School schedules and start times in France follow a different rhythm than what many international families might be used to. If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Primary schools in France generally start between 8:30-9:00 AM and end between 4:00-4:30 PM.

French secondary schools tend to start a bit later, between 8:00-9:00 AM, finishing between 5:00-6:00 PM.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the typical start and end times for French schools at the primary and secondary levels. We’ll look at how school schedules can vary by region and school type.

We’ll also discuss the routine of the French school day and rules around attendance and punctuality.

Standard Start Times in French Primary Schools

When it comes to the start times of French primary schools, there is a certain level of consistency across the country. While there may be slight variations, the majority of schools adhere to a standard schedule.


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Typical Hours

In general, French primary schools start their classes between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. This allows students to have a reasonable amount of time to get ready in the morning and arrive at school on time. The exact start time may vary slightly depending on the specific school and its location.

Regional Variations

Although there is a general standard for start times in French primary schools, there can be some regional variations. For example, in some rural areas, schools may start earlier to accommodate longer commute times for students living in remote areas.

On the other hand, in urban areas, schools may have slightly later start times to account for traffic congestion during peak hours.

Breakdown of the School Day

The school day in French primary schools is typically divided into several sessions, with breaks for recess and lunch. The morning session usually starts between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and lasts until around noon.

After a midday break, students return to school for the afternoon session, which usually ends between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

It’s important to note that the length of breaks and lunch periods may vary from school to school. Some schools may have longer lunch breaks to allow students to have a proper meal, while others may have shorter breaks to maximize instructional time.

Start Times in French Secondary Schools

French secondary schools have varying start times depending on the type of school and the region. Here is a breakdown of the start times in different types of secondary schools in France.

Middle Schools (Collèges)

In general, middle schools in France start their classes at around 8:30 am. However, it’s important to note that this can vary slightly depending on the specific school and its location. Some middle schools may start as early as 8:00 am, while others may begin at 9:00 am.

High Schools (Lycées)

In high schools, classes usually start at around 8:00 am. However, similar to middle schools, the start time can vary slightly from one school to another. Some high schools may start as early as 7:30 am, while others may begin at 8:30 am.

Vocational High Schools

Vocational high schools, also known as lycées professionnels, typically have a different schedule compared to regular high schools. These schools focus on providing students with vocational training and often have a more practical curriculum.

The start times for vocational high schools can vary, but they usually start classes between 8:00 am and 9:00 am.

Regional Differences

It’s worth mentioning that there can be regional differences in start times for schools in France. Some regions may have slightly earlier or later start times compared to others. These variations can be influenced by factors such as transportation options, local culture, and the availability of extracurricular activities.

If you are looking for more specific information about the start times of a particular school or region in France, it is recommended to visit the official website of the school or contact them directly.

This will ensure that you have the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding school start times in France.


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Influencing Factors on School Hours

Transportation Schedules

One of the key factors influencing school hours in France is transportation schedules. The availability and timing of public transportation play a significant role in determining when schools start. In urban areas with extensive public transportation networks, schools may start earlier to accommodate students who rely on buses, trams, or trains to reach their schools.

On the other hand, in rural areas with limited transportation options, schools may start later to allow students more time to commute.

Lunch Schedules

Lunch schedules also impact the starting time of French schools. In France, lunch is traditionally seen as an important and leisurely meal. Many schools have a long lunch break of about two hours, allowing students to enjoy a hot, nutritious meal and engage in recreational activities.

Consequently, schools may start earlier to ensure that there is sufficient time for lunch before the afternoon classes begin.

After-School Activities

After-school activities, such as sports, clubs, or tutoring sessions, can affect the timing of school hours. In France, extracurricular activities are highly encouraged to promote a well-rounded education.

Schools may adjust their schedules to accommodate these activities, allowing students to participate without compromising their academic obligations. This may result in schools starting earlier to provide enough time for these activities in the afternoon.

Local Customs and Culture

Local customs and culture also play a role in determining school hours. France is known for its appreciation of a balanced lifestyle, which includes leisure time and family activities. As a result, French schools may start earlier to ensure that students have time to engage in family-centered activities in the evenings.

Additionally, regional customs and traditions may influence school hours, with some areas having earlier or later start times to align with local practices.

It’s important to note that while these factors generally influence school hours in France, there may be variations between different regions and individual schools. School hours can also change over time due to evolving societal needs and educational policies.


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Punctuality and Attendance Policies

Arrival Expectations

French schools place a strong emphasis on punctuality, and students are expected to arrive on time for their classes. The typical school day in France starts at around 8:30 am, but the exact starting time may vary depending on the school.

It is important for students to be in their classrooms and ready to learn when the bell rings.

Consequences for Lateness

Being late to school in France is generally not tolerated, and there may be consequences for students who arrive after the designated start time. Schools often have strict policies in place to discourage tardiness, such as issuing warnings, giving detention, or even contacting parents.

These measures are put in place to instill a sense of responsibility and respect for time in students.

Attendance Requirements

Regular attendance is crucial in the French education system. Students are expected to attend school every day unless they have a valid reason for their absence. Attendance is not only important for academic progress but also for the overall development of students.

Schools in France closely monitor attendance and may take action if a student’s attendance falls below a certain threshold.

Excused vs. Unexcused Absences

In France, absences are generally classified as either excused or unexcused. Excused absences are those that are authorized by the school and typically include reasons such as illness, medical appointments, or family emergencies.

Unexcused absences, on the other hand, are absences that are not authorized and may result in disciplinary action. It is important for parents to communicate with the school and provide valid reasons for any absences their child may have.


While some regional and individual variations exist, the school day in France generally starts between 8:00-9:30 AM at both the primary and secondary levels. French schools place high value on punctuality and attendance, so families should be aware of arrival expectations and absence policies.

The typical earlier start for primary students and later end for secondary students accommodates transportation schedules and after-school activities.

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