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Bullying in French schools (?)


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I have a lot of children and the youngest has just finished CM2 in a rural village school.  The teachers in CE1 & 2 and CM1 & 2 used 'A' and 'NA' to denote whether he has acquired various levels of competence.

As far as I understand that there is no translation for 'bullying' in the French language?  I would love to know if there is a suitable French word because at various stages in their school life, some of my children have been bullied (mainly by children but once by a teacher) and I have been to the school to sort it out.

My advice is that, speaking from experience, it is very difficult to sort it out between parents and it is far better to get the school to deal with it.  When one of my chiildren was 10, she was victimised by a group of girls in the playground and I contacted two of the mothers direct.  It's a long story (PM or email me and I can tell you more) but the outcome was not good for my daughter or for me. The Head's approach was far more effective.  It taught me a lesson that the best way is to rely on the school.

The good thing is that the bullying seems to be confined to playtime and not to the classroom. Your strategy of taking him out at lunchtimes is a good one for the time being as playtimes in French school are long at lunchtime.

Hard as it seems, much of the strategy of dealing with this problem will need to come from Jacques rather than you.  So I do have a couple of tips for him.

The first tip is for Jacques to practise at home holding his head up high.  This sounds a bit daft but it really does work.  My children who have been bullied are those that look down at their feet rather than high into the air, so bullies believe that they have succeeded.  I would tell my children to hold their chin up whenever anyone taunted them.  The daughter who was bullied above was transformed when she started to hold her head up high.

It is good to see that the teacher has been supportive.  You need to try not to alienate her as you need her to be on your side.  So my second tip for Jacques is to practise with you saying something to her e.g. "I am being hurt by the bullying, maitresse, and I need your help".  It would take a hard teacher not to respond to a plea like that.  (I'm a teacher as well as mother.)

As for whether bullying is endemic in French schools rather than in the UK.  I'm

not so sure.  My children have been educated and I have taught in both countries and I

can't detect any major difference.  Teachers in both countries are well

aware of bullying, especially at recreation times.  Some teachers (and schools) respond well, others don't.  There will always be bullies in schools.  The difference is how the school establishment responds to it.

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[quote user="Sara"]My main point remains, however, that I honestly feel the overall bullying situation in France is getting worse. A reflection of the times I feel. Almost like Britain in the 1980's.........arguably. Sarah[/quote]

Er perhaps 2011 is even worse:


What is this teaching the younger ones?

As regards going for the ringleader of the gang, an ex BIL was and perhaps still is a Prison Officer. The tactic that he employed when confronted by a number of prisoners in a situation was to quickly identify the leader and then say to him 'I might get a pasting but it is just you that I am going to go for' this apparently used to normally quell the situation.

Perhaps that is what your son needs to do - turn the tables.

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Many thanks Cathy and Paul.

Have told Jacques many times not to look upset in class as this will make the bullies feel like that they are winning.

I have now told Jacques he really needs to sort this out himself and also mentioned to him to stand up to the main bully. He knows that he will always have our support if he needs it and will always go and speak to teacher/ head mistress if required.

The good thing is I don't think Jacques is too intimidated by them, he thinks that they are all idiots!!

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How sad to read about your son's treatment, Sara. The advice from Cathy is spot on; I taught for many years in a school in England where bullying was rife at one time. I normally dealt with it myself, usually due to wishy-washy headteachers, via parents (usually uncooperative), and by direct action with the bullies, having established the facts, plus useful steps the bullied child could take. Bullies are usually weak children at heart, who feel a great need to look big and clever somehow; some have been bullied themselves in the past.

My advice to children being bullied was to try to stop looking cowed and worried - not easy, but comes with practice. Help from parents and use of a full-length mirror to keep the head up; digging fingernails into palms of hands, repeating a phrase in the head when bullies come into view; 'idiots' would do very well (one of the few times I didn't prevent myself looking shocked at swearing was when a tiny lad told me the swear words he said to himself when his bullies appeared!) etc. Lunch at home is such a good idea - a quiet break, and then time to put mental armour back on.

I can only remember one case in many years when bullying didn't stop; the parents were also enemies, and the answer in the end was for the family to take a council house exchange. It's great that your son can discuss it with you and has your support. Good luck to you both for a postive outcome soon!  [:)]


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[quote user="Bugsy"]I know I'll probably be shouted down for this but I was bullied at junior school. Older boys and a lot bigger than me.

