How to get into the French Lycee

Two new series I am starting here is to feature the top international schools in London and to discuss excellent value for money if not free alternatives to private schools. One of the most popular alternatives to preparatory and private secondary schools is the French Lycee in London. It consists of the main secondary school Lycee Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, but it also has four attached Lycee primaries in South Kensington, Clapham, Fulham and Ealing.

You may have heard from others that the French Lycee schools, particularly the one in South Kensington, are impossible to get into. I have heard even Russian multimillionaires and managing directors at investment banks expressing hope that their children could get into the South Kensington Lycee, to no avail (“the French Lycee in South Kensington is impossible to get into!”, I often hear them sigh). But I wouldn’t write this post if I didn’t know a way in, would I? Here’s how.

The most common route to the French Lycee is for French nationals resident in London to register during a two week time window about half a year before entry. The Lycee does reserve places for French nationals or others attending accredited French Lycées across the world just moving to London, but for those already located in London, places are very tight (the precise admissions criteria give preference to siblings, then to French nationals arriving from France, followed by French citizens in London, followed by other francophone families – details in French here).

But given that places are restricted to French nationals or those educated in French Lycées around the world, the Lycee realized it had a problem serving French families in London, particularly for those opting the A-Level route in the English section of the Lycee Charles de Gaulle: interacting solely with children of other French nationals at the French Lycee, many French parents in London were unhappy that their children did not learn English as well or make friendships with non-French children and many of them opted for international schools or private British schools to prepare their children for university life and the UK job market.

Another common route is to attend a number of “homologues” French primary schools that feed into the Lycée Charles de Gaulle. Be careful though, due to high demand, it is becoming increasingly common for some schools to claim they feed into the Lycée when in fact they can give no such guarantee, so best check with the French Lycée directly before committing to any external “feeder” school.

For that reason, in 2006, the French Lycee launched a new initiative at its primary school Ecole de Wix in Clapham: a cooperation with the local primary school WIX housed in the same building for a bilingual intake managed by the council. Each year, 28 children are accepted into the Reception class, 14 chosen by the Lycee Francais, 14 by the Wandsworth council according to the same process as other community primary schools, I.e. via proximity to the school. The great benefits of this bilingual track is that children can learn English and French equally well, share the classroom with a group of French, British and other international children, benefit from the high academic quality of the French Lycee education, and what’s more, have a guaranteed place reserved at the Lycee Charles de Gaulle for secondary transfer. This model has proven extremely successful in two ways – the academic standards are so good and pupils so motivated that in a standardized exam administered in all French schools in 2010, the bilingual Wix children outperformed average French primary pupils (see press report). In addition, places at the bilingual track, which is free of charge (as opposed to 600GBP charged to the Lycee intake), are so highly sought after that the catchment area has shrunk to a mere 0.2 miles. This is the downside – the intake is limited to those families living in a very small distance to the school, and with priority given to siblings, the catchment area is likely to shrink further.

Due to the Wandsworth council success, 2010 saw the launch of another bilingual track at the Ecole de Fulham (also called Ecole Marie D’Orliac) in cooperation with the Holy Cross Primary school in Parsons Green.  28 students are admitted via catchment area and split up in two class of 14 each, to match them with another couple of 14 each chosen from the French Lycee intake. The popularity of this programme is growing fast, with the catchment area shrinking from 0.7m in the first intake that started in Sep 2010 to 0.5 miles in 20011 and less than 0.4m in this year’s intake, and it is likely that the catchment area will continue to shrink in coming years.

Moving into the catchment areas of these schools could get your child access to very good quality education, the opportunity to grow up fluent in English and French and benefit from a guaranteed place at the French Lycee in South Kensington for secondary transfer. Does that sound like a good alternative to private school to you? If this sounds interesting but you are not planning to move to Fulham or Clapham any time soon, I recommend watching the other Lycee primaries closely for similar bilingual programmes of this type, particularly the one in South Kensington.

