Category Archives: 1.1 Social Justice

School Structure

One thing that took some getting used to when I first arrived in France was the structure of the school day. This is something that is very different to Scotland. There are aspects of the school day that I believe are very good, however, there are also ways in which is believe the Scottish system works better. The school day structure just shows how various parts of the day are deemed more important in other countries.

The school day begins at 8:30 am. In the beginning of placement, I found this strange as primary school in Scotland do not usually start until 9:00 am (Chevalier-Karfis, 2016). This is not considered an early start and the children are always at school on time, ready to start the day. This is another difference. Over my six weeks of placement, not once has a child in my class ever been late to school. They are all punctual and begins lessons on time. The children have a morning break starting at 10:15 am until 10:30 am. However, I have noticed that often, the teachers do not stick to this time frame. When the bell goes for break the children do not rush out of their seats to go outside. If the teacher is still teaching, she will continue the lesson until they are finished. This means that sometimes the children are going out 5 sometimes 10 minutes late. However, the teacher allows them to stay in the playground longer if this has happened. This has happened a lot during my time at school. Therefore, it can be confusing when teaching lessons as sometimes pupils won’t be in the class when they are supposed to be.

Lunchtime is the biggest difference between France and Scotland. I couldn’t believe it when I was informed at the beginning of placement that lunch is two hours long. This is something I was definitely not used to. In Scotland children don’t even receive a full hour for lunch, it is usually fifty minutes. However, in France lunchtime is seen as their big meal of the day. Therefore, most of the children in my school go home at lunchtime to have a meal with their family. From sitting in the staffroom, I was able to see the kinds of things that French people typically eat at this time of day. A lot of the teacher sit and have a pasta dish or a vegetable dish with bread on the side. I felt very strange the first lunchtime sitting there with my sandwich. Having a nap at lunchtime is also something French people like to do; therefore, two hours is the perfect amount of time to enjoy a meal and have time to sleep before getting back to work. I can see how this might work and it gives both children and teachers a good break in the middle of the day and can come back into class feeling refreshed. However, I personally have found lunchtimes my least favourite part of the day. Commencing at 11:30 am and finishing at 13:30 pm is a long time to sit around. Although it gives me time to get work done, I would rather get back into the swing of the school day. I believe that it would make more sense to cut lunch by and hour and finish school an hour early. Nevertheless, this is not the French culture and I respect that lunch is their important family time.

The children have an afternoon break as well as a morning break. Another aspect of the school day that differs from Scotland. Having two breaks as well as lunch means that the children spend just over an hour in the classroom working before they have a break. This is something that seems to work in France as the children have the chance to release their energy. Because the French education system focuses a lot on French and maths the children do not participate in a lot of expressive arts subjects. I believe that this is part of the reason why they are afforded so many breaks. The children focus so much when they are in the classroom, they sit quietly and get on with their work, so I believe it is only fair that they have the chance to go outside and play.

The school day finishes at 15:40 pm, this is the time I used to finish high school in Scotland. Most primary schools would typically finish around 15:10 pm. Overall, the French school day is longer than a typical primary school day in Scotland, however, they have more breaks and a longer lunch, meaning that they don’t spend any longer working. Personally, I like the way in which schools are structured in Scotland, this is because it is what I am used to and do not enjoy the two-hour lunches when I am in school. However, I believe that this structure works well in France.

Behaviour Management

Behaviour management is something that is very different from Scotland. I have noticed during my time in France that teachers are very strict and do not stand for any kind of misbehaviour. In Scotland, teachers are very much in support of positive reinforcement and having a very child cantered approach. I was very surprised about how teachers approach behaviour management and the strategies they use when a child misbehaves.

The thing that surprised me the most was the physical approach that teachers take when disciplining a child. Teachers in France push, shove and grab the children as they please. This is something that would never be allowed in Scotland. I was shocked when I first seen a teacher grab and child and drag them across the classroom. This approach is like the way in which teacher used to behave in the olden days when the belt and cane were still in use. Physical punishment has not been around for years in Scotland. It has been said that this kind of punishment should be kept to a minimum as teachers are advised to us other methods of disciplining (GIECPOC, 2018).

