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France:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

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France:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

France:Historical Development

France:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

France:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

France:Political and Economic Situation

France:Organisation and Governance

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France:Lifelong Learning Strategy

France:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

France:Organisation of Private Education

France:National Qualifications Framework

France:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

France:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

France:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

France:Funding in Education

France:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

France:Higher Education Funding

France:Adult Education and Training Funding

France:Early Childhood Education and Care

France:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Assessment in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

France:Primary Education

France:Organisation of Primary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

France:Assessment in Primary Education

France:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

France:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

France:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

France:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

France:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

France:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Higher Education

France:Types of Higher Education Institutions

France:First Cycle Programmes

France:Bachelor

France:Short-Cycle Higher Education

France:Second Cycle Programmes

France:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

France:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

France:Adult Education and Training

France:Distribution of Responsibilities

France:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

France:Main Providers

France:Main Types of Provision

France:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

France:Teachers and Education Staff

France:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

France:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Management and Other Education Staff

France:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

France:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

France:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

France:Management Staff for Higher Education

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Quality Assurance

France:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

France:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

France:Educational Support and Guidance

France:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

France:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

France:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

France:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

France:Mobility and Internationalisation

France:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Mobility in Higher Education

France:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

France:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

France:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

France:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

France:National Reforms in School Education

France:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

France:National Reforms in Higher Education

France:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

France:European Perspective

France:Legislation

France:Glossary

The reception of children under the age of three years comes only very partially under the responsibility of the Department for National Education. In fact, only children aged two years can be registered in pre-elementary teaching structures (nursery schools) that come under the Ministry, but only to the extent that there are places available (pre-elementary schooling normally covers children aged between three and six years).

The number of places available is defined by each commune, which is responsible for the functioning of nursery schools. At the start of the 2011 school year, 11.6% of children aged two years were receiving nursery-school education (RERS, 2012. p. 83). The current government aims at significantly increasing that rate of schooling, above all in areas with particular school-related difficulties, in order to reduce school-related inequalities linked to children’s differing cultural and socio-economic contexts. Part of the recruitment of 1 000 additional school teachers at the start of the 2012 school year aimed at attaining that objective.  

Moreover, children from birth to age three years can be received in other structures or care services that are not part of the national educational system.

On the one hand, those are so-called collective care centres (crèches, day nurseries, etc. see below) set up and managed, in most cases, by local authorities or by non-profit associations; on the other hand, they are individual care services (nursery assistants). Unlike nursery schools, access to those types of care is at a cost to families, and is generally based on parents’ income (collective care mode) or negotiated with the nursery assistant (individual care mode).

To carry out their activity, early childhood reception structures and services must all meet two basic conditions:

  • obtain accreditation from the départementof residence, which awards accreditation based on criteria set by the General Council of the département(for example: the structures’ safety conditions, knowledge of a child’s psychomotor needs, the activities proposed, etc.) The département also has a surveillance and verification role in relation to those reception services, in particular through the Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI - Mother and Child Protection) department;
  • comply with the provisions of decree no. 2010-613 of 7 June 2010 relating to reception establishments and services for children aged under 6 years, in regard to standards of child health and safety (Public Health Code, articles R.2324-16 et seq.) Above all, the mission of those structures and services is to provide childcare in conditions of safety, although their role as “educational” bodies is increasingly developed and acknowledged.  


According to a survey conducted by DREES, in 2007, 18% of children aged under three years were cared for by nursery assistants, as opposed to 10% of children from the same age band for whom provision was made by collective-care structures. Finally, in 2007, most children aged under three (62%) were cared for mainly by their parents (DREES, Études et Résultats no. 678, February 2009).

However, France intends to favour freedom of parental choice between stopping work temporarily, full-time work, and part-time work. To that end, it offers them care benefits and tax deductions for care costs, as well as reception structures for children aged under the age of three and financed by public funds. However, the significant increase since 2009 in the number of places available in collective structures must be correlated with the fall in schooling of children aged two years, which fell from 20.9% in 2007 to 15.2% in 2009 and 11.6% in 2011.

