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					                                                                             COUNTRY NOTES

Notes for English                Language           Assistants          appointed           in    France

These notes contain important information and advice on a variety of practical and administrative
matters affecting UK assistants in France. They should be read carefully, retained for reference and
considered in conjunction with any papers issued by the French authorities. There is an index on the
back page.

If your permanent (UK) home address, personal e-mail or phone number should change at any time
from now on, please inform us immediately by e-mail. We may need to contact you during the year
with updates to these notes, invitations or urgent messages.

The assistantship programme in France is administered by the CIEP (Centre international d’études
pédagogiques), 1 avenue Léon Journault, 92318 Sèvres Cedex. Tel: 01 45 07 60 98,
Fax: 01 45 07 60 76     E-mail:     Website:


The role of a language assistant is a very important one, and one that we hope you will enjoy.
Please remember that you will be a member of the staffroom, with the responsibilities and
required professionalism that this entails.

You will also be an ambassador for the UK and its culture. You have first-hand experience of life
in the UK, and should draw on this and introduce your students to aspects of it during your lessons.
We provide a lot of advice to help you incorporate cultural content into your lessons – please see
chapter 10 of the “Language Assistant” manual, and the “Essential UK” section of the website:

                                Document compiled by British Council London
    Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across


The appointment period for UK assistants in France next year will be:

        1 October 2009 – 30 April 2010              in secondary schools
        1 October 2009 – 30 April 2010              in primary schools on 7-month contract
        1 October 2009 – 30 June 2010               in primary schools on 9-month contract

Assistants are entitled to the usual school holidays, details of which can be found on the website or you can obtain the dates from
the school secretary. You should not be absent on other occasions without prior permission (see
paragraph 15). Attending the académie induction course in September or October does not give
assistants the right to take 2 days‟ leave at a later stage.

Assistants are expected to work 12 hours a week. Those who have been appointed to more than one
school will be asked to divide their time between the schools concerned. The maximum number of
schools to which you can be appointed is three. Please contact us if you have been appointed to
more than three schools. If the different schools are several miles apart and you have to travel
between two on the same day, you are entitled to ask for help towards travel expenses. Under no
circumstances should you buy a car just to get to your schools: If no regular public transport
serves your school(s) and there are no lifts available to your school(s) please inform us immediately
of the situation. Precise information as to how your timetable will be arranged may be requested
from the Head of the host school which is usually the first one mentioned on the certificate of
appointment (arrêté de nomination or arrêté d’affectation). However, as there is no departmental
infrastructure in French schools it may well be necessary to negotiate your timetable with different
teachers. Please be aware that it is sometimes impossible for your responsable to tell other
teachers (his/her peers) what to do.

If you have already received the arrêté please return the acceptance of appointment form
AD/F.9 providing the full name/s and address/es of the school/s. Each académie differs as to
when they organise appointments and send the arrêtés out. The British Council is involved in
allocating assistants to an académie and age group but has no control over choice of town, size of
town, school environment or when the arrêtés are sent out. We encourage académies to send
arrêtés out as early as possible. You should also write immediately to your school(s) confirming
acceptance of the post. (See the email, in most cases sent on 29 June 2009.) If you do not receive a
reply by mid-September it is a good idea to ring the school(s) to ask about accommodation and give
them an idea of your anticipated arrival date. Please note, the British Council does not keep records
of French school telephone numbers: you can find telephone numbers on the Yellow Pages website
at if the number does not appear on your certificate of appointment.
Otherwise consult the website of the académie in which you have been appointed, e.g. , and click on the relevant sector, e.g. „collèges et lycées’. Your académie website is also
useful for information on your school, the académie itself and the French school system.


Contact details of assistants appointed to your area in 2008/2009 are included in a separate
document. It should be noted that schools do not necessarily receive assistants from the same
anglophone country each year, and the British Council holds records of assistants from the UK only.
Past assistants have emphasised how useful it is to contact former assistants in their area and have
described their advice as “invaluable”.

4       INDUCTION COURSE (le stage d’accueil)

Teams of inspectors, teachers and office staff based in the académie make the arrangements for
the induction course in each académie of metropolitan France. It is paid for by the French

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     Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across

government and if the stage is more than one day long, accommodation is provided. Attendance is

Details of the induction course in your académie have been (or will be) sent to you directly from
France if your stage takes place in late September or early October. Otherwise details of the stage
will be waiting for you at your host school. You will also be able to find a list of most of the
induction course dates on the CIEP website. Please see
and go to the section “Votre arrive en France”. If you have been appointed to a primary school,
then click on the link “Assistants dans le premier degré”. If you have been appointed to a secondary
school click on the link “Assistants dans le second degré”. Please ensure that you find out your
confirmed induction course dates before you book your travel to your post. Neither the British
Council nor the French local authorities can be held responsible for an assistant‟s flight cancellation
or re-booking costs.

Please note it is not possible to attend a course in an académie other than the one in which you
have been appointed.

If you have not spoken to your school(s) by the time of the stage, you must do so at some point
during the stage. You will need to tell them what time you will be arriving and ask if it would be
possible for someone to meet you at the local station if you arrive out of school hours. The later you
leave arranging this, the less likely it is that someone will be free to meet you.

