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The irresistible combination of sun, sea, vines and olives must be, at least in part, responsible for the expat community continuing to expand in Provence. But how can you find the best school? 

Provence schools

Education in Provence 

Provence is one of the most enticing places in Europe – the books and films don’t lie, even if the neighbours are maybe not as exclusive or exotic as they once were. However, international schools are few and far between, so you might seriously consider putting your child into the state system, provided you’re happy with the different approach and you intend to learn the rules of boules rather than skittles. There is a small sample of private schools available too. 

Choosing a school in Provence 

If moving is regularly on the cards, or planned in the future, an international curriculum and approach can make transitioning easier. There are no obvious new independent entrants into this sector (which is slightly puzzling) so the choice for expats still remains small. 

The curriculum at these schools leads up to IGCSEs, and either the IB Diploma or A levels. The cultured and relaxed feel of Aix-en-Provence has always appealed to expat Americans and Brits too and you’ll find international schools here too – with the added bonus of being able to choose between the French or English curriculum. 

Private schools in France tend not to be externally accredited, although they are licensed by the French Ministry of Education and the majority receive some state funding. Most have a mixed international intake and some have a large majority of French students wanting to learn English – so choose with care! The advantages are, that the class sizes are smaller and the facilities better than is normal in state schools. 

There is an increasing number of French state secondary schools that have international sections. If you can get into one of these schools, your child will get an almost free education, alongside French children. They will, however, be immersed in a totally French environment and the education is based on the French national curriculum. This might not be suitable if the student is only attending for a short while before returning to their home country or international schooling elsewhere. Also, the French state schools are regimented and involve total immersion, strict French routine and regular testing. 

Special education needs in Provence 

Most children with SEN requirements can be catered for in school, others needing more intervention and can secure places in specialist schools for children with SEN. In order to get a place at a specialist school the (MDPH) maison departementale ded personnes handicapees carry out an evaluation with the result being passed onto the (CDAPH) Commission des droits et de l’autonomie des personnes handicapees. They then create a personalised programme for the child and determine which route to take as there are various options once the level of help is ascertained.    

SESSD (Services d’education speciale et de soins domicile) will then categorise the student into the following categories depending on their requirements; CLIS1 (cognitive). CLIS 2 (Auditory) CLIS3 (Visual) CLIS4 Physical.    

Pre-schools, kindergarten and nurseries in Provence 

It is compulsory for the French to send their children to preschool from the age of 3 and ideally to their nearest. However, if you want to go to down the state route and outside of your catchment area you must gain permission from the Marie as well as the school inspectorate.  

Best schools in Provence  

International Bilingual School of Provence (IBS)

National Curriculum for England/ French National Curriculum/ Bac/ Brevet/ IGCSE/ IB Diploma; ages 2-18; co-ed; day and boarding; independent; privately owned; 800 students

International bilingual school with four boarding houses surrounded by pine trees. Students from over 70 different nationalities but French in the majority, with remainder from the EU, North and South America, Asia and Africa. Option to either follow the French curriculum or choose the English alternative up to IGCSEs and then the IB Diploma. 

Click here to read our full review of the International Bilingual School of Provence.

These schools have been brought to our attention, but until we have more reports from parents, we are unable to consider reviewing them.

CIPEC International School

French curriculum/ adapted National Curriculum for England; ages 3-11; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 175 students

Founded in 1984 and located in an old bastide in the village of Luynes to the south of Aix. Bilingual classes. Mostly French pupils in lower years, more mixed intake in later years. 

EPIM (Aix and Marseille)

Adapted French curriculum/ PYP; ages 2-11; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 120 students

Nursery and primary school, originally founded by two parents to give a bilingual education to their own children. Now with locations in Luynes, south of Aix, and Marseilles.

L’Université des Petits

Adapted French curriculum; ages 2-11; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 220 students

Nursery and primary school founded in 2010 and located in the industrial area of Plan de Campagne, between Aix and Marseilles. Bilingual lessons with extra English. Since 2018, a centre for the Cambridge English Language Assessment exams. The school states that 100 per cent of pupils passed the exam.

Ste Catherine de Sienne

Adapted French curriculum; ages 11-15; co-ed; day; independent; private non-profit; 260 students

Catholic, French school in the heart of Aix with a bilingual section, offering eight hours of English per week. Some subjects also taught in English to mostly French pupils.

SVIS - Sainte Victoire International School

Adapted curriculum/ French curriculum/ IGCSEs/ IB Diploma; ages 5-18; co-ed; day and boarding; independent; privately owned

Opened in 2011 and located in a chateau under Mont Victoire, once owned by the painter Bernard Buffet and now surrounded by an 18 hole golf course. Offering full and weekly boarding off-site.

Val Saint André International School Aix-en-Provence (VSA)

French curriculum/ French Bac/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 6-18; co-ed; day; independent; privately owned; 215 students

Private international school in Aix founded over 25 years ago, offering the option of the French curriculum or IGCSEs and A Levels. Possibility of boarding with local families.

State schools

Collège Jacques Monod

A middle school (11-15) outside Aix, in Les Pennes Mirabeau, which has an International Section for students who are proficient in spoken and written English - making it relatively easy for Anglophones to get a place. Students in this section have eight hours of English lessons each week (English Literature and history/geography). All other classes are in French. Entrance exams are programmed in May for September admission. There is also a German language section. 

Collège Mignet

A middle school (11-15) located in the heart of Aix-en-Provence which has an International Section for students who have a good level of English. Entrance exams take place in May for a September admission. In addition to eight hours of advanced English classes students in the International Section are taught history and geography in English. Entrance exams in May for September admission with priority given to English speakers based on their language proficiency. Majority of students go on to Lycée Georges Duby for senior school. Very active parent association in the International Section, creating a close student and parent body. 

École Internationale de Manosque

This international secondary school (3-18), opened some 50 kms north of Aix en Provence to provide education to both expat families and local students. In addition to the English section there are Chinese, Italian, German, Japanese and Spanish sections. Lower down the school the students have half their lessons in French and half in one of the school’s six other languages. Later on, students can follow an English curriculum which involves taking up to 80 per cent of lessons in English. It is a well-funded school and has excellent newly built facilities.

Lycée Georges Duby

Secondary school (15-18) located 20 minutes south of Aix-en-Provence with an International section that works towards IGCSEs and the highly regarded OIB (French Baccalaureate with an international element). Admission tests are held in May for September admission based, primarily, on spoken and written English ability. They are keen to have fluent English speakers so it is relatively easy to get in as a native Anglophone. However, this is a French school and there is little language support for non-French speakers. Note that not all the lessons are in English in the international section.

For more information on the schools above, please go to each school’s individual entry on the Good Schools Guide international search.


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