Grants for Return to School in France

Many children who attend school in France can obtain a grant towards the cost of school materials, but the rules have been changed this year.

Whilst school education in France is ostensibly ‘free’, parents are required to meet the cost of pens, pencils, stationery, and even certain course books. Indeed, the sale of school stationery is a major commercial event each August and September, with supermarket shelves positively brimming with an endless variety of materials to entice families into the store. This year, following an agreement struck with the French Government, the supermarkets have all fixed the price of a core number of 30 items, with the result that the costs of la rentrée have reduced for the first time in 24 years. Nevertheless, parents also need to buy sports gear, pay for school insurance, school lunches, photos, and meet the costs of extra-curricula activities and trips, and there is no evidence prices here are going down. In order to help with some of these costs, a range of grants are available, the most notable of which is the 'Return to School Grant' – the Allocation Rentrée Scolaire (ARS). Although access to the grant is means tested, the test of resources is a generous one, and resident expat families have an entitlement to the grant. The maximum income threshold for a family of two children is a net taxable income of €27,066 (2006 tax year). The grant was previously an inflation indexed fixed sum of €272 per child, irrespective of the age of the child. Following representations to the Government that a uniform grant did not meet the costs of older children, this year the level of the grant varies according to the age of the child.

  • For children aged 6-10 years the grant is €272
  • For those aged 11-14 it is €287
  • For those aged 15-18 years it is €297
This modest change has failed to win over many critics. The French Families Association (CSF) estimates the cost of la rentrée for a primary school child to be around €127, but for a student at lycée upwards of €500. One of the reasons for the high cost at lycée is that pupils are expected to buy many of their own course books. The grant is normally paid before the start of each school year, but late applications are accepted. There are additional grants available for lycée and collège pupils, but the test of resources is much tougher, and the level of the grants rather derisory. You can read more about school education grants in our Guide to School Education in France. If you would like to make any comments on the article you can e-mail

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