5        PASSPORT & VISA

Assistants must be in possession of a standard 10-year passport before leaving the UK and are
advised to ensure that it will not need to be renewed before October 2010. Those who are not in
possession of a passport, or need a new one, should complete the application procedure as soon as
possible either through a regional Passport Office or online at .

Holders of a UK passport and nationals of other EU countries do not require a visa to enter France.
Residents of the Channel Islands should check their individual situation with the nearest French
Consulate since one type of CI passport does have a visa requirement for France.

If you have dual nationality (UK/other) you should ensure that your UK passport is valid and make it
the one you travel on while in France. This will save you considerable complications with the local
authorities (Social Security etc). This does not apply if one of your passports is French.

6        RESIDENCE PERMIT (la carte de séjour)

The law of 26th November 2003 (nº 2003-1119) states that EU citizens no longer require a carte de
séjour in France. An EU passport is sufficient.

Non-EU passport holders must, however, obtain a carte de séjour. NB. All of the information on
the carte de séjour which follows in this paragraph (6) is relevant to Non-EU passport holders only:

Assistants with a Non-EU passport hoping to claim housing benefit (APL, see paragraph 13a)
should apply for their carte de séjour at the earliest opportunity as it is may not be possible to
receive benefit without it. You should check with your local CAF office (Caisse d’Allocations
Familiales) to see if it is required. Having a carte de séjour may also be helpful for other
administrative procedures such as opening a bank account and finding accommodation.

Your application should be made at the préfecture or sous-préfecture or, if you live in a small town,
at the local police station or mairie. When submitting your demande, you will need to present all or
most of the following items:

i)       passport + visa “long séjour, type D”

ii)      at least 4 passport photographs

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      Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across

iii)       certificate of appointment (arrêté d'affectation or arrêté de nomination)

iv)        procès-verbal d'installation

v)         attestation de logement, obtainable from school, landlord or estate agent as appropriate

vi)        certified translation of full-length birth certificate

vii)       stamped addressed envelope

viii)      Certificate of medical examination from the ANAEM (Agence Nationale de l’Accueil des
           Etrangers et des Migrations)

There is a fee for Non-EU passport holders for the carte de séjour.

It is advisable to take with you photocopies of the documents listed above (including the relevant
pages of your passport) as these may well be requested.


You are advised to wait until you get to your town of appointment in France before opening a bank
account. This will allow you to research all the local options, seek recommendations and choose
what will be most convenient for the rest of the year. Reports received from this year's assistants
indicate that the amount of money required in the first 2 or 3 months, prior to receiving the first
salary, varies considerably depending on type of accommodation and location in France. However,
it is advisable to take to France or have access to not less than £1500 (though some assistants get
by with less) and about £1700-£2200 if appointed to outre-mer, Corsica or the Paris area. Ensure
you have a bank card with the Cirrus facility so that you can withdraw money from your UK account
through cash machines in France. The money will be needed for your accommodation deposit, rent,
travel costs for work, food, membership cards, money for going out and so on.

On arrival at your school you should first introduce yourself to the Headteacher and then
immediately ask to be taken to the administration office in order to deal with the necessary
formalities. The most important of these is signing the procès verbal d'installation. Failure to do
this will lead to the first month's allowance being delayed and medical cover not being provided by
the Sécurité Sociale (see paragraph 9).

The gross allowance payable to UK assistants in France is currently €949,60 per month, from which a
compulsory deduction will be made to the Sécurité Sociale of approx. 17%. Most of this 17%
deduction goes towards your health cover under the French state system. The state provides 70%
cover – see paragraph 9. The net monthly pay therefore is approx. €780. The money deducted for
social security is not reclaimable from the French or UK state. The allowance will increase very
slightly in January.

The first payment should be received at the end of October, the last at the end of April or June,
depending on the type of contract you have (see paragraph 2). However, delays do occur
occasionally and it is for this reason that assistants are advised to take to France or have access to
sufficient money to meet expenses for the first 2 months. It is advisable for all assistants to
request the school to arrange an advance (normally up to 80%) on their first 2 months’
allowance. (Your full dossier must reach the Rectorat by 10 October.) However, it may take 6
weeks for the money to reach the school, so that the value of it as an advance is somewhat reduced.
In the départments d’outre-mer the first payment is often delayed 2-3 months.

Given the higher cost of living and the longer journey involved, assistants appointed to one of the
départements d'outre-mer are likely to receive a monthly allowance which will be approximately
40% higher than the rate for mainland France. The exact rates have yet to be confirmed by the
French authorities and will vary from one département to another.

                                   Document compiled by British Council London
        Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across

It is essential that you open a bank account soon after arriving in France as you are paid by cheque
or bank transfer. Nowadays assistants are usually entitled to open a normal compte courant which
provides a cheque book and cash card; some banks also offer a „student account‟. It may be worth
enquiring about a Carte Bleue (or Carte Bleue Internationale) which allows you to withdraw cash
from any branch of any bank in France (or abroad). However, banks do charge extra for this card.
The number of official documents required in order to open a bank account seems to vary from one
bank to another but you are likely to be asked to show one or more of the following:

i)        passport

ii)       Non-EU passport holders only: proof of application (récépissé de demande) for a carte de

iii)      certificate of appointment (arrêté d'affectation or arrêté de nomination)

iv)       procès-verbal d'installation

v)        attestation de logement, obtainable from school or landlord as appropriate

vi)       letter of recommendation from your bank in the UK.

