The French education system

In France, the school year starts in September and end in early July. School is mandatory for all children aged 6 to 16. Education during this period is free in public institutions and paid in private institutions. Nevertheless, both types of institution deliver the same school curricula, which are established at the national level.

There are also several private international schools in Montpellier that operate independently.

The school routine

The school week runs from Monday to Friday in the majority of schools. Classes generally start between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and end between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Pupils have two weeks’ holiday approximately every six weeks and summer holidays during July and August. In order to stagger departures to holiday destinations, geographic zones have been created (zones A, B and C).

Timetable for the holiday zones

The different levels of education

  • “Ecole maternelle” or pre-school: it receives children aged from 3 to 6. Pre-school is not mandatory, but many French parents send their children there in order to foster their early learning and socialisation. According to their age, children are divided into “petite” (nursery), “moyenne” (pre-kindergarten or UK reception) and “grande section” (kindergarten or UK year 1) classes.
  • “Ecole élémentaire” or primary school: it receives children from the age of 6 and is mandatory. There children acquire their basic skills: literacy and numeracy. According to their age and knowledge level, children are divided into CP classes (Cours préparatoire, 1st grade or UK year 2), CE1 and CE2 classes (Cours élémentaires, 2nd and 3rd grades or UK years 3 and 4) or CM1 and CM2 classes (Cours moyens, 4th and 5 grades or UK years 5 and 6) for older children.
  • “Collège” or middle school: middle school is mandatory and marks the start of secondary education. It last 4 years and receives children aged 11-12 (classe de sixième, 6th grade or UK year 7) to 14-15 (classe de troisième, 9th grade or UK year 10). Middle school is mandatory.
  • “Lycée” or high school: high school comprises the last three years of secondary education (called in order “seconde”, “première” and “terminale”). It receives adolescents from around the age of 15-16. In “terminale”, pupils have to take a final and national exam called the “baccalauréat”.


To enrol your child in a school, the family must already be in the country and have an address in France. Indeed, where you live determines where your children go to school. In France, the municipal authorities are responsible for managing primary schools. For any questions relating to the education of your 3 to 10 year old child, you should contact the municipal authority of the town or city in which you live. If parents wish to enrol their children in a private school, enrolment should be carried out directly with the school of their choice.

To pre-enrol children in school, families have to go to the local town hall or municipal authority and pick up a Prest’O application (can also be downloaded on with the originals of the following supporting documents:

  • Proof of address dated within the previous 3 months drawn up in the name of at least one of the parents (residence tax, gas or electricity bill, home insurance, rent receipt – except if a receipt issued by an individual, fixed line telephone bill, Internet TV box bill, lease from a real estate agency). Proof of residence drawn up by a third person are not acceptable.

  • Child’s birth certificate showing parentage or family record booklet (sworn translation in French)

  • CAF certificate (if you are a non-beneficiary, enclose a 2017 tax statement (2016 means) for the members of the household, a copy of the up-to-date family record booklet mentioning the dependent children).
  • You may be asked for an identity document with a photo (identity card, passport, driving licence, etc.) to prove the identity of the legal representative.

  • You will be provided with a Prest’O application that you have to complete.

Once the application has been completed, families have to present themselves at the local town hall or municipal authority with the supporting documents.

Your application will be registered. A certificate (receipt) will be issued enabling school enrolment to be finalised, by appointment with the school administrator*.

*To find out about the school in your area, consult the school map on the website

NOTE: the applicant must be one of the child’s two parents.

To find out more about the French curricula and school system, visit the “l’école au supérieur” section of the website of the académie de Montpellier:

Non-French-speaking pupils are enrolled in their local school depending on the available places. If the child requires assistance with French, the school administrator will direct this pupil to a school with a UPEA (Unité pédagogique pour les élèves allophones arrivants, Teaching unit for newcomer allophone pupils) position. Then the information on this change of assignment is given to the municipal authorities in order for the pupil’s file to be updated.


Enrolment in middle schools is done through the académie de Montpellier (local education authority). Pupils aged from 12 years old automatically go to middle school. 

Enrolment procedures for the education of children in middle school or high school

Information on the middle school or high school education of a child arriving from abroad :

Or on the website of the rectorat de Montpellier (local education authority) to enrol your child in middle school or high school:

There are also international sections within primary and middle schools where certain classes are taught in different languages (English, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and German).
More information :

Pupils are invited to visit the CIO: centre d’information et d’orientation (information and guidance centre).  These centres offer to pupils, their parents and students personalised services such contact with psychologists for individual guidance discussions, advice on training and study opportunities, and guidance materials and tools are available on-site.

International section :

International sections are bilingual sections that teach French and foreign pupils in the same class.
In particular, international sections facilitate the induction and integration of foreign pupils in the French school system.
Middle school pupils can obtain the national brevet diploma with “série collège, option internationale” honours, at the end of troisième (9th grade or UK year 10).

List of the schools groups with an international section

List of the middle schools with an international section

Bandeau BasDePage 2020

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