Children are punished for the slightest instance of misbehaviour. I discussed with my teacher how well behaved the children were in the various classes and she was very surprised to hear that this was my view. Compared to Scotland, the children are work nearly in silence without being told to, accept punishment when the step out of line and have the utmost respect for their teachers. A child could be made to stand outside the classroom or stand facing the corner of the classroom for as little as talking in class or fidgeting. Teachers do not give warnings before implementing a disciplinary action. This may be a reason as to why children are so well behaved.

There are definitely teachers in the school that are stricter than others. I have never seen my teacher physically interact with a child, however, most of the other teachers in the school do. I thought that when this happened the children would react. However, this is obviously the norm and therefore when a child is pushed or grabbed they accept the punishment and do not argue with the teacher (Hyslop, 2010). If a teacher in Scotland was to put their hands on a child, there would be an outcry. Parents would be involved, and the teacher would probably face losing their job. This is why this was such a big change for me going into the French system.

I have built great relationships with the children in the various CP classes over the past six weeks. As they are the youngest children in the school they have become very attached and like to run up to me in the playground and hug me. This is something I am not used to having never taught in the early years before. One of the teacher told me that if they were annoying me I was to push them away. I was very shocked that a teacher would suggest doing something like that for such an innocent action. I would never have dreamed about using physical discipline on a child no matter where I was.

There is no rewards system in the classroom which is something I find very strange. The children have nothing to strive for. During my professional practice in Scotland one behaviour management strategy used was dojo points, children would earn points for good behaviour and lose them for bad behaviour. Other methods of behaviour management used in Scotland include golden time and traffic lights. These are all things we are taught to encourage within the classroom. However, in France nothing like this is used. If the children misbehave, they are punished it is as simple as that. Having had the chance to get to know the children in my classes I believe that some people would benefit from a rewards system as they would have a goal to achieve. This is an aspect of the Scottish curriculum that I believe works very well and should be implemented in France.

Overall, behaviour management isn’t a great focus in French schools. There is no whole school approach to behaviour, it just depends on the individual teacher. If children misbehave they are punished, there is usually no warning or second chance. Sometimes teachers can become physical with the children when they misbehave, this is something that I do not agree with. This shows how different Scotland and France are in relation to this particular area of education.

Teaching and Learning a Foreign Language

Going into the learning from life placement I had no previous experience of teaching a foreign language in the primary school. Teaching English as a foreign language was something that I found very daunting as I did not know how children in other countries learned the language. All I knew was how I was taught French as a foreign language at the end of primary school and throughout high school.

English is a language that most children learn in France. The begin learning English in CP which is the equivalent to primary one in Scotland.  Learning a foreign language from an early age allows the children to become more competent in the language as the younger you begin a language the easier it is. This is why I believe the 1 +2 language approach is Scotland should be well implemented. Children in Scotland should be afforded the opportunity to learn a foreign language form the start of primary school. This would allow them to have a greater understanding of the language and have an advantage going to high school.

Speaking is the main focus when learning a foreign language in France. This is something I learned when teaching English in a French primary school. The teacher informed me that I was not to write words on the board or ask the children to write in their jotters when beginning a new English topic. Speaking and repetition of vocabulary is the best way for children to learn a new language. From my experience of learning French in both primary school and high school we do a lot of reading and writing. Speaking and listening is not the main focus (Maxom, 2010). However, from being in France and having the opportunity to teach English as a foreign language I believe that I will take what I have learned and utilise this knowledge as a teacher. I think that Scotland needs to adopt this approach as speaking and listening are the most important aspects of learning a language. When a baby is born it learns how to speak through listening to others and repeating. Teaching a second language should be no different.

I came to France having no previous experience of teaching English as a foreign language, therefore, I had to learn quickly the various methods used in the various years. This was daunting at the beginning, however, after a few lessons I believe my confidence grew and I was able to make lessons engaging as well as see results week on week with my various class. Teaching English was so rewarding as I could see how much the children enjoyed learning and how happy they were when they mastered new vocabulary. The enthusiasm in relation to learning English was unbelievable. I never realised prior to coming here how much the children enjoyed learning another language. This also emphasises the need to adopt this method in Scotland. I believe that children in the early years would love the opportunity to start learning a foreign language. Learning simple things such as colours and animals and building up vocabulary over a child’s primary school journey will allow them to go to high school with a greater understanding of the language.