The majority of banks will not ask for a certified translation of your full-length birth certificate. If
a bank does ask for it, you have the choice of going to another which does not.

It is advisable to take with you photocopies of the documents listed above (including the relevant
pages of your passport) as these may well be requested.

You are advised to note that in France it is illegal to write a cheque without having sufficient funds
in the bank. You are also advised to keep your account open for a month or so after the contract
with your school has ended to ensure that all outstanding payments have been received.

Please do check on the conditions for transactions relating to your account. For example it might be
that you can only close your account in the same branch in which you opened it.

8         INCOME TAX

A Double Taxation Agreement exists between the UK and France. Under this agreement UK
assistants are normally exempt from French income tax for a period of up to 2 years. However, it is
normally the case that 100% of the remuneration received abroad will be liable for UK tax.

You are reminded that the UK tax year extends from 6 April to 5 April and that income earned in the
UK between April and the start of your assistantship may be taken into account when your own or
your parents' tax liability is being assessed. Enquiries regarding UK income tax should be addressed
to a local Inspector of Taxes, not to the British Council.

9         INSURANCE

Assistants serving on the official scheme contribute automatically to the sécurité sociale (la sécu).
Registration with the sécurité sociale should be arranged through the school Intendant (bursar) or
staff at the Inspection académique who will be familiar with the procedure. (It is possible that you
will be asked for a copy of your translated birth certificate when registering but we have been told
by the French national agency that the English version should suffice together with ID and your
European Health Insurance Card). You will subsequently receive an attestation d’affiliation à la
securité sociale and a numéro d'affiliation pending issue of your Carte Vitale (social security card),
which may take several months to come through. It is very important that you keep the attestation
carefully and note this number as it will have to be quoted on any claim for reimbursement that you
make before the card is issued.

                                  Document compiled by British Council London
       Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across

If you ever worked in France before your assistantship and were enrolled in the French social
security system at that time, you should use this number again and not go through the process of
obtaining a new one. Give the numéro d’immatriculation to your school Intendant.

Procedure for visiting a doctor and reimbursement of medical costs
Since 1 July 2005 all residents in France have been asked to choose “un médecin traitant” as their
general practitioner. This doctor must also be consulted for referral for any specialist treatment.
For a certain time you can go to a specialist without having seen your médecin traitant before but
the fee for the specialist will be higher so do enquire about the cost in advance.

Over 95% of all doctors and dentists in France support a trade union agreement that sets their fees;
these practitioners are said to be conventionnés par la sécurité sociale. Private doctors can charge
what they like. The rate of reimbursement from the sécurité sociale is the same, whether you visit
a private doctor or one who is conventionné(e). It is worth knowing that for minor complaints
pharmacists provide excellent advice free of charge, and in emergencies they are licensed to
prescribe medicine as well.

i)        Ensure that the doctor or dentist you choose is conventionné(e).
ii)       A visit (consultation) costs €20-30 and you must pay this on the spot. The doctor will give
          you a feuille de soins or feuille de maladie, a form which states how much you were
          charged and is to be forwarded to the sécurité sociale in order to be re-imbursed by bank
          transfer. You may be given a prescription (ordonnance) too.
iii)      When you buy what the doctor has prescribed, the pharmacist will enter the details into the
          computer. You will normally pay just the sum which is not reimbursed by Social Security (i.e.
          35% of the cost of the prescription).

Since the sécurité sociale generally reimburses no more than approx. 70% of medical expenses
incurred (0-65% for prescribed drugs, 80% for hospital costs), assistants are strongly advised to
take out additional medical insurance. As employees of the Ministère de l'Education Nationale you
are entitled to subscribe to the MGEN (Mutuelle Générale de l'Education Nationale). The premium,
deducted monthly, is 2.6% of your gross monthly allowance. This tops up the 65% cover provided by
the state to a level of approx. 95% for prescribed drugs, approx. 100% for visits to the doctor and
100% for emergency hospitalisation. This cover will only commence 3 months after you join and
start paying your subscription. Every school in France has an MGEN representative, usually a
teacher, whom you should contact early in the year if interested in joining the scheme.

Assistants who register as 'regular' students at a French university (see paragraph 17) can obtain
additional medical cover at a reasonable price by joining the LMDE (La Mutuelle Des Etudiants).
Both the premium and the cover with the LMDE are slightly less than with the MGEN.

NB The European Health Insurance card (EHIC) is designed for tourists/short-term visitors and adds
nothing to the health cover of a person employed and resident in France, as you will be for the
duration of your assistantship. It provides no top-up whatsoever on the cover of the sécurité sociale
but is valid of course for trips to other EU countries during the year. However, if you choose not
to take out additional medical insurance before you leave for France, make sure you apply for
the EHIC as this will cover your health needs until you are registered with the sécurité sociale.
The EHIC will give you the minimum health cover to which any UK citizen in an EU member-state is

Please see the Department of Health website on and enter “EHIC” in the Search box
for links to a detailed explanation of the card and a link to download the form. You can also obtain
an application form from the post office.

