Rentrée for Ruadhri

So it’s the rentrée – back to school – and it’s a big occasion this year as Ruadhri starts at lycée, which is roughly the equivalent to sixth form college but is for three years and kids start when they’re 15.

Rors is going to Lycée Jean Favard in Gueret, 45km away, so he’s boarding Monday morning -Wednesday lunchtime, and then Thursday morning to Friday evening. That’s the element that makes this rentrée noteworthy. That’s a huge step, especially for a youngster who’s never been away from home overnight before. Once he’s settled in he may opt to stay away all week. He started there last Thursday and had an exhausting but very enjoyable couple of days. Parents were allowed into the internat, the boarding facilities, as a confidence boost for their kids and to make sure that they at least unpacked their toothbrushes, even if they never get used!

Favards Lycee

So there we were at 7.30am on the 1st September, waiting on the steps outside the lycée with a load of anxious yet excited students and anxious yet relieved mums and dads. Rors had been ill with flu the weekend of the open day of the lyceé in March this year, so I only had fairly hazy memories of visiting it with Caiti seven and a half years ago. I do remember the huge dormitory which was a big factor in putting Caiti off the place. Thirty plus kids all in the one room? Recipe for disaster surely. Anyway, it’s changed since then with a beautiful new set of dorms that sleep 3 or 4 kids. They’re very impressive. Rors has a bed by the window and is sharing with the two Juliens, who are now his new friends. It was a free for all when it came to finding a bed. It wasn’t helped by someone announcing at the main gates that kids would be allocated bedrooms for now, but they’d be able to swap around in a week or so if they wanted to. It turned out that only one bedroom door had a list of its intended occupants on it. Rooms rapidly filled whilst confusion reigned.

Anyway, we found a room with three free beds and dived in, smiling hello at the one boy and his family who were already there. His little brother and two little sisters were helping him make his bed. Whilst we were sorting our Rors’ stuff, another boy and his mum swooped in gratefully on seeing an empty bed. And so room 315 was accounted for. There is a fourth bed but this is a high (very) bed stuck in a corner with a desk and wardrobe beneath it and has remained vacant. Those beds didn’t seem to be very popular with the kids generally.

Rors first day

A new development since Benj and Caiti were at lycée is that textbooks are now provided by the establishment. This is a huge bonus as they were and still are jolly expensive, and as the older two were only a year apart and the books are designed to cover the whole of the three-year course, we couldn’t pass them on from one child to the other and had to buy two sets. Caiti’s year was the last to do that version of the curriculum so I couldn’t sell the books secondhand afterwards either.
Fournitures (school supplies) buying was a lot less fraught than for collège too where we had a list detailing exactly which size of exercise book we had to buy for each course, and each one was different in terms of dimensions and page number. Crazy. However, there were still quite a lot of bits and bobs to by – copies simples and doubles, rubbers, pens, folders, dividers, agenda, yet more sticks of glue – but the financial burden of all this is eased by the Allocation Rentrée Scolaire. I wasn’t sure I’d get ours this year as I’d refused to fill in the form CAF (the funds-dispensing body) sent me in spring telling me my droit de séjour – right to stay here – had run out and thus I needed to provide evidence of earnings etc etc if I was to continue to qualify for the ARS. This was rubbish as we’ve been resident here for nearly ten years, and once, as citizens of an EU country, you’ve lived in France for five years legally (i.e. paying what you owe, and in our case also earning a living) you have the same rights as French nationals and don’t need to provide any more info than they’d be asked to provide in the same situation. So I wrote un lettre snotty and quoted the relevant bits of French and EU law and never heard anything else. As French bureaucracy does so well when faced with incontrovertible evidence, they quietly let the matter drop without even an attempt at an apology or hint that they might have been in the wrong! And I have the allocation.

Anyway, back to Rors. His first two days went brilliantly and he was happy enough to set off in the dark for school again today. We’re taking him in and collecting for the first couple of weeks, combining the trip with shopping and other chores where we can, and once he’s totally settled in then we’ll tackle the bus, or rather buses as he has to change vehicles at the bus station in Gueret. One step at a time…