This experience has given me a greater passion for languages and I only wish I was given the opportunity to learn French from a young age. By the time I started learning French I was nearly twelve years old and learning consisted of a lot of reading and writing. I believe that when I become a teacher I will encourage the learning of languages within the school. I would prioritise language as a curricular area as I believe just now it is something that is often forgotten about. Some teachers do need feel confident enough to teach, therefore, don’t bother to include it. Becoming more confident in French I believe that I would be able to use this to my advantage offering to teaching the language throughout the school years when I qualify.

Half-day Wednesdays

In France children only attend school four and a half days a week. In some areas of Scotland schools have a half day on a Friday, however, in most places children attend school for five full days a week. However, this is only something that has been implemented over recent years. Children in France used to have a day off on Wednesdays, only attending school four days a week. It was the disruptive behaviour after holidays that made the French government change the structure of the school week. he ministry of education confirmed on Tuesday that a third of French primary schools, or 31.8 percent to be exact, teaching 28.7 percent of the country’s young children, will return to the four-day week based on a decision made by their local authorities (Taylor, 2017) .

Despite the school week changing to four and a half days only in recent years, President Emmanuel Macron is changing the week back to four days commencing after the summer holidays. This is taking the French education system back to the way in which it used to be. France’s new president Emmanuel Macron announced his intentions to change the primary school timetable early on in his presidency, saying that he would give authorities the option of returning to the four-day week in place of the four and a half-day week put in place by the previous government.

The day off will only apply to primary schools. Middle and high school pupils will still have to attend school for half a day on a Wednesday. The children in my CM2 class, being the oldest in the school and about to move on to middle school were disappointed at this news.

I don’t know how I feel about having an entire day off, but I do believe that having a half day on a Wednesday is a very good thing. In Scottish schools that have a half day, this day is commonly on a Friday, the last day of the week. However, having lived in France and experienced many half day Wednesdays. I believe that Wednesday is the perfect day of the week to have a half day. It is the middle of the week therefore, it gives both pupils and teachers the chance to finish school at 11:30 am and have the opportunity to recharge before finishing the week. I have found that it works very well, and I always feel more energised going into Thursday and Friday having finished early on the Wednesday. I believe that if Scottish schools wanted to implement the half-day this day should be considered as I believe it makes more logical sense than a Friday.

Having discussed the differences between France and Scotland regarding the half day I have found that it makes a lot of sense to have a half day. My teacher expressed that finishing school early allows teachers to have the chance to spend time marking and planning. As school begins at 8:30 and finishes at 3:40 on full days, teachers don’t have a lot of spare time to plan and mark. This is something I had never thought about before, but I can imagine it must be a great help having that extra half day. This made me think back to placement in first year. I was in school all day, every day, going in early and leaving late. By the time I arrived home in the evenings I did not have a lot of time to plan lessons and well as complete various sections of my folder before it was time to go to sleep. This meant that the experience was very stressful, and I did not stop doing work for four weeks straight. My learning from life experience has not been like this as I have had Wednesdays to get extra work done.

Parents will be happy about the law changing b back to the way it used to be. At the time that Wednesdays were set to become a school day, some parents were outraged as this was not the way that things were in France. Before the change in law under the government of Francois Hollande children were off school mid-week. This is the way the school week traditionally worked in France. Parents complained when the new president at the time wanted to change this, it was said that people couldn’t go about their usual Tuesday routine as they now had to consider school on Wednesdays (Chu, 2013). I found this bizarre as I thought a day off during the week would cause more hardship than anything for parents that have to work.

This is an aspect of the French Education system that I believe really works. Evidence shows that it is beneficial for both children and teachers.


Learning from life has been a truly incredible experience. I have literally learned from life during my time in France. I was aware of the separation of religion and state before coming to the country. However, my eyes were opened after being submerged in the culture of my school. The French Education system is considered to be ‘Laique’ which translates to Secularism. Children are not allowed to wear religious dress or symbols, and neither are the teachers (Le Pen, 2015). This is a big difference between France and Scotland, as Religious and Moral Education is a subject that is compulsory in Primary school, up until fourth year of high school.

By definition a secular state is neutral, supporting neither religion or irreligion. However, over the past decade we have seen in certain countries that claim to support secularism extreme measures have been taken in order to minimize their association with specific religions.

