Back to school 2021 in France

Back to school 2021 in France

September signals the start of school for many, but what should pupils in France expect of la rentrée scolaire in 2021? From face masks and health passes to school holidays, here’s all you need to know

An estimated 12.5 million pupils return to school in France this Thursday, September 2. Disruption due to Covid-19 last year saw many pupils complete their studies online from their homes only a couple of weeks after la rentrée this time last year. However, the French government is hoping to make this academic year as normal as possible for students despite fears of the Delta variant.

Different rules will apply for different age groups, with these being the main stages of primary and secondary education in France:

Age 3-5 – La Maternelle – Nursery, Reception and Year 1

Age 6-10 – Le Primaire – Primary school Year 2-6

Age 11-14 – Le Collège – Middle School Year 7-11

Age 15-18 – Le Lycée – High school Year 12-13

As of the end of August, 65% of the population are fully vaccinated with two doses. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed last week that vaccination against Covid-19 will not be obligatory for teachers. However, he also stated that more than 90% of those in the profession are already vaccinated, and those who aren’t are encouraged to be. A Covid-19 health pass (pass sanitaire) is not required for entry into schools for pupils, parents, or teachers.

Children under 12 years old cannot be vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning that if one pupil in class tests positive for Covid-19, the entire class will be closed for seven days. For older pupils, only those that are unvaccinated will need to self-isolate. The Education Minister has promised that Covid-19 tests carried out in school will remain free despite the government’s announcement that free testing for the public will end mid-October. Mask-wearing is compulsory indoors at schools but not on the playground. For school trips and outings, the health-pass is required if in a place in which there are members of the public, such as museums or theme parks.

While all pupils are expected to return to school on September 2nd this year, school holidays vary depending on school zones. The three zones (A, B, C) have the same start and end dates (2nd September 2021 – 7th July 2022), and share the same Christmas holiday dates, but Winter and Spring holidays are staggered as always, for tourism and childcare reasons.

Information on the return to school and Covid-19 rules for this academic year can be found on the government website


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