The largest (and oldest) French school in the UK, the Lyceé is most popular with French families who wish their child to continue with a French education and achieve the French Baccalaureate (Bac).
Importantly, the Lyceé is certified by the French Ministry of Education to deliver the French curriculum to students from kindergarten through to high school. And, as a member of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), it offers its students a simple and easy transfer to French schools throughout the world.
Founded in 1915, the Lyceé is a traditional school with students spread over its main campus in South Kensington and three primary school sites – André Malraux School in Ealing, Marie d'Orliac School in Fulham, and Wix School in Clapham. The South Kensington Primary School is located on the main site of the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle.
Located opposite the Natural History Museum, the school has an excellent city centre location, lower fees than your typical independent school (these are part-subsidised by the French government), and offers many benefits of bilingualism: improved cognitive skills, boosting a child’s communication skills in their new language and their mother tongue, and ready to work in a more globalized world.
In its most recent Ofsted inspection in November 2022, Lycée Francais Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, was rated Inadequate by the regulator’s inspectors, who visited in November. While Ofsted said that the quality of education at the private school was good, as were the behaviour and attitudes of pupils, their personal development required improvement and leadership and management were rated inadequate. It had been rated as “good” in every previous inspection.
Commenting on the report, the Lycée says:
“Processes at the Lycée are in full compliance with French protocols linked to the Ministry for Education’s accreditation, which are very strict. However, the inspectors noted that several processes required of UK independent schools, particularly regarding safeguarding, were not in place at the time of the inspection.
“Academic excellence and attention to children’s welfare have always been priorities at our school. The leadership team have already engaged in a thorough and comprehensive work, along with the school’s authorities, to adapt its protocols to English standards following a precise schedule for the upcoming 6 months. This action plan will allow for a progress report to be shared with the Department for Education and our school community.”
“The aim is clear: to preserve the excellence and qualities of our French lycée, which the report acknowledges, whilst quickly reconnecting with English standards, which have become significantly more stringent.”
Teaching at the Lycée is predominantly in French and follows the French curriculum – from Maternelle through to the Diplome National du Brevet at middle school and the Baccalauréat diploma (Le Bac) at high school. There is also a British Section for English-speaking students in the secondary school, when they reach 6ème (Year 7), where they can study for GCSEs and A Levels.
As you’d expect from the French curriculum, learning is developed using research, problem solving, analysis, and a combination of group work and individual study. Teaching focuses on independent, analytical thinking and cultural knowledge, and there is a strong foreign language policy (usually English).
In the Primary school – Petite Section (Nursery) to the Cours Moyen 2e année (Year 6) – teaching follows the French curriculum, with an additional 3-4 hours per week of English lessons. There’s also an accelerated English programme from CE1 to CM2 (Year 3 to Year 6), helping students who join in these years to improve their English by the end of Primary.
At the Wix and Marie d'Orliac primary schools, the curriculum is different. Families can choose between a bilingual programme (French curriculum and Intensive English) from Nursery (PS) to Year 6 (CM2) or a 50/50 bilingual programme from Reception (MS) to Year 6 (CM2); this is run in partnership with local state schools.
Students from all Lyceé primary schools can continue their education in Year 7 (6ème) on the South Kensington site, where they move into the Collége (Years 7-10). There is a choice of Plurilingual, International and British sections.
In the Plurilingual section, all students continue with the French curriculum and start to learn a second language (German, Spanish, Italian or Russian). This is a great option for students who want to learn a wide variety of modern languages, and they have the option to take an IGCSE in English Language in Year 11.
This offers motivated students the opportunity to develop their skills in modern languages and their knowledge of different cultures. It can also be important for a non-native English speaker studying at a bilingual school such as Lyceé to achieve a Grade C in IGCSE English; this is often enough to satisfy the language requirements for some universities in English-speaking countries.
In the International section, there’s a greater focus on teaching the English language and culture, as well as history and geography in English as part of the Option Internationale du Baccalauréat (IOB); this is an international version of the French Baccalaureate.
The IOB program is a rigorous programme and series of exams in which English language and literature, history, and geography are taught and examined in English by English speaking teachers. This option is more suited to students with a very good level of English.
At the end of 3ème (Year 10), a student from the International section can join the Plurilingual section, and vice versa.
In their final two years at the school, students prepare for Le Bac. This provides students with a globally recognised university entrance qualification; the vast majority of students from the Lyceé attend a French university, with the second most popular destination being the UK.
A third option is to join the British section of the Lyceé; a school within a school, this section enrols around 400 students who work towards GCSE and IGCSE exams in Year 10-11 and A Levels in Years 12-13. French is mandatory from Year 10 to Year 13.
The Lyceé offers students a well-rounded education. Just like any UK independent school, it has a broad sport and arts programme taught by specialist teachers.
In line with the French education system, all students take the French National brevet Diploma, (Diplôme National du Brevet or DNB) at the end of Troisième (Year 10, age 14/15).
Students in the International Stream can opt for the French National Brevet Diploma International Option (DNBI), and students in the British stream take GCSEs and A Levels.
The Lyceé is one of only a few schools in the UK to offer the French Baccalaureate (Bac) and the French Baccalaureate International Option (IOB) – and it is doing it very well. In 2022, as well as reaching a 100% pass rate for both the Bac and IOB, more than 23% of students achieved their BAC with distinction.
2022 Brevet: 99.6% of students achieved 82% with honours Tres Bien.
2022 A Levels: 62% of students achieved A*-A
2022 GCSEs: 78% of students achieved grades 7-9.
In terms of entry requirements, students from a school accredited by the French Ministry of Education are considered on the basis of their previous school records; all others must undergo an assessment. French children are not a priority, as nationality does not appear in the selection criteria.
In line with French schools, the academic year runs from September to July.
Fees that are subsidised by the French government are offered to French nationals only.
Annual fees range from £7,066 to £8,831; fees for the British section are slightly higher at £14,782.
Good for: The school is most popular with French families who wish their child to continue with a French education and achieve French qualifications – and its results show it to be one of the most academically successful French schools outside France. For students who want to study the French curriculum and achieve a place at a Russell Group or other university in the UK, it offers plenty of potential.
Not for: The school’s most recent Ofsted inspection does raise concerns about some English standards within the school. For parents in the British Section – and for English-speaking students in the secondary classes – this may be more of a concern.
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