France a so called ‘secular’ state, has over recent years, introduced many laws and bans concerning faith with particular emphasis on the outlawing or restriction of religious clothing and symbols. On the one hand this shows that France is not actually Secular through the actions taken. However, they deem this acceptable as they want to hold on to tradition. In this day and age, we are teaching people the importance of living in a multi-cultural society and creating a kind equality within the subject of religion. How open are we to the idea of religion and the beliefs people entail? Many religions are targeted in France regarding the way in which they promote their beliefs through dress however it is the Muslim community that most greatly affected. This is an important issue as this kind of discrimination could be the answer as to why over recent years there have been so many problems in the world over the debate of religion.

France has one of the biggest Muslim communities in Europe. Due to their beliefs many Islamic women chose to wear their traditional headdress most commonly known as the Burqa. However, in 2010 a law was passed in France claiming that women were prohibited from wearing these headscarves in public places as they covered their face to almost its entirety. This motion was known at the time as ‘Ban the Burqa’ (Willsher, 2014). This in effect was a way of taking away a woman’s identity. We can see that through this non-secular act that the relationship between themselves and their religion was compromised due to the ban. This caused outcry amongst the Muslim community as the country many Muslims knew as their home was questioning the ethics of their belief system. This was an extremely controversial law to pass however the French merely said that the ban was put in place to maintain the tradition of the country in strictly separating state and religion. This evidence shows that this so called secular state were imposing such a law that could in theory cause the Muslim community to turn against their country causing disruption, something in which France was seemingly trying to avoid.

I was placed in a school that happens to be situated beside a mosque. This meant that most of the children in my school were in fact Muslim. This is information I was told by the teacher as the children are obviously unable to express their religion in the classroom. I was very interested to find out more about the French Education system and the concept of ‘Laique’. Having studied higher Religious, Moral and Philosophical Education at secondary school I have a lot of prior knowledge regarding the separation of religion and state, however, I had never studied this in relation to the education system. It was very interesting for me to be submerged in such an ethnic school, where I was able to witness the concept of Laique.

I was very surprised at the way I felt when walking through the school neighbourhood in the morning and after school. I felt people in the street looking at me in wonderment. Each day I would think to myself, what are other people thinking, am I dressed appropriately, why are they looking at me? This was the first time I had ever been seen as a minority. I was aware that I looked different from everyone else around me and I had never experienced that before coming to France. Scotland is a Christian country, therefore, growing up in a society that is predominately white, and Christian meant that I was never exposed to many other ethnicities throughout my time at school. I had never walked down the street and stood out in the crowd.

This experience has allowed me to consider the way in which various ethnicities face discrimination on a daily basis, in particular, the Muslim community. Over recent years, the religion of Islam has been heavily targeted. They are branded terrorists, unhuman. This issue is something I have always been passionate about and furthermore after my experience in a French primary school. The other students in France were not in the same school setting as myself and I am so grateful that my French school experience was so different from that in Scotland.  Discrimination against ethnicities can be seen every day. I have heard people speak of the families in my school’s neighbourhood in a derogatory manor and it makes me so angry. What gives anyone the right to judge another person based on their religion? People who associate terrorist atrocities with a particular religion are ignorant and uneducated. It is evil people who do these terrible things and try to use religion as an excuse.

Because of the stereotype that has developed over recent years, the Muslim community have been targeted more than any religion and face constant discrimination for their beliefs. Over the past six weeks I have had the opportunity to get to know my CM2 and CP classes, whom all belong to the Muslim community. And it’s true, a child is a child, no matter their religion, race, upbringing. They enjoy the same things as the children anywhere. It makes me sick to think that these children and their families have to deal with any kind of discrimination. I have met some of the kindest, most genuine children during my time at the school.

France, as a republican country is seen to welcome ‘immigrants’ equals, only if they become like the French natives. They must adopt the French language, culture and values. Religions is seen as a private matter and is something that should be practiced in your own time, not expressed publically. Over recent years, there have been protests from women belonging to the Muslim community. Many girls have faced expulsion in schools due to them insisting on wearing their religious headdress in school (King, 2004). This shows that to concept of Laicité has caused many problems within the Education system. Although a lot of people accept the laws, there are still people that believe it is their right to express their beliefs, just as we do in Britain.

This experience has allowed to see first-hand the importance of living in an accepting and multi-cultural society.  I am now more educated about the way in which the French education system incorporates the concept of Laique in school of such concentrated ethnicity. Being placed in such an ethnic area has allowed me to see that the republican laws do not seem to have a negative impact on my school personally. The children, although all belonging to the same religious group do not voice this whilst in school. They accept that school is not the place where religions is discussed.