My Petite Frite – in French School?

Last autumn I encountered the hurricane that is school applications. It blows in, screws with you and then blows on, leaving a wake of maybe not destruction, but certainly apprehension and often frustration. State or public school? (For any American readers, public school in the UK is private school – this is confusing enough!).

For us it was state school all the way, but the prevalence of private education in our area did give me pause for thought…will our kids be at a disadvantage in the state education system?

So then there was the whole state school lotto system.  Create a preference list. But with catchments as small as 0.2 mile where we live, do I really have a choice? Oh and Ofsted has identified some ‘issues’ with the school LLC is most likely to get a place at.  Word on the street is that the school does have negatives, but that the positives outweigh them.  Plus I liked the setting. Did I? Yes, I think so? But it’s hard to tell on an Open Day full of 100+ other parents.

All I want is a safe, stimulating environment for LLC that will teach her, challenge her and ensure she enjoys learning.  I think she’s bright. I know that we teach her things at home, so do I need to stress about the school that much as she’s young and this is still primary education? But isn’t primary the foundation for the 11+ exam and wait, what is
that? I’m not from this country….what is Key Stage 1 and 2? And so on…’s a whole learning curve in itself within the general learning curve of being a parent and it’s made worse by the fact everyone goes on about it. Like me right now!

Back to the title of this post, we are not enrolling LLC in the Lycée Français in South Ken – ha! We are considering sending her to a new, ‘free’ state French primary school on our patch (if she gets a place there). It’s an English curriculum school that embraces
a bilingual teaching approach. Core skills like writing and math will be taught in English first, though French language will be used in parallel with English from the start.

LLC and LMM have both been exposed to French from an early age through our neighbor who babysits them. While neither of them run around speaking French on a daily basis, they understand a lot and have a foundation in the language.  I personally believe that learning another language from an early ages wires a capacity into the young brain for both picking up language, and approaching ‘the new’ with confidence. So after initial (in hindsight foolish) apprehension, I couldn’t be happier that my two have had the luck to learn a new language from such an early age.

Then a friend told me about this new school opening and I started to seriously consider it as an option for LLC.  It’s currently being set up, so I’ve had to apply for a place alongside the Council’s lotto system.  She’ll get a lotto place regardless, and if she gets a French school place, we’ll have the luxury of a choice.

My main hesitations:

  • I don’t speak French.  Will I be able to properly support LLC with her homework, etc?
  • It feels like a bit of punt – LLC would be in one of the opening year reception classes, a guinea pig of sorts. The leadership and teaching will all be untested.
  • Lack of a ‘school culture’ – the first pupils will help create this from scratch – can something so new feel nurturing to little ones?

On the whole though, if she gets a place, I’m inclined to want to send her there.  I like what I’ve read and learned of the proposed ethos/methods of the school and isn’t this a fantastic and reasonably rare opportunity to grow her language and learning skills through the state system at such a young age.

We’ll find our own way in the end, but I’m always interested in your thoughts…

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2 Responses to My Petite Frite – in French School?

  1. It sounds like an interesting option, and yes, very important if you want your kids to learn a language to start them early as possible. Having been out of the country for a while I still don’t really understand about free schools though – they seem to be able to employ unqualified teachers? I would do lots of research into who will be teaching there. Would it be worth your learning French too, at an evening class or something? I can see that as she gets older it might be a bit of a problem if you don’t speak any…..

  2. Circus Queen says:

    The French school sounds like a really exciting opportunity! I wouldn’t worry about your not understanding French. It’s an opportunity for you to learn too. Though you can help without advanced knowledge if you take a self-directed approach to her learning. Good luck! It’s a very big step! 🙂

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