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Childcare in France

Links, France



France has one of the most generous pre-school childcare systems in Europe although it can still be challenging to downright difficult to find an open spot, especially in Paris. Parents can send their babies to both publicly and privately run nurseries, called crèches, as soon as the child is three months old (which corresponds with the average maternity leave).


French public nurseries and daycare centres are funded by local and regional authorities and by means-tested parental fees. Most are open some 11 hours a day and closed for one month over the summer period, as well as on public holidays. All public and private nursery staff must meet strict standards of training, and are required to hold a childcare diploma. For information on the crèches in your area, you should ask at your local town hall, or Marie, (which in large cities is that of your arrondissement, or neighbourhood).


All French cities and towns offer this service but small, rural localities may have a limited number of places and in big cities, demand often outstrips availability. No matter where you live, you are strongly advised to put your name down in advance. 



Les assistantes maternelles  


For babies or for after-school care for older children, there is also a system of qualified nannies, assistantes maternelles, who are paid to either look after children either on their own premises or at your home; they are allowed to take a maximum of five children at one time. An assistante maternelle holds a state childcare diploma and is regularly inspected. You can find a list of qualified nannies from your local Marie.


Note that the common French word for nanny is nourrice; a person advertising services as a nourrice is not the same thing as a state-qualified assistante maternelle.


To make it easier for parents to employ a nanny at their home, the government requires parents to pay only the take-home salary of the nanny, while the state covers the numerous social security charges. Parents who take advantage of this must draw up a formal written contract detailing working hours and the take-home pay and then

apply to the local URSAFF office (see Social security system).



Les crèches parentales  


There is also a system of crèches parentales, which are nurseries run by parent associations. These nurseries, which employ qualified assistantes maternelles, are licensed by the local mairie; check there for details of the one nearest you.


The crèches parentales are non-profit; parents pay an equal share of the costs and take an active role in the nursery management. To keep costs down, parents usually also provide food and equipment.




Les écoles maternelles


Children in France can begin public nursery school, or école maternelle, at three years old presuming the child is potty-trained, propre; here again, a place is not guaranteed and schools do fill up. Register your child early to guarantee their place.


The school-day here includes three hours in the morning and three in the evening; parents are allowed to pick up their children for the lunch break, which often is as long as two hours.


It is common for schools to offer both a lunch service and a childcare service, puériculture, on the premises both before and after school until 6.30pm or 7pm; while the schooling itself is free, you must pay for these additional services although fees are quite reasonable.  


Your child is not required to attend school until the age of six; but les écoles maternelles do teach a state-mandated curriculum and children who miss these years of preparation may be at a disadvantage when they start primary school at age six.  










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