Residents of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not eligible for the European Health
Insurance Card. Residents of the Isle of Man need to take out fully-comprehensive insurance (which
should include repatriation by air ambulance) before travelling to another country. Applicants from
Guernsey should contact the Health and Social Services Department on tel: 01481 725241 for advice.
Applicants from Jersey should contact the Employment and Social Security Department on tel:
01534 280000 for advice.

                                  Document compiled by British Council London
       Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across

Please note that if you take sick leave before having completed 3 months' and 3 days’ service
you will not be entitled to sickness benefit (indemnité journalière) which usually amounts to 50%
of your gross allowance and is calculated on a daily basis. If you are an assistant serving in one of
the départements d'outre-mer you may not be able to claim sickness benefit or reimbursement of
medical expenses until 6 months have elapsed, and it is therefore particularly important that you
are adequately insured. The first three days of any period of sick leave are not normally covered by
sickness benefit. Please be aware that if you are sick you will initially be paid your full salary but
later on the Trésorerie Générale will ask you to pay back 50% of your salary for the period of
your sick leave. This can be required of you even 6 months later. You must obtain a medical
certificate with dates if you are off work for illness at any time.

Further information about the sécurité sociale and procedure to follow in case of absence is
contained in the publication Le Guide de l'assistant de langue under the section „Votre Installation
en France‟ (see paragraph 18a of this docunment). This booklet is produced by the CIEP and can be
accessed from the CIEP website at - scroll down to the bottom of
the page and click on “Guide de l'assistant de langue - Édition 2008--2009”. You will receive a copy
of the 2009-2010 edition at the induction course.

Contributions paid to the French social security scheme may be taken into account in assessing
certain benefits under the UK social security scheme on return to this country. Further information
may be obtained from the Inland Revenue, Centre for Non-residents, Room BP1301, Benton Park
View, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE98 1ZZ (Tel: 0845 9154811 if in the UK or 00 44 191 203 7010 from

For insurance of personal possessions (and car insurance) during the year assistants are
recommended, once in France, to contact the MAIF (Mutuelle Assurance des Instituteurs de France)
which exists specifically for teachers. The MAIF has a website at

Cover for personal liability or assurance responsabilité civile is often overlooked and yet it is
essential. If ever you were to be the cause of an accident of any kind (e.g. cycling on the road) the
resulting costs, practical and legal, could be prohibitively high. You are not covered for personal
liability and you must take out your own insurance policy to be covered for this. In France you can
arrange personal liability insurance through the MAIF or MGEN.

Travel insurance and health insurance for the period of your contract in France is vital. The British
Council is not in a position to advise you on any specific insurance packages, and you are
recommended to consult an insurance broker for professional advice. However, the package should
cover medical expenses, Air Ambulance, repatriation, personal accident and civil liability, luggage and
valuable items, cancellation in extreme cases. Undergraduate assistants may find that a "study
abroad" policy purchased online may be cheaper. You should also check your parents’ household
insurance as this sometimes covers possessions away from home.

Please note you should think about cover that also includes repatriation in the event of a swine flu
outbreak. For up-to-date information relating to the swine flu outbreak, please consult the FCO
website at the following page:

10      TRAVEL

Once in France you will find it cheaper for local travel to buy a carnet of 10 tickets for buses and
the métro than to buy one ticket at a time. Those working in Paris and its suburbs will find that le
passé       navigo      (details    available     at      any      métro      station      or     at also offers a good discount on normal
tariffs and past assistants recommend purchasing one straightaway.

                                Document compiled by British Council London
     Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across

For long journeys in France various options exist including the SNCF Discovery fares for 12-25 year
olds (proof of age required, approx. 25% discount on tickets for off-peak travel, fares are subject to
limited availability so it is advisable to book in advance) and the Carte 12-25 (from 25-60% off fares).
This card can also be bought in the UK (need passport photo): ring Rail Europe on 08448 484 064.
The Carte 12-25 costs €49 for one year and has been described as indispensable by former
assistants. It can be bought on The term for peak-time is période blanche
and for off-peak - période bleue. See for information on cheap train fares.
You can also book Eurostar tickets on this website and if you are aged between 12-25 you will be
able to get a discount on the price.

For cheap flights go to the CROUS (student welfare centre) at the nearest French university,
equipped with your International Student Identity Card (ISIC). Previous assistants have
recommended Easy Jet, Fly Thomson, BMI Baby, CCM Airlines, British Airways, Air France, Ryanair,, Jet2, VLM Airlines, Air Southwest, Eurostar, Eurotunnel, Eurolines Coaches, Coachlines, P &
O Ferries, Speed Ferries, Britanny ferries, Norfolk Lines, Sea France, Transmanche ferries, LD Line
ferries, Hoverspeed and . Booking in advance for all forms of transport is
highly recommended. Past assistants have warned to check the baggage allowance of the airline you
fly with for outward and return journeys as sometimes the cheaper airlines have a low baggage

All employees in France are entitled in a calendar year to one billet de Congé Annuel bearing a 25%
reduction on French railway fares. (It can only be used on a long journey, i.e. at least 200 km.)
Although appointments span 2 calendar years assistants are entitled to one billet only. The billet
cannot be obtained before you are in possession of a Carte Vitale (social security card). Details on
applying for this concession will be available from the school.


