Private French schools teach approximately 15% of children at primary level and 20% at secondary level, with most operating under contract with the government.
A great many of the schools are also upper secondary lycées, with over 30% of all lycées in the country having private sector status.
Private schools have become very popular over the past few years, and in many metropolitan areas of France demand substantially outstrips supply.
This is notably the case in Paris and in the Mediterranean regions, where the best private lycées are reputed to be located. In and around Toulouse, Brittany and the Loire Valley there are also reports of schools having a problem keeping up with demand.
Unlike public schools, private schools do not have to be secular so, for the most part, the schools are Catholic.
Where they operate under contract the school receives funding from the government.
This being the case the school curriculum is the same as that for the public schools. The schools are also subject to general inspection by the government school inspectors in the same manner as public schools.
Teaching staff in private schools do not necessarily hold a qualification that enables them to teach in State schools. However, you should not assume from this that the teaching standards are low.
Indeed, in national comparisions of lycée examination results, the overall performance of the private schools is superior to that of the state schools.
Nevertheless, this is not always the case, so if you are considering private education for your child you need to check out the specific results for the school. As always, the maxim 'lies, damned lies and statistics' may well apply, for many private schools self-select on the basis of ability. A private school has greater control over intake and there are often entrance examinations.
By the standards of most other countries, school fees are modest, due in large measure to the funding by the government.
While you might expect to pay under €500 a year for a modest primary school, this might increase to €2000 for a lycée, and up to €4000 for some of the most prestigious schools in Paris.
If the school is not under contract with the government, then the school fees are comparable to those in many other European countries.
Next: International Schools