I was taken aside by an older boy who told me what to do.

Taking all the  courage I had I targeted the ringleader one day and hit him full in the face breaking his nose.

To say he was surprised is a bit of an understatement.

After that incident they left me completely alone.

Bullies are not brave people and usually rely on a gang or their physical size to succeed.

Enroll your son in a martial arts/boxing club.


Bugsy has it spot on. 

Children tend to pick the easy targets to bolster their status and self worth, putting them in their place once will be enough to stop them.  Only problem is if he gets it wrong and ends up being the recipient of the hiding it would not be good.  Sending him to self defence classes is just the right thing to do.  Trying to molly coddle him will make things worse, if your mum has to come to your rescue the bullies will love the extra ammo and proof of weakness.  I don't have children my self but I can understand just how hard it must be to turn away and let them fend for them selves.

There was a lad who was very camp in school, he was bullied by a group of boys, the same group that bullied me all through school.  Then one day towards the end of year 5 the ring leader started picking on him again, slapping his face and calling him names (unfortunately his sir name was Fairhurst, not good if you're camp, fairy Farehurst).  The school poof reached over the bullies head grabbed his jumper, pulled it over his head and kicked seven bells out of him.  He became the school hero, the bully became the boy who was beaten up my a fairy lol.  I saw the bully a few years after we left school, he was a nobody with a nothing job.

Don't worry too much about the long term effects, I was bullied in school, my life was made miserable by them to the point where I just avoided going to school but 25 years on I have a borgeous wife, a lovely home and am probably the most successful person in my year.  I put this down to me having to be so self reliant.

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  • 1 month later...
My daughter was severely bullied in 6eme by a bunch of french girls and her English 'best friend' who sadly didn't have the strength of character to stand up for her friend. The difference I found between France and the UK is that in the UK all schools have bullying policies (obviously a lot depends on how they are implemented) whereas in France very few have and they have little interest or motivation to resolve the problem. Some of the biggest bullies in France are the teachers so there is little hope for the children. Mine both suffered racist abuse from members of staff.

In the UK their school has a vertical tutoring system whereby each tutor group is made up of children from each school year. It means that there is far more mixing among year groups and the younger ones know there are older ones/6th formers to look out for them. Bullying is practically non-existent. A year 7 in my daughter's tutor group was being picked on by two others in his year. The photos of the bullies were held up during tutor time and other tutor group members were asked to look out for him. Some 6th formers then took the bullies aside and explained that they would not stand for it and it stopped instantly.

In France I had to threaten to take my child out of school to get any action and then it was pretty half-hearted.

Bullying in France is called l'intimidation
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We too live in Normandy and have put two children through French schools, we have one in 3ème and the other in Premier. The eldest was mocked and bullied in maternal and we sorted this out by confronting the teacher (small village school). Although the problem was sorted, we thought of taking him out of the state school and put him in the private college to avoid "going up" with the same troublesome children. Thankfully, for various reasons, we did not. All the troublesome children went off to the private school. The logic here is that many parents in our area consider the teachers more strict in the private school and sent their wayward children there in the hope they will be better disciplined. We know one french family that actually sent their son there as a punishment, letting him go back to state school when he had improved. Our youngest son is small for his age, academic and studious. He was only bullied once and the staff came down swiftly on the offender and he has never been troubled since.

Perhaps you could speak to parents with children in the state school?
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[quote user="Bugsy"]  I was taken aside by an older boy who told me what to do. Taking all the courage I had I targeted the ringleader one day and hit him full in the face breaking his nose. To say he was surprised is a bit of an understatement.
After that incident they left me completely alone. Bullies are not brave people and usually rely on a gang or their physical size to succeed.
Enroll your son in a martial arts/boxing club. [/quote]

I'm liberal, but to a degree, Bugsy is absolutely right, despite abhorring violence now, if that is what it takes to resolve the situation. So be it.
Amazing the memories this recalls, I had forgotten that I'd overcome my bullying years ago at youthclub, as the new kid on the block with a smaller kid (nickname flea) as my only friend not only was I bullied but mugged, during the course of the evening I endeavoured to persuade flea to assist to which he replied that I needed to sort it on my own (they were bigger boys) but his advice was to ask for my stuff back in front of witnesses. I did, to more abuse, and at this point nature took over and I aimed a blow at his nose (funny how that is a natural target) I missed but caught him on the eye and he dropped, including my stuff which I picked up and left with more friends than I came with, I hadn't been the only target. Although I worried afterwards about becoming a target again (it never happened) it did wonders for my confidence and I've been happy to tackle the rest of life head on. The net advice is to face the bully with as Cathy says
[quote user="Cathy"] The first tip is to practise at home holding his head up high. [/quote]

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Self defense classes?

