How to sign up your child for a French school

I am here to guide you through the process of how to sign up your child for a French school. I had to do it for my children in both public and private schools in Paris. So, I’m sharing what I’ve learnt and hope the knowledge makes your own school application process easier.

paris public school

This is how to sign up your child for a state school

School registration

If you want your child to attend a French state school, you must register for a school place at your local Mairie (City Hall). You will be assigned a school based on where you live and the catchment area.

Each school district may have its own school registration deadlines and process outlines. So, check out the websites of Mairie (City Hall) where you live (or plan on living) to get more details about the requirements in your area. In the 16th arrondissement, where we live, the school enrolment system is open from March before the start of the next academic school year in September.

What happens if you move to a new catchment area? You can register your child at a local school at any time of the year. Your child will be allocated a place at a state school, regardless of the time of application.

Typically, school registration is done by filling in an online form using a link on Mairie (City Hall’s) website. Alternatively, you can always go to your Mairie (City Hall) in person to enrol your child in school. Be aware that while some City Halls accept walk-ins, others require you to make an appointment beforehand. Get ready to use whatever French you know!

School documents

The detailed documentation Marie (City Hall) requires to register your child for school will be on their website. Here’s a summary in case you’re struggling to find the details:

1) A copy of the family book or the birth certificate of the child

2) A copy of the identity document of the parent (or legal guardian) applying for school registration

3) Proof of address (gas or electricity bills less than three months old)

4) Copies of passport photos of the child

After you have submitted the documents, they will inform you which school your child has been accepted into depending on your exact address, and the availabilities of the different schools in the catchment area of your Marie (City Hall). This confirmation typically comes in the form of an e-mail or letter.

Meeting with a new school

It’s important to know that submitting the documents to Marie (City Hall) and receiving the confirmation is only step one. It does NOT yet guarantee a school place. Once you’ve received the confirmation of the school which your child can attend, you must make an in-person appointment with the Directrice (headteacher) of the school. At that in-person meeting, the registration is finalised and your child is formally allocated a place in the school.

In our case, we had a 45-minute meeting with the headmistress of our younger daughter’s primary school. It was a pleasant chat in very basic French from our side. We had plenty of opportunities to ask questions about how the school works, and how they welcome and accommodate children who do not speak any French.

School insurance and vaccination certificate

Once you are registered at the school, you must then provide them with (usually by the start of the school year) assurance scolaire (school insurance) and proof that your child’s vaccinations are up to date. It’s very typical for your French home insurer to also offer this assurance scolaire as part of your contract. If they don’t provide it, do a quick online search to find a provider just for school insurance. 

I recommend taking a copy of your child’s vaccination certificate from your country to a French doctor BEFORE September and asking them to cross check it against the vaccination requirements for children in France. If there are any vaccines your child is missing you can schedule them to be done before the start of the school year. If you leave it until the beginning of the school year, you risk having to take your child out of school during a school day, as most available doctor appointment times coincide with the school hours.

This is how to sign up your child for a private school

Registering for a school place is done directly with the school of your choice. You are not tied to choosing a school in the area where you live. In fact, you can sign up your child to any school you want.

The admission procedures and application deadlines vary widely by school, so take the time to read the admission requirements carefully.

Admission procedures

Each school has different admission requirements. Generally, you need to submit an online application form directly on the school’s website before the necessary deadline together with an application fee (if any).

Here is a list of documents you may be asked to provide:

1) School reports over the last three years

2) Standardised language evaluation (performed by speech therapists)

3) Aptitude tests (for older students)

4) Letter of recommendation for parents/students

Application deadlines

When applying to private schools in Paris, we have seen the application deadlines range from September (of the year before the child enters school) to March before the start of the school’s academic year in September. This means you need to start the application process on average nine months before the intended start date. Having said this, some schools have a rolling admission process so that a new pupil can join during term time.

Application fees

These range a lot from zero to hundreds of euros. Some application fees are non-refundable, while others are deducted from the tuition fees for the first school term.

School visits

I really (really) encourage you to visit the school you would like your child to enter. Some private schools offer onsite or virtual tours to allow you to view the facilities and learn more about the teaching approach. If the school you’re keen on doesn’t offer this explicitly, it’s worth just asking for it so you minimise surprises on the first day of school!

By visiting the school you will learn so much more than just reading the website description. You will get to observe the children, the staff, see the classrooms and get a feel for the school’s vibe. Could you imagine your child being happy there?

One of the schools I was keen for my eldest to attend held some classes in converted bedrooms of a residential apartment building. It gave me a negative impression and helped me focus my search in other directions, something I would’ve never done had I not seen the facilities in person.

Application decisions

The schools usually make the offers by March or April before the start of the next school year in September, or on a rolling basis thereafter.

Many schools have more applications than places available. So, if your finances allow it, it’s a good idea to apply to more than one school to maximise a chance of securing a school place for your child.

Remember to research your options, stay organised, and be prepared to ask questions. Good luck on this exciting journey!

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