How to Enroll your Children in French Public Schools

Yes! It is possible to register your French-speaking American children in French public school for only a few months. It’s not simple, but it’s totally do-able. Here are a few tips:

  • Search for housing and schools in tandem. Don’t confirm one without the other.
  • Find a French-speaking guardian angel to help you make phone calls, fill out forms, etc.
  • Look for a small village and school. Big city schools are harder to manage.
  • When you’ve found a house that you like, talk to the property owner about the local school.
  • Call the school to explain your situation and ask for their permission. Do not rely on email. It may be difficult to reach them, as often in smaller schools there is little/no administrative staff. Try calling during the morning (8-8:30 French time) or afternoon (4-4:30pm French time).
  • Have realistic expectations: French school system is culturally and academically very different than the American public school or private school system.
  • Useful forms to have: Rental lease agreement or letter from your landlord, a copy of your child’s vaccine records, copies of birth certificates and passports and additional passport photos. You may also be asked to provide a Certificat de Radiation. If your child currently attends a French immersion school in the US, the Director of the school should be able to provide this.
  • The timing of your trip: If you are only going to go for a few months, most people recommend going at the end of the school year. Note that there are many holidays towards the end of the year. Here is the French public school calendar (in French).
  • When you arrive, you will need to visit the mairie to fill out paperwork. Bring every legal looking document you can find, and tell them that have contacted the school and they are expecting you.
  • Go to the school and fill out even more paperwork!
  • Scholastic insurance – You will likely be asked to purchase Scholastic Insurance. The school or the mairie can give you the name and contact information of a company that provides this. (After you’ve called and purchased this insurance, you will receive a document in the mail. Make a copy for yourself and bring the original to the school for their files.)

Illustration found at Behance, by artist Chiara Alduini.