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Sending your children to school

The French education system

The French school year starts in September. School attendance is compulsory for all children aged 3 to 16 residing in France. Public schooling during this period is free. Private schools offer education for a fee. Both public and private schools follow the same program.

School schedules

The school week is from Monday to Friday at most schools. Classes usually begin between 8pm and 9am and end between 4pm and 6pm. Depending on the municipality, schools can accommodate students on Wednesdays. The days are interspersed with “breaks" of 15 to 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to allow students to relax.

Two-week holidays are scheduled about every six weeks, with the summer holidays including the months of July and August. To spread out the students' departures during the holidays, three separate geographical zones have been established (zones A, B and C): this means that a student attending school in Paris (Zone C) will not have the same holiday periods as a child attending school in Lyon or Saint-Étienne (Zone A).
School holiday calendar for Zone A


The various class levels

  • École maternelle (nursery school): For children aged three to six. These classes help with their first steps and socialization. Depending on their age, children are assigned to different classes called: “petite section”, “moyenne section” or “grande section”.
  • École élémentaire (elementary or primary school): obligatory and for children aged six and older. Children learn the fundamentals: reading, writing and counting. Early-learning (artistic and fun) activities are also offered. According to their age and level of knowledge acquisition, the children are assigned to various classes: CP (cours préparatoire), CE1 and CE2 (cours élémentaires) or CM1 and CM2 (cours moyens) for the older children.
  • Collège (lower secondary school): follows primary school and marks the beginning of secondary education in France. It lasts for 4 years and is for children aged from 11 and 12 (sixième) to children aged 14 and 15 (troisième). Collège is obligatory.
  • Lycée (upper secondary school): covers the last three years of secondary education (seconde, première and terminale). It is for children aged 15 or 16 and older. At the end of the last year (terminale), students must take the final national exam called the “baccalauréat”.

Cost of schooling

In France, public schooling is free. However, families must pay for certain services.

Related services

Many schools offer lunch services for a charge. A few schools allow their children to bring their lunch with them to school, but this is uncommon.

Likewise, nursery schools and elementary schools offer child-minding and extra-curricular activities for a fee. These services are also paid.

Schools materials

The children’s school materials (pencils, notebooks, etc.) must be purchased by their families. Schoolbooks are provided for free in primary schools and in collèges (lower secondary schools), in both the public and private sectors. However, in lycées (upper secondary schools), schoolbooks must be purchased by the family.


Families must also pay for their children’s transport to and from school. Some schools benefit from their own buses, but most rely on public transport. Note that schoolchildren and young university students can benefit from special reduced transport rates. Be sure to ask for details regarding all such fees!
More information on public transport services

Enrolling your children at school

Public schooling

You can enroll your children for nursery or primary school at your local town hall (mairie). They will be assigned their school.

For enrollment in college or high school, we advise you to also go to the local town hall for information. Note that secondary-school registration can take up to several months, especially if you arrive during the course of the school year.

For enrollment from primary school to high school, your child will first be assessed by a team of professionals. The class assignment will be based on the results of his French test and a learning assessment.

The following documents will be required to register your child. Be sure to bring them with you when you leave for France so as not to delay schooling:
  • each child’s birth certificate (if need be, translated into French by a sworn translator certified by a French court of appeal);
  • child’s vaccination record;
  • proof of residence in France, less than three months old;
You will find all the information on the steps to take and can download the booklets in your language on the official website
For long stays, it is sometimes also possible to join a Pedagogical Unit for new allophone students (UPE2A). Check the website of the Academic Center for the Schooling of New Allophone Children and Children from Traveler Families and Travelers (CASNAV) for more information.

Private schooling

To register your children at a private school, you must directly contact the private school of your choice.
As in public education, the following documents will also be required. Be sure to bring them with you when you leave for France so as not to delay enrolment:
  • each child’s birth certificate (if need be, translated into French by a sworn translator certified by a French court of appeal);
  • child’s vaccination record;
  • proof of residence in France, less than three months old.

Multilingual education

Lyon offers a great diversity of public and private schools offering international education at all levels (nursery school, primary school and secondary school).
Some of these schools offer their students the opportunity to acquire the International Baccalaureate (IB), the German Abitur, the Spanish Bachillerato and/or the French International Baccalaureate.

View the list of international schools in Lyon