If you plan to take a car to France for the period of your assistantship, please ensure that you take
out adequate insurance for the full period and be aware that many insurance companies will only
insure you for periods of up to 90 days. See sheet enclosed called “Advice from past assistants
who took their car abroad”. Past assistants have advised looking into insurance well in advance in
order to have the time to shop around for a suitable policy.

All UK motor insurance policies offer the minimum legal protection required by EU countries and
Switzerland. This gives third party cover for bodily injury or damage to property. Former assistants
have suggested the MAIF (Mutuelle Assurance des Instituteurs de France) (, AXA
(, AGF ( or Crédit Mutuel ( Assistants in France
have often found it cheaper to insure their car locally in France than to insure it with a UK
insurance company. When taking out local insurance it is worth presenting proof of a No-Claims
Bonus as this is valid in France. However, ask your home insurer for advice beforehand.

The British Council is unable to recommend specific insurance companies, but you can find useful
information about motor insurance on the website of the Association of British Insurers: .

You     can    consult   the     document     „Motoring    Abroad‟    via the   ABI    website
( for useful information on
Motor Insurance cover and Green Cards. A Green Card is an internationally recognised document
that provides evidence that the policyholder has minimum insurance cover.

UK licences are recognised in all EU countries plus Switzerland, for as long as they remain valid.
Advice should be sought from the national licensing authority if residence in France exceeds 12
months. Drivers who move to one of the above countries for just a year in order to work as a
language assistant or attend university are not deemed to have become resident there.

If you require information on driver licensing you should contact Drivers Customer Services (DCS),
Correspondence                                      Team                                    DVLA,
Swansea SA6 7JL (Tel: 0870 240 0009, e-mail: Information on vehicle

                                Document compiled by British Council London
     Information correct @ 20.08.09. Please inform us during the year of any changes that you come across

licensing or registration can be obtained from Vehicle Customer Services (VCS), DVLA, Swansea
SA99 1AR (Tel: 0870 240 0010, e-mail: There is also a website at

Providing a car is not hired out or sold, nor used for commercial activity in France, it can be
imported under the Temporary Importation Scheme. You can obtain information about this from the
AA, the RAC or your nearest French Consulate.


Once the car is bought, the change of ownership must be registered immediately at the nearest
préfecture or sous-préfecture. Here you will be given a list of the various documents required to
complete the procedure. You can also consult the website for the préfecture of the académie to
which you have been assigned to see what will be required. Necessary documents include a
certificat de vente (filled in and signed together with the previous owner of the car), a demande de
certificat d'immatriculation, a carte grise and the equivalent of an MOT test certificate (only
required for cars more than 5 years old). It is also necessary to present a photocopy of your identity
card (passport), an attestation de domicile, an s.a.e. and payment of approx. €150.

13      ACCOMMODATION (see also paragraphs 13a and 13b)

It should not be assumed that accommodation will be provided on site or that the school will be
able to arrange lodgings in advance. You should nevertheless request help when you write to your
school(s) accepting the appointment. Ask if there is at least temporary accommodation for you, for
a week or two: a room on the premises or at a teacher‟s house. If your school does offer you
accommodation you are not obliged to accept it (you may want to see it first) but remember, if
you do accept it, you will have to abide by the school‟s rules. Standards of accommodation vary and
you may prefer to live elsewhere. Do not feel obliged to stay in the accommodation if you feel
isolated. If your school cannot offer you accommodation, ask at least for useful addresses (local
families who let rooms, a student residence or young person‟s foyer) in the area. No financial
allowance is given in lieu of free accommodation if the school is not able to provide it or if you
choose to live elsewhere. If you choose to accept any accommodation offered by the school, it is
imperative that you chase this up and ensure that you have confirmation that the accommodation
has been secured for you.

If your school cannot help, your best contact is your predecessor. Consider going to France earlier in
September to arrange accommodation in advance of the induction course or of starting your job.
Past assistants have emphasised the need to look for accommodation as early as possible. There is
nothing more depressing (to quote past assistants) than starting work at school, trying to make a
good impression there, coping with the wealth of French bureaucracy, finding your way around an
unfamiliar town and looking for somewhere to live (which can be a full-time job in itself) all at the
same time. For temporary lodgings while you look for something permanent, investigate the
possibility of staying in a youth hostel (see paragraph 18l). Do not take out a contract on your
accommodation until you know the location of your schools.