In my old village just about every child either did karate or judo at some point, so that means that the bullies were doing it too. So how does it help.

State schools, private schools, I never found any difference in discipline and that did surprise me, after what I had been told. I had also been told that the teachers were more caring, they were not.
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Many thanks, for your comments. Since my last message over a month ago I can report that there has not been one incident of bullying, the bullies are leaving him alone. (Hooray!!)  He now plays with other children from a different class, if he sees the bullies he will keep his head up high and calls them idiots to himself. he will not let himself  be intimidated. He seems happy when I pick him up from lunch and after school , he is more determined than ever to do well at school as he knows that this is not what his bullies want to see.

I think that you are right in what you said Lehaut, that a lot of troublesome children do go to the private schools. To me this is madness, our private school is getting a reputation of taking any child that is kicked out of the other schools. It has become such a problem that according to the president of the Parent Association the head master of the college is getting so many complaints that he has decided to leave at the end of the year school term. We are hoping that the new head will change things and that there will be an enormous improvement by the time Jacques (if ) goes there. They have been simply running the school like a business, they just want 'paying' bums on seats. The children that have been expelled from all the other schools,  nearly all live with foster parents and have no real  interest in learning. Apparently like most colleges it is rife in drugs. Their fees are being paid by the state, the school seemed happy with this for a while. Until they realised that the children from Jacques school (primary - private) were not going onto the  private college afterwards and this has raised lots of awkward questions for the head. (Apparantly a local secondary public school is getting a very good reputation for discipline and good results and this is where the children from the private school are going onto.)   The private college is sadly becoming known as the school for the 'delinquents', so it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

As I have mentioned before that the private school  (primaire) that Jacques goes to has an excellent reputation for it's work and I can see that it is working for him, he is learning and I like his teachers (so far). However the state school in our village has a terrible reputation  for teaching and demotivating the children. According to some, it does not reach the set standards, the head from that school is also leaving this year so perhaps that will change for the better .  I feel that at the moment it is best for Jacques to stay where he is, he is happy (enough) and after all he is there to learn. I would hate to put him into the local school to realise I have made a big mistake.

PS- I can't find my glasses so I hope I have n't made any silly mistakes. (I'm getting old!!) _

Many thanks,



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  • 3 months later...
Hi just thought I would share with you all that Jac got a gold medal (against children of same age/weight from 5 different clubs in Normandie) in Karate yesterday. I know this is n't anything that difficult or challenging but he is pleased with himself. He started in September because of the problems he had a school. Karate has definately given him confidence and I would recommend it to anyone else who are having similar bullying problems. Sarah
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[quote user="Sara"]Karate has definately given him confidence and I would recommend it to anyone else who are having similar bullying problems. Sarah[/quote]

Confidence - brilliant! It will also teach him that he could kick seven bells out of the bullies but with the discipline not to.

ps My son has a black belt and several "dans" in this sport.


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My eldest son was bullied and did karate. . His bully also did karate, so it did not help. Confidence, well didn't help really, although he did enjoy it. He hit the bully in the end and stopped it after several years, but not a karate move, more a slap really.


This is France, since when have the kids not tried most arts martiaux, in our village it was judo, karate, tennis and le foot and then a little older rugby. Both did rugby and skied, also eldest did karate, youngest did judo, french champion too! so there you go when he was in his mid teens for weight and age.

Suddenly this is bothering me. Just how confident do you think that someone has to be to win a national competition? VERY and full of yourself. And does that help in that other thing which is 'LIFE', nope, not at all. All I can say is that you don't get bullied when you can have your potential bullier on the deck before they have even started a move on you.


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  • 5 months later...

Maybe not worth starting a thread, so I thought I'd add it on here.  A gang of eleven girls, aged 12 to 15, in Nancy have been terrorising others from college, stealing from them and using violence if they resisted.

One of the mothers who is out of work was encouraging her daughter and selling the stolen mobile 'phones!



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