Collective-care centres

Those are reception structures that are set up mainly at the initiative of communes (66% in 2010) and non-profit associations (27%). Other bodies like Family Allowance Funds, private profit-making bodies, and works committees can also set up those structures (7%) (DREES, Études et Résultats no. 803, 2012). In all cases, setting up structures is subject to authorisation from the Chairperson of the General Council of the département for structures constituted under private law, and to the Chairperson’s opinion for public bodies.


Photo crèche.jpg



Provision for children is made by a multidisciplinary team, made up in particular of early-childhood educators and of childcare assistants, and led by a physician, a nursery nurse, or an early-childhood educator. Those members of staff are remunerated by the local authorities or the private body that employs them.

The financial contribution from parents is set by each structure. It is usually calculated on the basis of the family’s resources and composition. A large part of collective care centres receives assistance from the Caisse d’Allocations Familiales (CAF – Family Allowance Fund) intended to cover part of the structure’s operating costs. As a counterpart to that financing, the administrator undertakes to calculate the financial contribution made by families based on a scale drawn up by the CAF, that scale being the same across the whole of mainland France. For example, a family that declares €2 000 of net monthly income and that has only one dependent child will have to spend about €190 per month for 160 hours of childcare (eight hours a day, five days a week) in a crèche (see below) that applies the scale drawn up by the CAF (for more information, please refer to the CAF web site).

The following are deemed to be collective care structures:

a.  Collective crèches (routine reception of children aged under three years)

A distinction is made between:

  • traditional neighbourhood crèches, set up near the child’s home and with a maximum reception capacity of 60 places per unit;
  • mini crèches, that receive children under the same regulatory conditions as traditional neighbourhood crèches, but which operate out of private houses or social premises;   
  • works crèches, set up at parents’ workplaces and with hours tailored to those of the company or administrative body. Their reception capacity is also a maximum of sixty places per unit;
  • parental crèches, which are managed by parents themselves: parents come together to form a non-profit association and to take it in turns to care for children aged under three years. The structure has a maximum reception capacity of twenty places, which can, in exceptional cases, be increased to twenty-five places by a decision by the Chairperson of the General Council based on the families’ needs.


b.  Day-care centres (occasional reception of children aged under six years).

Day care centres receive children aged under six years on a one-off basis. In particular, they enable children aged under three years to have periods of group interaction and play with other children, gradually preparing them for admission to nursery school. As is the case for collective crèches, a distinction is made between traditional neighbourhood day care centres, which can offer a maximum of sixty places per unit, and parent-managed day care centres, which are limited to twenty places (or up to twenty-five by derogation).

c.  Kindergartens (routine reception of children aged from two to six years).

Kindergartens routinely receive children aged from two to six years, either non-schooled or with part-time schooling. Conceived as a possible alternative to nursery schools, qualified staff (early-childhood educators, childcare assistants, etc.) offer activities that encourage early learning in children (physical and psychomotor development, early learning, and socialisation). Their reception capacity can reach eighty places per unit.

d.  Multireception establishments (routine and occasional reception of children aged under six years).

Multireception establishments offer various ways of receiving children aged under six years within a single structure. They often offer a combination of several modes of collective reception: routine reception places (of the crèche or kindergarten type), occasional reception places (of the day care centre type), or multifunctional reception places (used, according to need, sometimes for routine and sometimes for occasional reception). Those structures can be managed in a traditional manner or they can come under parental management; their reception capacity stands, in the first case, at sixty places, and in the second case, at twenty places (twenty-five by derogation). Some of those establishments also offer collective and “family reception service" at the same time (see below): in that case, their overall reception capacity is limited to one hundred places.

e. Family reception services or family crèches

Family reception services bring together nursery assistants accredited by the General Council of the département of residence, who care for children in their homes for part of the day and who go at regular intervals to a collective-reception structure for various activities. Those assistants follow a training course that is organised by the Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI - Mother and Child Protection) department, a service provided by the département. The PMI is headed by a physician, and includes, in particular, members of staff who are qualified in the medical, paramedical, social, and psychological fields. That type of structure is supervised and managed like collective crèches. Their reception capacity cannot exceed one hundred and fifty places.

