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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19 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…

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  • 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

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

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

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
  • Anonymous June 30, 2014, 8:15 PM

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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • Fred January 11, 2017, 9:46 PM

    Hi I have a daughter 16 months old – is it possible to transfer her to a homologue nursery so that she is eligible for ecole maternelle in London at age 3? We are a french family living in uk.

    Reply
  • Happy Mummy February 12, 2017, 8:53 AM

    My children are in the Holy Cross section of the Fulham Bilingual School. The school is full of nice and often international families (not only French) and my children are very happy there and doing very well. The oldest, in year 6 has just been offered a place at Lycée Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, as have most of his friends who applied, so it is definitely not true to say there is no chance for non-French families as we are living proof (husband and I both British). The admissions criteria for the Lycee is tiered and while French families and those with siblings are given priority, other children who have been in a French or French bilingual school are given the next priority as long as, and this is key, they have attended since the reception year (Moyenne Section).
    This is the first year 6 to come out of the Fulham Bilingual as it only opened in 2010 and the majority are going to South Ken while many others are going to top English private schools. While the school does not prepare children for 11+, the level of teaching is very high compared to other non-selective state schools with some of the current year 6 children having been offered places at top private schools (with some support and tutoring at home). The Holy Cross children do not pay any school fees but do pay approx £220 per term for school lunches (obligatory) and also need to buy the uniform. They have also combined the 2 curriculums (they did this when my son was in year 3) at great expense to ensure all the key aspects are covered from the French and English sides but not repeated and have even adapted the handwriting requirements (it is mainly still cursive French but simpler). We have lived through nearly 7 years of the school and, apart from a few niggles at the beginning, can say we have been extremely happy with it and have felt grateful we live close enough to have a place there. Lovely school.

    Reply
  • Happy Mummy February 12, 2017, 8:54 AM

    My children are in the Holy Cross section of the Fulham Bilingual School. The school is full of nice and often international families (not only French) and my children are very happy there and doing very well. The oldest, in year 6 has just been offered a place at Lycée Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, as have most of his friends who applied, so it is definitely not true to say there is no chance for non-French families as we are living proof (husband and I both British). The admissions criteria for the Lycee is tiered and while French families and those with siblings are given priority, other children who have been in a French or French bilingual school are given the next priority as long as, and this is key, they have attended since the reception year (Moyenne Section).
    This is the first year 6 to come out of the Fulham Bilingual as it only opened in 2010 and the majority are going to South Ken while many others are going to top English private schools. While the school does not prepare children for 11+, the level of teaching is very high compared to other non-selective state schools with some of the current year 6 children having been offered places at top private schools (with some support and tutoring at home). The Holy Cross children do not pay any school fees but do pay approx £220 per term for school lunches (obligatory) and also need to buy the uniform. They have also combined the 2 curriculums (they did this when my son was in year 3) at great expense to ensure all the key aspects are covered from the French and English sides but not repeated and have even adapted the handwriting requirements (it is mainly still cursive French but simpler). We have lived through nearly 7 years of the school and, apart from a few niggles at the beginning, can say we have been extremely happy with it and have felt grateful we live close enough to have a place there. Lovely school.

    Reply
    • Bizzymummy February 13, 2017, 12:57 PM

      Thank you Happy Mummy for your comments – that is very interesting to hear as it’s very hard to get any insight into where the children from the Bilingual actually go! Can you give any more information as where people go? Which English schools, for instance? And how many are going? Any insight much appreciated, we are a British-French family, with 3 children, and I have secured a place for the oldest in Marie d Orliac standard, and I am doing everything I can to try and transfer into the bilingual section but demand for it seems to have rocketed up in the past couple of years, and rumour is now only siblings get in!

      Reply
      • Happy Mummy February 26, 2017, 8:35 AM

        Hi Bizzy Mummy, from our experience the criteria to get into the Holy Cross side is distance from the school and the catchment area has probably decreased in size as the school has become more popular. We live 6 minutes walk away and as we walk through South Park it is full of children walking to the school so most are very local. Siblings do have priority as well. Don’t give up, as I know several families who have successfully moved their child over from the Lycée side to save on the fees. Each year several children leave each class (as with any school, especially such an international one) so places become available. As for which secondary schools children will go to it is premature to say. We are the first year to exit the school so we only know which school places have been offered (except state schools like the Oratory and Lady Margaret’s which don’t announce places until March). I do know a few children, who have been offered places at Kings, Whigift and other private schools but some say that they are opting for the Lycée because the fees are much lower. I guess we won’t really know until September to know where everybody will go as many people are still hedging their bets…Hope this helps and good luck!

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