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14 comments… add one
  • DK October 31, 2011, 11:55 PM

    Hi – some of the information in this article is incorrect. It is not possible to register early/ shortly after birth for the French Lycee. You can only register the year before September entry (see their website for admission procedures).
    There are other ways into the Lycee not included in this article: there are several French or Bilingual primary schools around London not formally tied to the Lycee but which are homologuee (recognised by the French government and following French education curriculum and standards), which then give you priority to get into the Lycee at secondary school. These include L’Ecole des Petits (in Fulham)and L’Ecole de Battersea, Le Herisson (in Hammersmith) and La Petite Ecole Francaise. All these schools operate a waiting list system so if you register early enough you increase your chances of getting a place. You don’t have to be a French national or live in the catchment area… so in a way, much easier to get in via this route…

    • London Preprep November 1, 2011, 8:20 AM

      Hi DK, fantastic and very important info, thanks a lot for your comment! I wasn’t aware that even L’Ecole de Petits and others provide pupils priority for admission into the French Lycee, now I know why they are so popular! I agree that this might be an easier way in, although more expensive as well since the bilingual tracks in the French Lycee primaries are free. But the catchment areas are very small, so you have suggested a great additional route in.

  • leo March 1, 2013, 9:46 PM

    Very helpful indeed for those who doesn’t have a clue about the french system! From a french point of view I cannot see what’s the problem with a good english private school in the outskirts of London!

    • London Preprep March 1, 2013, 10:02 PM

      Hi there – nothing wrong at all with it – the attraction of the French Lycee is also that it about 1/3 to 1/2 of the price of a British private school hence many people’s first choice!

  • MONICA SARAL July 22, 2013, 4:34 PM

    Hi I would like to have information on admission on French lycee.My boys are 13yrs and 14 yrs old and studying in French lycee in India. They both completed 9TH grade . Iwish to seek admission in French lycee in 10 th grade for them.Also what is the arrangement for hostel or anyother accomodation for outstation students. Please guide me

    • London Preprep July 24, 2013, 7:48 PM

      Hi Monica, I’d suggest you contact the French Lycee directly with your query.

  • Seema October 3, 2013, 4:01 AM

    HI ,iam looking for information for the school as iam planing to move very soon to Uk My kids are already in FRench school and learning so fast so please help me which school will be best and how much will I pay monthly

  • Anonymous June 30, 2014, 8:15 PM

    how much is the average termly fee for the bilingual schools in london?

    • London Preprep June 30, 2014, 8:49 PM

      it varies depending on the neighbourhood and level of subsidies. It could be anything from £1,500 – £4,000, as a rough guide. Some of the bilingual schools that are free schools or have an intake as a community primary are free of charge.

      • MDOMum June 4, 2015, 6:57 PM

        Not all bilingual tracks are free. Those admitted via the Lycée Francais track pay tuition—about £2,500/term + fees + about £300/term for the canteen, while those admitted via the Holy Cross or Wandsworth council track attend for free (not sure about the food). However, those admitted via the council do not advance to the secondary school in South Kensington. That’s the catch.

  • ManicMother September 2, 2015, 5:39 PM

    Actually it is not true that those admitted to the bilingual school via the Holy Cross (non fee paying) route do not advance to the secondary school in South Kensington. It is more accurate to say that those admitted via the Lycée (fee paying) system are given priority over those on the bilingual course via the English route. Any pupil attending the bilingual course is free to apply to any of the three French secondary schools. It is just that due to limited space, the chances of getting into CDG in South Kensington are correspondingly less.

    • London Preprep September 4, 2015, 7:42 PM

      practically they don’t advance. Of course they can apply, but since too many others have priority, there is no realistic chance. They can go to CFBL or Wembley though.

  • JB November 24, 2016, 9:19 AM

    Hi there, do you have a specific review of the Fulham Bilingual (the bilingual stream at Marie d Orliac), or a view as to whether it is a a suitable school for children then wishing to take competitive secondary school exams?
    I have heard mixed things about it, namely that the children do learn the languages, but there are questions as to whether the actual academic standard reached is as good as it would be in a very good English primary (be it state or private), or in one of the standard French primaries in London.
    You say for instance the children at Wix outperform the french national average, but that is not a fair benchmark, as this is a very priviledged set of children who would be expected to outperform. The question is whether they perform in line with the other French schools in London who are not in the bilingual stream.
    Many thanks!

    • London Preprep November 24, 2016, 10:45 AM

      The feedback you have heard is what I have heard as well. It is a nice fine school, great location, nice families, but don’t expect to get something spectacular for free. They are of course not prepared for 7+ or 11+ entry to competitive schools, and it is a bit of an experiment in terms of running two curricula at the same time. I also hear those kids who join with little French struggle in the higher years. But kids are happy. I would not expect it to be at the same level as L’Ecole de Battersea etc as the class size is still quite large and also keep in mind Holy Cross is a good school but not spectacular, as state primary schools go.


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