Individual care services: nursery assistants

Apart from collective reception arrangements and family reception services, children can be cared for by nursery assistants who are accredited by the département and who are paid directly by the parents. Each nursery assistant must abide by the number of children specified in her / his accreditation, which is renewed every five years.



Assistants maternels.jpg


Law no. 2005-706 of 27 June 2005 relating to nursery assistants and family assistants provides that “accreditation is granted (…) if reception arrangements guarantee the saftoety, the health, and the development of the minors (…) who are cared for, taking account of the educational aptitudes of the person,” stipulating that the General Council of the département can “adapt accreditation criteria to respond specific needs.” The implementing decree sets out those criteria, stressing the candidate’s availability, her / his aptitude for communication and dialogue, her / his ability to take account of the particular needs of each child, the candidate’s knowledge of the role, and her / his accommodation environment.

According to a DREES survey, the number of nursery assistants employed by private individuals is estimated at 300 000 in the second quarter of 2010 (DREES, Études et Résultats no. 803, 2012).

For home-based childcare, rates are negotiated between the parents and the person employed, there being one minimum condition: the basic gross hourly wage cannot be less than 0.281 times the minimum salary (SMIC – Salaire Minimum Interprofessionnel de Croissance – Minimum Interprofessional Growth Salary) per child, i.e. €2.65 per hour in 2013 (national collective-bargaining agreement of 1 July 2004 for nursery assistants employed by private individuals).
The Family Allowance Fund can also make provision for part of the nursery assistant’s remuneration and social-security contributions.

Geographical Accessibility

The type and level of the offer in relation to reception arrangements for children under the age of three years are not determined by a regulatory requirement made by the French State. Local authorities, départements and municipalities in particular, are the bodies that, under the heading of social action, develop optional public child-care services. As a general rule, families approach the town hall to locate the structures that are present in their area of residence.

The offer relating to reception arrangements for children aged under three years is spread in a fairly homogenous fashion across mainland France, even though there are significant disparities relating to the type of service offered: in the Paris area and in the south of France – the south-east in particular – the offer is mostly provided by collective-care centres (crèches, day-care centres, family reception services, etc.), whereas in the rest of France, individual care services (nursery assistants employed by private individuals) are more developed. Furthermore, no département appears amongst the best equipped in terms of those two types of care provision; conversely, no département registers low reception rates in respect of the various types of care. For example, Paris is the département with the lowest rate of reception by nursery assistants (of the order of 6 children under the age of three years per 100), but it registers the highest collective-reception rate in France, with 37 children under the age of three years per 100 (DREES, Études et Résultats no. 803, 2012).


Admission Requirements and Choice of ECEC Institution

In the case of collective-care centres, the criteria for allocating places are set out by each reception structure. Those criteria are relatively close in all municipal structures: urban area, rural area, large city, small town, etc. With just a few variations in terms of priority, they are all based on: the child’s age; the place of residence, the date of registration (with priority being given to the oldest applications), the characteristics of the application (days, times), the parents’ professional activity, any siblings who are already accommodated in the structure, multiple births, disability, and single-parent status. The level of income is taken into account for calculating the financial contribution that is requested of parents.

In all cases, for a child to be registered, she / he must be up to date with compulsory vaccinations (except if contra-indication attested to by the presentation of a medical certificate).

