Australia is today a very popular destination for the French. Many people have discovered the country with a PVT () and who choose to settle permanently after a few years.
Thus, French families are flourishing and the network has grown over the years. So when you’re parents in Australia, how does the school system work? How are the French networks organized to animate the community? What activities are offered to the youngest? Overview of school and community life for French expats in Australia.
How schools work in Australia
In Australia, it is the states and territories that have jurisdiction and not the federal government, which leads to some differences for students. However, the general system remains the same, with a 3-tier model.
The school rhythm
Unlike the French system, in Australia, the pupils’ days are rather “short”. Classes start around 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m.
The school year is divided into four terms with a start between January and February, depending on the state. We talked to you in this article about the particular case of the Condorcet school which is back in August.
As for the school holidays, they last 2 weeks and the “long holidays” last 6 weeks.
The pace may therefore seem more sustained than in France at first glance, but feedback from parents is generally positive about this.
The differences between France and Australia
The first big difference between France and Australia is wearing the uniform. Indeed, from kindergarten to the baccalaureate, whether in private or public schools, most establishments have their own uniform. An element that can be found in Anglo-Saxon culture, uniforms also being in place in England, for example.
Another major difference is thatthere is no homework or grades. Thus, students can focus on extra-curricular activities, which is very important for Australians in general. Regarding grading, students are assessed once per term with a MCQ or a written assignment (“assessment”).
Finally, the schools are much bigger than in France! It is not uncommon to see primary schools with more than 800 students. The infrastructures are thus directly integrated into the school, such as the swimming pools or even the sports fields!
Activities within the school
Australians love after-school activities. Parents are very involved and many activities are offered.
The General Assembly
This is a tradition found in all Australian schools! Once a week, parents and children are invited to what is called the Assembly or the General Assembly. It is a short ceremony during which students are rewarded. Whether for good deeds, their progress, their performance or their attitude, the students are rewarded with an “award”. Parents are invited to this event and it is an important step in the development of the child. Indeed, this allows them to be put forward by not only focusing on good school results. This event is also very popular with parents who are thus involved in the school life of their children.
Another event that is spreading more and more in Australia is the Bluearth program. Launched by a non-profit association and now present in more than 1,400 schools, this program allows children to practice a sports activity, generally in the morning before starting lessons. Thus, coaches come to schools to offer sports activities or even yoga. These activities are free and encourage non-competitive inclusion.
A final feature of schools in Australia are the special days. Usually organized by parents, these days are an opportunity for children to get away from everyday life. Days held include Crazy Hair Day, Book Day, Easter Beanie Parade, Mother’s/Father’s Day Stalls, and more.
Parents are often very involved in the operation of the school.
This strong involvement throughout the school career is strongly encouraged by primary schools. Thus, parent-teacher committees are called upon to participate in teachers’ meetings to decide with them on activities and education plans. In public schools, parents also participate as volunteers and can help in the cafeteria or by accompanying them on school outings, for example.
Beyond the activities organized by schools, Australians appreciate and recommend practicing extracurricular activities. This is why the school days end at around 3 p.m., activities having a central place in the education of young Australians.
Thus, the children of expats are no exception to the rule and can also benefit from the many extra-curricular activities or attend optional courses (theatre, music, journalism, etc.).
On the other hand, the price of the activities can cool more than one! Indeed, from $10 to $50 per session depending on the activity chosen, it is not within everyone’s reach!
Some schools nevertheless offer free activities from Year 4 (around 9 years old).
“Before and after school care”
For children who cannot go out at 3 p.m. (for example if the parents are working), they can go to what is called “Before and after school care”. It is a kind of nursery for children before school (7-9am) and after school (3-6pm).
The people who take care of “before and after school care” also organize “vacation care”, the equivalent of our outdoor centres.
The principle is the same as in France, with numerous outings organized (visits to museums, swimming pools, cinema, etc.) while following a program prepared by the “vacation care” staff.
The French community
Solidarity between French people is essential in Australia. As evidenced by the WhatsApp self-help groups that were created during the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, many groups emerged such as information groups according to the state or solidarity groups for French people who wanted to return to France and have information.
On Facebook, communities of French parents are also getting organized. Thus, we can find groups such as Les Mamans in Sydney, the French families in Melbourne, or the parents’ association of the Lycée Condorcet.
The French Speaking Association of the North Shore also offers activities organized by and for members, so that the community concentrates and finds itself among French people. Thus, a walking club, cultural activities, cinema outings, family outings or even reading workshops are organized.
Finally, for French expats who would like to meet other French people in their adopted city, there are many local associations. This is the case in Queensland with the Alliance française but also with Brisbane Accueil UFE (the Union of French people abroad).
You can find all the associations by state:
French expat parents thus offer their children a chance to discover a new culture and new ways of looking at learning. The days are designed so that the child is at the heart of his development, with regular ceremonies, sports or artistic activities, etc. Parents can also be supported through existing communities, on social networks or through associations that exist in each state. Thus, solidarity and mutual aid allow everyone to experience their expatriation to the best of their ability.
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