Once you get to France the following suggestions may be of interest:

a)      buy the local newspapers early in the morning and telephone likely numbers immediately;
b)      advertise on the school/staff noticeboard and ask around the staff; do NOT advertise in
        local papers or public places;
c)      ask local friends'/acquaintances' landlords if they have any further accommodation to let;
d)      if in or near a university town, visit the university accommodation office (service logement
        du CROUS) and check student noticeboards; to do this you usually have to be registered with
        that university, at least as an auditeur/-trice libre;
e)      write to or visit as soon as possible any student or youth organisation in the area, e.g. CIDJ
        (see website below), that might have details of available lodgings: the local tourist office
        should have a list of such organisations; enquire about the existence of local foyers de
        jeunes travailleurs/-euses (see website below);

                                Document compiled by British Council London
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f)      find out about local religious organisations as they often know of rooms to let;
g)      some towns have lists of rooms and flats available which are produced and distributed by
        the mairie, citizens' advice bureau, tourist office or equivalent organisation within the
        locality; (sometimes the mairie owns or keeps a flat specially for the foreign language
h)      accommodation agencies may be able to help but you should be very wary of paying large
        fees (normally 1 month‟s rent) and deposits (normally 2 months‟ rent), and always read the
        small print in any leases or agreements to be signed; look for small agencies as often their
        fees are lower;
i)      De particulier à particulier and J’annonce are weekly publications which advertise flats to
        rent. Both have websites which are worth a look (see below).        ……..Centre d’information et de documentation pour la jeunesse          - Union des foyers pour jeunes travailleurs          - Agence nationale pour l’information sur le logement     - Egide – Centre français pour l’accueil et les échanges internationaux
                            (click “Guide de l’étudiant étranger”  “Vivre en France”  “Se
                            loger”)            - De particulier à particulier       - J’annonce     - A partager          - A louer         - petites annonces gratuites     - petites annonces gratuites

Beware! Some ads in papers do not make it clear if the rental is handled by an individual or an
agency. Check when ringing up to arrange viewing; otherwise you may have to pay an agency fee.

When you go out looking for accommodation, take a dossier of papers with you including as many of
the following as possible: your arrêté d’affectation, bulletin de paie, lettre d’un garant, relevé
d’identité bancaire (or RIB), pièce d’identité. In France “tout ne marche qu’avec des papiers!”

A formal contract to rent an apartment sometimes requires the signature of a guarantor. If you do
not know anyone resident in France who is prepared to act as your guarantor (i.e. undertake to pay
your rent/debts should you default), it may help if you have a formal letter from your parents,
written in French, stating their financial guarantee: see suggested format enclosed. Alternatively,
your responsable or a friendly teacher at school might be prepared to „take the risk‟. It is worth
trying to find a French guarantor as a number of landlords are reluctant to accept a guarantor from
outside France.

Under new legislation, city landlords must ask for 1 month’s rent as a deposit (caution) and 1
month's rent paid in advance. Always ask (insist if necessary) for a receipt for the money you pay,
both deposit and rent. If you do live in privately rented accommodation, check your contract
carefully to see how much notice you must give to move out – in France a minimum of three
months’ notice is usually the legal requirement. You may also have to give this notice in writing
by registered mail.

Assistants who intend to rent accommodation privately through a landlord or letting agency should
be aware that they are legally obliged to take out an insurance policy in case of accident. This is
usually known as assurance habitation or assurance logement and can be obtained from the MAIF.

If your home town or university town is twinned with your town of appointment or a place nearby, it
would be worth contacting the local mairie. A special effort is sometimes made to help assistants
from twin towns in their search for accommodation.

Families sometimes advertise for lodgers on noticeboards. If you are interested in this possibility
you must clarify whether or not you will be allowed visitors and will be expected to help with
housework or children (12-15 hours per week is typical).

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In university towns accommodation ads are displayed on noticeboards at the Restau-U
(U=universitaire), in university buildings (students advertising at the beginning of the year for
people to share with), in bookshops, laundrettes and supermarkets.

Living in a foyer is particularly recommended if you can find a good one and is a good place for
making French friends. However, bear in mind that most of them have night curfews and strict
arrangements regarding overnight guests (there might be a charge for guests and restrictions on the
nights that they can stay). As one past assistant put it: “Foyer- Definitely a good place to start…(but)
see it for what it is- a very cheap option but with some restrictive rules…”. Some foyers do not
accept assistants on the principle that you are officially employed rather than full-time students.
However, there are foyers de jeunes travailleurs/-euses for young people in employment. The
atmosphere is sometimes very international; the facilities can be excellent. In addition, if you stay
in a foyer you can claim APL (see next paragraph 13a) and the management may even arrange this
for you. Foyers often ask for a deposit of 1-2 months‟ rent.


Assistants are entitled to claim housing benefit (aide personnalisée au logement or APL) from the
French state if they have an official rental agreement and the rent exceeds 25% of their net
monthly allowance. The right to housing benefit and the amount of the rebate varies according to
the individual's personal circumstances, but it is possible to get back up to half the rent. You should
register your claim as early as possible with the local CAF (caisse d'allocations familiales). Check
with them what documents are required for your application. Non-EU passport holders may need to
have a full carte de séjour (see paragraph 6), not just proof of application, in order to receive any
money and therefore should apply for it at the earliest opportunity if it is a document required by
the local CAF. A piece of advice to note: check that your room/flat is 'declared' by your
landlord/landlady and ask for an official contract: otherwise you are not eligible for APL. Please
see the website where you can do a self-assessment to check your eligibility for APL,
download the relevant forms and calculate the allowance you might receive.


In France taxe d'habitation (equivalent to UK Council Tax) is due from every individual who on
1 January is registered as officially renting a flat (furnished or unfurnished) or living in property
that they own. The liability for taxe d'habitation is not related to the amount a person earns or to
whether he/she pays income tax. This means that English language assistants are liable as much as
any other citizen in France.

