aim of this division is to ensure that there is no negative impact on the economy of the ski resorts in the Alps.

Around 30% of the annual income from tourism in France is brought in by the ski resorts, which have suffered in recent years over the spring period by the positioning of school holiday dates at the end of April/beginning of May. To deal with this problem in the past couple of years the spring holiday has been brought forward.

You can find a map of the zones, together with latest official term and holiday dates at French School Calendar 2019-2020.


Next: School Transport

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