French and foreign children, if they have reached the age of two years on the first day of the school year, can also be admitted to a state or private nursery (pre-elementary) school, subject to places being available, on condition that they are physically and psychologically ready to attend the school. For registration in a state school, parents must approach the town hall of their commune to determine the school in their geographical sector that is likely to admit their child at the start of the school year, then they must make the necessary administrative arrangements.
If the parents wish to register their child at a school other than the one for their sector, they must apply to the mayor of the commune for derogation.


Age Levels and Grouping of Children

The minimum age for initial reception of children is not set by national regulations. In general, it is in line with the end of maternity leave, i.e. in the two / three months following the birth of the child. In collective-care centres, the threshold reception age is determined by the establishment: it is three years in crèches; it goes up to six years in day-care centres, kindergartens, and multireception establishments. However, it is important to note that all children aged three (the schooling rate at that age being 100% since 1994) are registered with the nursery schools, i.e. in pre-elementary educational structures that come under the Department for National Education.  

The mode of grouping children in collective-care centres depends on the type and size of the institution. Here, the child’s age is not always a significant criterion for grouping, the more significant criterion being the psychomotor development of the child.

There are no standards relating to the number of children per early-childhood educator in collective-care centres. Those centres are required to comply with the provisions of the Public Health Code (articles R.2324-16 et seq.) There is no regular data available on the management practices followed by those centres. However, individual elements are available in the files of the Family Allowance Fund. For example, the standards mentioned in relation to crèches are as follows: “Making provision for children is done by a multidisciplinary team that includes: a director (nursery nurse, physician, early-childhood educator) and a number of professionals (in particular childcare assistants and early-childhood educators) at a ratio of one person for five children who cannot yet walk, and one person for eight children who can walk. Other professionals (psychologists, psychomotor therapists, cultural speakers) can play a role in the team for short periods of time." (Source: CNAF).

As regards individual care services, each nursery assistant must abide by the number of children who can be cared for at one time, as specified in her / his accreditation, the maximum number of children being set at four in law (law no. 2008-1330 of 17 December 2008 on social-security financing for 2009). In 2009, 55% of accreditations issued were for the care of three or more children at one time, according to data quoted by DREES (Études et Résultats, no. 719, February 2010).


Organisation of Time 

The periods during which collective-care centres are open depend on the reception structure: they are defined by the administrator and the director, in dialogue with the other partners (municipalities, staff members, parents, etc.) They must appear in the rules of operation. A summary of that type of information at national level is not available; however, it can be stated that, as a general rule, the periods of opening are in line with the school year (September – July).

Organisation of the Day and Week

In collective-care centres, opening times are set by each structure: they are defined by the administrator and the director, in dialogue with the other partners (municipalities, staff members, parents, etc.) They must appear in the rules of operation. A summary of that local information is not available. However, it can be stated that the normal opening times of collective-care centres run from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. They are closed at night, on Sundays, and on public holidays. Works crèches tailor their hours to those of the company.

As regards the organisation of the company – and solely by way of example – activities generally run as follows:

  • morning reception of children (between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.);
  • educational activities (9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.);
  • meal (from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1:00 p.m.);
  • nap (from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.);
  • educational activities (from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.);
  • tea (4:00 p.m.);
  • reception of parents, followed by departure (5:30 p.m.).

The so-called educational activity is mainly carried out in the morning, before the meal. In the afternoon, the time is mainly used for free games, for story-telling, and for reading.

In the case of nursery schools, since 2008, primary-school pupils (pre-elementary and elementary levels) attend 24 hours of classes spread over a 4-day week (8 half days). However, a reform of the school day has just been decided upon by the government: decree no. 2013-77 of 24 January 2013 envisages, from the start of the school year in 2013 or 2014 (the choice lies with the communes), the retention of 24 hours of classes, but a return to the 4.5-day week (9 half days), under the following conditions:

  • the teaching day shall last for no more than 5 hours 30 minutes
  • the teaching half day shall last for no more than 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • the midday break shall not last for less than 1 hour and 30 minutes.