NB The French authorities are often extremely late in issuing the demand notice which may
well reach you after your return to the UK, even a year later. The French authorities issue bills
for the taxe d'habitation in October. To avoid administrative complications and the possibility of
being charged interest, you are strongly advised to settle the account before you leave France.
Should you rely on the tax office to catch up with you after your departure, you must at least
ensure that you pay promptly when they do, or you will be charged 10% interest on each subsequent
bill. Bear in mind that once you return to your studies, you might find it much harder to pay than
you would at the end of your assistantship. If you persist in refusing to pay, you run the risk of court
action or ending up on an international credit blacklist.
For more information regarding this, go to , type “la taxe d’habitation” into the
search engine and it will bring up a link to a government website that explains all the criteria for
the tax, including information about who may be exonerated from this tax.


Conditions in schools in France differ from those in this country and assistants may be asked to take
groups larger than or different in type from those generally envisaged under the programme. You
may take up to half the class (15-20) on your own or the whole class with the teacher. Unless you

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are working on a nine-month contract at primary level, you are not intended to teach a whole
class on your own and you have the right to refuse to do this. Any difficulties should be discussed
first with your Responsable and/or the teacher of the class concerned, then with the Headteacher
and then, if necessary, with the Inspecteur Pédagogique Régional (IPR) d'anglais (secondary schools)
or the Inspecteur de l'Education Nationale (IEN) (primary schools) whose name and contact details
should be provided at the induction course. Satisfactory solutions can usually be found through such
consultations but if the problem remains unresolved, you may contact the CIEP (Centre
international d’études pédagogiques), 1 avenue Léon Journault, 92318 Sèvres Cedex.
Tel: 01 45 07 60 98     Fax 01 45 07 60 76      E-mail


Any sick leave must be justified by a medical certificate from your French doctor (médecin traitant).
It should cover the entire duration of the absence and must be sent to the school and Inspection
académique as soon as it is issued. The school(s) must also be informed by telephone of any absence.
Requests for leave of absence for any other reason should be made to the Head of the school(s) who
is within his/her right to refuse it. Any prolonged absence on account of illness should be reported
to the Rectorat and the British Council. You are reminded that if you are absent from school
without prior authorisation from the Head, your allowance will be discontinued as from the first day
of absence and you may be liable to disciplinary procedures.

In the event of your wishing to relinquish your appointment you must give the school, the IPR or IEN
and the British Council notice in writing of your intended departure, setting out your reasons in full.
If you are a student you must also inform your university/college in the UK.


The British Council is closely involved with the teaching of English abroad and organises a range of
cultural activities which may be of interest to assistants. Those requiring further information should
telephone 01 49 55 73 00 or fax 01 47 05 77 02 or write to the Council at 9 rue de Constantine,
75340 Paris Cedex 07. The website is


The French Embassy in London provides UK universities with full information on how to make an
application to attend a French university. If you are appointed in or near a university town and you
wish to follow a course of study, you should contact your own Modern Languages Department in the
first instance if you have any questions. When enrolling, you should take with you copies of your
birth certificate, GCSE and A Level certificates and, if possible, a letter from your
university/college in the UK confirming your current academic status. It is advisable also to take
photocopies of all these documents, and a number of passport photographs.

Holders of student cards from foreign universities are often eligible for a number of benefits
including subsidised meals, accommodation services and reductions on theatre/cinema tickets.

If you are appointed in a town where there is little or no possibility of access to a university, you
should not ignore study opportunities offered by local cultural centres, institutes, libraries and
colleges of further education as well as CNED correspondence courses: contact the local tourist
office (syndicat d’initiative) for details. Much can also be gained from sitting in on school lessons in
a variety of subjects.

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a)      The Guide de l’ assistant de langue is a very useful publication. It contains information
        on the role of the assistant, the French education system, administrative formalities,
        integration into the school, practical matters and many useful addresses and explanations of
        abbreviations. If it is not given out at the induction course (stage), it is available on the
        website at website at - scroll down to the bottom of the page
        and click on “Guide de l'assistant de langue - Édition 2008-2009”. The 2009-10 edition
        should be on the website shortly.

b)      When you first arrive at your school(s) you should ask for a period of observation of 1-2
        weeks. This is particularly useful as an introduction to the school environment and as a
        chance to gauge the pupils' general level of English. It may not be offered to you

c)      Religious signs in French schools: Muslim headscarves, kippas and large crosses are
        specifically banned in all schools within France, although the decision to ban other versions
        of religious clothing is left up to individual schools. This legislation was brought into effect
        in September 2004. It is important that Language Assistants from the UK are aware of the
        ruling. However, if you have further issues to raise on this subject, it is best if you discuss
        them with the headteacher of your school as he/she is responsible for the application of the
        rules within the institution. Individual schools vary.

d)      Materials to take recommended by past assistants: lots of postcards, examples of UK coins
        and notes, train tickets, stamps, tea towels to decorate walls, Christmas cards, photos of
        family and friends, a Christmas cracker, posters and games from the Early Learning Centre,
        UK TV programmes, magazines, CDs, photos of school uniform, flashcards, word searches,
        maps, brochures, English food (marmite, jelly, chocolate, custard, mince pies and gravy
        granules), TV listings, adverts, menus, cartoons, comic books, videos (e.g. Ready Steady
        Cook for Catering Students), simple recipes e.g. pancakes, recordings of the weather
        forecast, London tube map, map of home town, tapes of friends‟ accents and conversations,
        bingo, Taboo, train timetables, magazine quizzes (only appropriate ones for classroom use).

