Advice on Schools urgently needed

19 Replies

Hello, We are about to arrive in France in about three weeks time and have seen suitable properties in the Limoux/Carcassonne/Narbonne/Aude area, but have not found a school yet for our two sons.We would hugely appreciate some advice on how to find a school as well as recommendation by families with kids in the area. The Dordogne area near Montcaret woudl also be an option for us - has anyone got experience with schools there? Our sons are 9 and 11 and do not speak any French yet (neither do we), so we are looking for nice schools with experience in integrating anglophone children. (An elementary school, and I guess, a Lycee for our older son?) Any advice would be VERY much appreciated! Thank you! Milena  

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Ponytails 1408263619

Hello there!

A local primary school for your 9 year old should be adequate.  Obviously, the school should have been advised long before now that an anglophone is arriving for them to take the necessary measures.  Children adapt very quickly anyway, and you will find that he will be speaking French in just a matter of months.  Both your children will probably need extra help with their French, you may find someone in the area where you decided to settle will help, otherwise the local City Council will advise.  You need to learn the language too so you may get a group discount!!!!


Your older son of 11 will probably be in sixième at "College".  There may be one in your vicinity, or he may have to bus (free) to the nearest one.  Otherwise you can put him into a private school which is run by the Catholic Education Board and is payable albeit, not very expensive.  Choose wisely, as it is not a good idea to chop and change for these college years i.e. 11 - 15 and then onto Lycee 16-18 for his Baccalaureat.

Good Luck!


Good luck.

GUSTOPH 1408356400

Hi   Its probably more common to choose your area and then schools.  You are looking at a very wide area and you will find it unusual if a senior school in any of these areas do not already have english students.   Our youngest son went to the village maternelle and junior school then Chalabre collège and is now at lycée in Castelnaudary -  our eldest went to Quillan collège and lycée in Lavelanet.   It takes a long time for any child to be fluent -  forget them coping with lesons in their first school year and let them make friends and start to learn the language -  average is 3 years  They will start muddling through quite quickly.   Your children will probably be given the choice of redoubling their school year -  this is a personal decision and depends on your child.  It is very easy to move schools and you will find this happens alot with french children as many french families rent houses and change jobs regularly.  Try to avoid pushy competetive parents who claim their children are fluent within 6 months -  it will only put more pressure on you and your children and can spoil your pleasure of your own experience.  Generally you will find many small infant/junior schools in the villages -  colléges are bigger and in larger villages/towns and  lycées are in the cities -   both my sons have travelled to lycée and board Mon to Fri.   The older students at collège are generally given french lesons when the french children are learning english -  but if there are any extra lesons available that would be helpful.  Our experience of the french education system has been positive -  and of course any child wanting to learn will be given alot of help -   but the french teachers have a very low tolerance level and demand good old fashioned discipline from students and their parents !!!

Dilly45 1408366763

I like what you say about taking a while for children to learn the language.  A lot of people said to me fluency will happen in a few months and that was not the case.  I would say it takes about a year+ and if you're coming back to the uk the same time period applies.

lisajanesalmon 1415627815


We moved to Vernet les Bains in July, tour kids are in Maternelle, Primaire and College, all have been very welcoming and have extra lessons in place to help with the language. The teachers are very helpful, don't worry, the education system is fantastic and inclusive,

best of luck with your move,

Lisa Salmon

Vernet les Bains

sallylouisecollinson 1415697938


We moved to Quillan a year last September and our two daughters go to Ecole Albert Calmette. The eldest is now 10 and she had a tough first year as they spoke no French at all, but with the help of the school who provided extra lessons, private teacher and the local holiday club they are both now settled and happy and speak excellent French. My younger daughter has only ever been to school in France but I can honestly say that my oldest is getting grades here which far exceed the grades she was getting in the UK. They and 1 other little boy are the only English speaking children at the school but there is another school in the town, Ecole Paulin Nicolou which has several English speaking families and the two school mix on a  Friday for activities.

There is a college in Quillan but I don't have any experience of that yet!

I would warn that anywhere you go, the first year will probably be tough but they will get through it and as they language improves, so does everything else.

Good luck

ken-482822 1415952688

Interesting article on French shools/Quillan might be of interest


jmandrewes 1416208022

Thanks Ken for posting the link to our travel article! For those interested our blog also at I am very happy to try and answer people's questions. 


sissy-984894 1416242238

To - sallylouisecollinson.

Hi Sally


Our daughter will be 10 when we move and your comments are most interesting as we are considering Quillan or Lamalou les Bains. Are both the schools in Quillan of the same standard?

Would you please comment on living in Quillan for a family and have you ever been to Lamalou?

Your comments would be really apprecaited

Thanks in anticipation.


sallylouisecollinson 1416262537


I am afraid I have never been to Lamalou so I can't comment on there, but I can say we love Quillan.

