Academic Controls for Homeschoolers in France
Compared to most things in France, it is relatively non-bureaucratic to register as a home educating family and to pass the Inspection Académique (or control).
For homeschooling children of school age there are 2 annual visits that are compulsory. These are:
This page primarily describes our experience and a general guide. There's more details on the homeschooling law page.
The Home Visit
For the mayor's visit, the mayor legally has to give you advance warning and this is a quick visit primarily to check that the living conditions are acceptable, rather than to monitor the childrens' education.
We used to live in a small town in Aude and for the first visit, the mayor simply knocked on the door without warning. By coincidence we'd just cleaned and the boys were in a lesson with a tutor (they only have 4 hours of lessons with tutors per week, the rest is done autonomously, through other activities (e.g. theatre) and with mum and dad). We therefore invited her in, however we would have been quite within our rights to say it wasn't convenient and ask her to come back at a pre-arranged time.
We now live in Montpellier and received a letter through the post asking for us to confirm a suitable date and time, so it will vary depending on where you're based.
The Inspection Académique (Or Controle)
The Inspection Académique varies depending on the age of the child and whether they would be at junior school (école primaire, up to 11 years old) or secondary school (collège, 11 - 16 years).
Regardless of the age of the child, you are asked to take a sample of the child's written work (this can be printed out from a computer if they tend to type rather than write, as ours do).
Children under 11
For children under 11 there is an informal meeting with both the child and one or both parents with the Département de l'Education Nationale. The meeting is about half an hour long and the teacher might ask the child a few questions, but in our experience there's no written work from the child required during the meetings, other than providing previous work.
During our controles the children were asked questions like the ones shown on the right.
We were asked questions about why we home educated, how the children learned, etc. Like many home educated children, ours learned to read and write later than some (although Tormey, our 13 year old is now writing a novel and devours every book he can get his hands on). While the inspector expressed concern about this, there was no suggestion that we had to send our kids to school because of this, just that we should work on their reading and writing before the next controle.
Children from 11 to 16
For older children the Inspection Académique is at a local school, rather than the Département de l'Education Nationale and they will meet 4 different teachers for half an hour each and do a more formal assessment.
They will meet teachers in each of the following subjects:
The law doesn't specify that the parent can't remain with the child, however it's normal for the child to have the 4 meetings by themself and for most kids this won't be a problem. The evaluations can include a wider range of exam like questions, discussions and reviewing the coursework.
At the end of 4 evaluations you'll receive a report card with each of the teachers' comments.
From my experience and listening to other home educators' experiences, for the results of the Inspection Académique to raise any sort of possibility that the parent(s) don't have the right to home educate, a child has to be significantly behind in at least 2 subjects.
We know one family who were asked to attend a second control 6 months later and that was more because the child was shy and didn't respond at all well in the exam like conditions. In the second control they brought a lot more of their coursework with them and the child had also gained more confidence and it went fine and they 'passed'. This was partly because they brought coursework that demonstrated that the child was learning the various subjects and explained that it was simply that the controls were their only experience of this kind of exam-like situation. The teachers apparently respected this and took it into account in their inspection.
For us, we found the Inspection Académique a useful way of seeing how our boys compared to other children of a similar age at school and in highlighting certain areas that we could focus more on, should we choose to. As there's no requirement for homeschooled kids to follow the French national curriculum, it's always difficult for teachers to know what they're meant to be testing anyway!
If you'd like to share your own experience of an Inspection Académique, then you're welcome to share your experience with us and we'll update this page as required.
Examples of questions that might be asked to young children during an Inspection Académique
What is a particular shape called?