The French Secondary School Experience. Part 1.

I had my first taste of France’s secondary school system last night with the very first parent/teacher evening for Audrey. It wasn’t a good experience.

My secondary school experience started in 1978 and to give that some sense of meaning not only is that 34 years ago but the Sony Walkman hadn’t even been built at that time whereas today we have iPods and music on the go with our mobile phones.  One has to accept that over time things have changed and not only that this is a very different culture from the one in which I grew up.

I never imagined that any potential child of mine would experience any other form of secondary school experience from the one that I had had. But here we are in the South of France and not suburban Surrey in the UK so everything is different.

The first problem is the weight of the school-bag:  it is way too heavy. Apparently this is the child’s fault as they are afraid to be scolded by one of the teachers if they forget to bring in a certain item. It is, apparently, up to the parents to check that the child only has the required materiel for that particular day. OK, this is a fair point. So I checked Audrey’s bag contained only what was required for today; the bag is still way too heavy for an 11 year old.

Secondly there are no lockers available, or very few, so not only is the school-bag way too heavy she has to lug it around during break time and lunchtime. The school principal said last night that locker priority is given to first year students but 90% of parents put their hands up last night when asked if their child had a locker problem. If priority is given to first years, and we have a 9:1 problem ratio, then heaven only knows how many 2nd, 3rd and 4th years have a locker problem. They are too expensive to replace, allegedly. So, it would seem that it is better that the child has a bad back than replace expensive lockers.

Why are there so few lockers? Vandalism, apparently. Audrey has a biometric hand and retinal scanner to get into the school but they can’t put a security camera up to see who vandalises the lockers. And what I find even stranger is that all the lockers are in the same place. At my school first and second year lockers where down by the first year toilets whilst 4th and 5th year lockers were elsewhere. That prevented ‘bigger’ kids wreaking havoc on the ‘smaller’ ones which is a common problem here in France according to the principal. (You don’t say!)

More to follow.