We have been here for 18 months, my husband still works in the UK so a lot of the time it is just myself and the two girls, 6 and 10. As I mentioned by eldest had a hard time for the first year but now is totally settled and both girls have brilliant French and have both French and English speaking friends, both in and out of school. My girls and one other little boy are the only English children at the school but there are more English speaking children at the other primary school. Our children go to Albert Calmette which is on the other side of the train tracks to the centre of the town. The other primary is in the centre and your school place is based on where in Quillan you live. I can honestly say we are happy with our school. They do a lot of sport and extra help has been freely offered when we needed it. We know families who attend the in town school and I know they are equally happy with their school and have also been given the extra help.

The school day is Mon, Tues and Thurs 8:30-11:30 and 1:30-4:30 and Weds and Fri 8:30-11:30. Friday afternoons are non mandatory extra curricular activites which change each term but you are given a choice as to what they will do. For this, all the schools in Quillan mix and use Albert Calmette as the base. This has been wonderful for us as it as introduced us to many more families than we previously knew. There is no school on a Weds pm. There is a cantine for school diners but it is reserved for families where the parents work and you have to register in advance at the Mairie. You will need proof of employment or self-employment.

There are several English speaking families and everyone is helpful and very inclusive. There is a large variety of extra curricular activities so there are loads of options for the kids all year round. The holiday club is very good value for money and our kids love it as they do all sorts of activities and we find it helps to keep the kids speaking French during the holidays. 

We find that we are able to give our kids so much more freedom than we did in the UK as it is very normal kids to play out, go off on bikes etc. We also have much more family time as the children are home for lunch everyday and we do more things together on a weekend.

There is so much more I could say, but I hope you get the gist! 

If you want to have a chat over the phone, feel free to give me a call. 0468315437.

All the best


TASKER-497318 1416310465

Hi   sallylouisecollinson -    I think I saw you with your girls at Quillan station -   I was already  on the train with my son going to Carcassonne or would have said hello !!  

sissy-984894 1416333464

Hi Sally.

Many thanks for your informative response. It was kind of you to take the time.

I will call you Friday if thats OK with you. Please advsie the best time.

There is somuch one needs to know.

Thanks once again





sallylouisecollinson 1416339074

Hi, afternoon is best.


graceinfrance-965272 1420190020

Hello Sally. It's Grace.  I arrived  much later than I envisaged in Nebias   In the end I put Zosia into our local primary in Nebias , there were 11 in her class and she was the 12th child , the day later another child joined who is french. There is already an English speaking child in her class who was born in France and is bilingual The second class also incorporates two school  years and has two english boys who have both been here for several years.  So far she loved it and very much wanted to go However she only did a week because we arrived so late .Alexander was given permission to go to the evoke primaries but in the end I choose Michael bouran college in Quillan as it has better sports facilities than chalk re and a bus service   He also did one week and loved it.  They have been very kind and helpful and offer English extra although he misses art for this. And they sat him next to a french girl who is super at english having spent a year in Cyprus   No other English children in his year 6. The English teacher told me its a loverly school with nice children and a nice atmosphere and she loves teaching there  , she in fact is from Belgium with an english husband hence her impeccable english ,

graceinfrance-965272 1420190338

I meant Chalabre College not chalk.  I will ring you. I hope we can meet up  In Alex's there were 24 children.    So both class 6 now have 25 children each 

TASKER-497318 1420541170

Hi  adipat    We are in Nébias just up the mountain from Quillan -    a couple of new families have recently moved to this area and attend various schools.    If you are coming for the school holidays in Feb it would be best to spend a few days driving around.    As you would expect there are many different opinions depending on where people live - how they feel about it -  and what they want from life.  Limoux is bigger than Quillan -  we are wanting to move to that area ourselves.   I have seen a couple of requests for hous sitters and pet sitters on this site recently which could save you rental costs.   Feb is a great time to look around an area as that is generally our winter weather month. There is a small lycée in Quillan but the most popular for a general lycée here is Limoux -  our son currently boards at a professional lycée in Castelnauday -   which is a big town -  personally I like the feel of it there too but we want a lively village rather than town.  

adipat 1420544651

Hi Tasker, Thanks for the reply.  Yes we would not want to actually live "in town" but within 15-20 mins of a decent sized town would be good.  Looking for a property with a large house and bit of land (like most ex-pats!! lol) a town house wouldn't suit us.   I initially thought Quillan may be too "remote" but we will be able to get a better idea when we visit the area.  Thanks for the house sitting suggestions....will take a look :-)

TASKER-497318 1420545797

Hi Adipat -   what budget are you wanting to spend -   a fantastic house has come up for sale in our village with a massive garden -    we are wanting to move ourselves but would stay here if we could buy it -   its advertised privately on - french owners 

sallylouisecollinson 1420555034

Hi Grace,

I left you a message before xmas on your mobile but we have only just arrived back today. I will ring again this week x


Jollie-873829 1420624278

Hi, firstly best of luck! My advice is rent before you buy if you can. Post an ad here and you will find lots of people with gites for short term rent in the whole area.As far as schools go, I tried my children in the normal local school which was good but they found it hard to settle. We opted in the end to move us and them to Castelnaudary as they have a Billingual Ecole and college on the same site. Most teachers speak english, French and Spanish there. Its a catholic Privee though but only about fifty euros per child. Your children would be in the same school together too which is great to help settle. Google Jean d'Arc college Billingual and you will find it easily.

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