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Dept 66 schools advice please!


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I have just joined the forum having come across it by accident!  My partner and my two children (son 13, daughter 11) are planning to move to the Perpignan area this summer and I am having problems finding out exactly what they are entitled to education wise.  Apart from UK school lessons (my son was a private prep school so knows a lot more than my wholly state school educated daughter), Saturday morning extra tutiton and my plan to enrol them on a couple of immersion courses over the summer holidays, they are far from fluent....  I have had to rely on forums and estate agents to find out information for me about the eduction system as my French is not good enough yet to do the research myself and I have had hugely varying replies from the wonderful strangers who have been trying to help me.   This is just a further posting on a new forum (and larger one) to see if I can find out more. 

Firstly private schools; won't take them as they are fluent enough and they have long waiting lists anyway.  International and bi-lingual schools; too expensive, too far away and really not interested in these.  So I am left with the state/public system...

Several people have come back to me saying that whichever area we live in, the local College is legally obligated to give them places.  This, I realise, would be very hard for my children but I would pay for lots of extra help with the language and I think they would pick up the language quicker being immersed into the system.  They would also have local friends as we would have chosen our area, depending on the reputation of the local College.  We had the Sorede area in mind and the new College at Saint Andre or Ceret and the College there.

However, two other completely different people have come back to me to say that these Colleges, in fact no local College, is obliged to take my children if they aren't fluent in French - I was totally thrown by this as everywhere I looked on the internet and every book and magazine I have read about moving to France, I had never come across this before.  It just isn't mentioned anywhere.  Perhaps it's just the PO region that this applies to but apparently by children will be entered in the Primo Arrivant system??  There are apparently 4/5 mainstream Colleges in central Perpignan which run these classes, that are designed for foreign children.  My two would sit a week of tests at the start of September and it would then be decided which class in which College they would go into.  After a year, when their language was up to speed (or certainly far, far improved), they could move to the local College where we were living and, at that time, that College would have to take them?  This is also called CASNAV whatever that stands for?  Anyone know?  This theoretically sounds good to me (I am in fact meeting the Academie in Perpignan people during a brief visit at the end of this week to learn more about this) but my worries are that my children won't learn the language as fast being in classes with other non-French speaking children, I apparently won't have a say in which classes in which college they are put into (and I know from other research that two of the five colleges which run these classes have a very bad reputation generally.  They are Pagnol and Pons.  The others which run the classes are Jean Mace (I think, haven't got my file with me right now!), Jean Moulin and Sevigne (in case anyone has any information about any of these).

I have skimmed through (and 'searched') the entire education forum section on this website and can find nothing about this Primo Arrivant/CASNAV system anywhere. Has anyone heard of it?  If anyone has any feedback, I would be grateful.  I am also concerned about which other countries the other children on these 'courses' are from.  Anyone any idea?  Everyone else just seems to get their children into the local Colleges.  Perhaps this is a new system or one adopted as there are so many people moving to this area from abroad. 

I am getting into quite a state about the whole move and am about the call the whole thing off.  Thing is my kids are really keen, so am I and so is my partner, but I have to be sure about their education (and therefore future happiness) and this is my priority before I am happy to make the move. 

Feedback awaited with baited breath and much anticipation...

Thanks for reading all this waffle!


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Hi Julia.

This region is a bit of a nightmare. Forget the stories in mags and on the telly, it's different here. We've been through it here for 3 years. Fortunately your kids are college age and not 16, as they aren't fluent there is not a single lycee here that would accept them. And GCSE french is not fluent enough for the Perpignan authorities either.

This region needs more young families, non-french speaking families, because the education authorities here need a good kick in the pants.

Have pm'd you.

Good luck!

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From what I have read, the CASNAV is a center which focuses on children who have newly arrived in France. It seems to have been primarily set up to help the schooling of children from migrant families.

CASNAV stands for Centre Académique pour la Scolarisation des Nouveaux Arrivants et enfants du Voyage.

I have done a quick google search on CASNAV Perpignan and the contact details are here: http://pedagogie.ac-montpellier.fr/casnav/index.htm

BUNOUF Lydie et HECHES Dominique

C.D.D.P. Place J. Moulin 66000 Perpignan

Tél : 04 68 66 28 72

Fax : 04 68 66 28 23

Email : casnav66@ac-montpellier.fr

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Hi Julia

I work in a school where we have a class that welcomes primo arrivants, and I have also had contact with the CASNAV.  This system is not specific to a particular area, but obviously the structures are to be found in more urban areas where there are large immigrant populations.  You are obliged to send your child to school up to the age of 16 and as a consequence, they are obliged to take them. Don't believe any rubbish about them not taking them.  They don't after 16, as they wouldn't in the UK, but your two will get into the system in time. In areas that have a specific structure for primo arrivants, there are two possibilities, either they go a couple of days a week to a specific school to have French lessons and then go to the local school the rest of the time, or they go to a school and have the extra lessons and then sit in on classes there.  When their French is good they can then go more locally.  Initially I thought that they stayed in the original school for all their lessons but I have recently been assured by a French teacher that it depends on the school.  There are also very intensive structures where they do six months of very intensive French, these are organised by the casnav, but I don't know much about these.

Can they force you to send your child to a school other than the local one if there is a place, I'm not sure?  Certainly they will tell you, rightly, that there will be no specific help available in the school if you don't go for the one with the primo arrivant structure.  Personally, I don't think you should worry two much about reputation, it's a funny thing, but as there are no real league tables, it can be based on very little.  Go and meet with the teachers if you can, schools which have a "bad" reputation can be very dynamic and have lots going for them, rather than the "better" ones where the teachers are comfortably ensconced waiting for retirement. 

If I were in your shoes, knowing what I know about primo arrivant structures, I would give it a go and send them there.  They'll get intensive study with a qualified teacher, in small groups.  As for the other nationalities, it'll depend on the area, in my school, they are from north Africa, ex Yugoslavia and Albania, but I remember reading a surprising statistic somewhere in France, one year, the majority were British!

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