e)      If you wish to supplement your income by giving private tuition in English, you are strongly
        advised not to advertise in local papers or public places. In general pupils are easily found
        through school or private connections, i.e. by word-of-mouth recommendation. However, it
        is essential to check that the other English teachers in your school do not mind, so that you
        are not perceived to be „stealing‟ their private pupils. The going rate for private one-to-one
        tuition seems to be €10-25 per hour depending on how much preparation for the lesson you
        plan to do and how much your pupils can afford.

        Should you wish to obtain paid work in any other educational institution e.g. teaching work
        in the public or private sector, you must clear this with the académie to which you are
        appointed beforehand. Each académie has slightly different rules on what type of extra
        work you are permitted to take on so it is imperative that you check with them before you
        accept any other work. If they do not allow it, you must abide by this ruling.

f)      Married students should note that the allowance is intended to provide for one person only.
        However, if an assistant's spouse remains in the UK and is unemployed, he/she may be
        barred from income support or be required to refund whatever was received as such since
        the start of the assistantship. Enquiries should be made well in advance in order to prevent
        financial difficulties from arising during a married assistant's period of appointment.

g)      Assistants in France used to be asked at various points (opening bank account, registering
        with social security) for the original of their birth certificate together with the certified
        translation. However, you should no longer be asked for the certified translation. We
        recommend you shop around for a bank which does not require it. You should now also be
        able to register with social security using your passport, your UK birth certificate and your
        EHIC. You should take all of the above documents with you and some photocopies too, as

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         well as a couple of strips of recent passport photographs. In addition, you are likely to
         require a few photocopies of your certificate of appointment (arrêté d'affectation or arrêté
         de nomination) and possibly the main pages of your passport.

h)       Assistants are strongly recommended to obtain a copy of the booklet Health Advice for
         Travellers (Ref T7). It is produced by the Department of Health and is available free of
         charge from any main post office. It holds important information on avoiding health risks
         and obtaining emergency medical treatment, and it contains information on the EHIC and
         what it covers (useful for trips to other EU countries during the year). Residents of the Isle
         of Man and the Channel Islands are not eligible for the EHIC. Please also see page 6 of these
         notes for information on the EHIC.

i)       Foreign authorities have requested that the attention of UK visitors be drawn to the severe
         penalties imposed for drug offences and for taking part in unlawful political demonstrations
         which may result in heavy fines and prison sentences. Assistants are therefore strongly
         advised not to become involved in these activities.

j)       Please note the British Council is not the employer of UK assistants abroad and should not
         be given as a referee in future job applications. Your employer is the French Ministry for
         Education which is represented by the Rectorat. In general the Head of the school would be
         the most appropriate referee.

k)       English Language Assistants in France are entitled to a very small pension (currently around
         £180 per annum) from the French government once they retire at age 60. This is because a
         very small amount of your monthly Social Security contributions as an assistant goes towards
         a state pension scheme. It will help you considerably in your effort to secure this pension
         payment in the future if you have kept a record of your French Social Security number.

l)       Information about youth hostel facilities on the Continent is available from the Hostelling
         International website Hostel availability and booking forms are also
         available on this site.

m)       The French Tourist Office is a valuable source of general information about France and of
         specific information about particular regions. The address of the office is Lincoln House, 300
         High Holborn WC1V 7JH London and the website is There is
         also a France Information Line on tel: 09068 244123 (calls cost 60p per minute).

n)       Alcohol limit for drivers in France: the limit in France, introduced in autumn 1995, is 50mg
         of alcohol (compared with 80mg in the UK) per 100 ml of blood. For most drivers this means
         that 2 glasses of wine or 2 small bottles of French beer will be enough to put them over the
         limit. French police can breathalyse drivers at random. Drivers who test positive face fines
         of up to £4,000 for alcohol levels between 50 mg and 80 mg. Higher levels carry greater
         penalties. (Source: The Times, 21 May 1996). The website gives
         information on driving in France.

o)       Telephone numbers in France have 10 digits, the first 2 of which are the area code.
         (Paris/Ile de France is 01, the west/northwest 02, the east/northeast 03, the southeast and
         Corsica 04, the southwest 05.) When phoning within the local area, it is still necessary to
         use the area code. To phone abroad from France the code is 00 followed by the country
         code. When phoning France from abroad the first 0 of the standard 10-digit number must be
         omitted (as when dialling an area code in the UK from abroad). If you set up a phone line,
         past assistants have warned to check phone subscription charges with France Telecom or
         wanadoo first. You may be charged for a full year‟s subscription even if you end your phone
         contract earlier than this.

     p) Buy a phonecard at once on arrival in France: coin-operated phones are a rarity. Previous
        assistants have mentioned the Post Office phone card, the 365 card, the Euro Latina phone
        card which costs €7.60 for almost 300 minutes, where cards include
        deals such as €15 for unlimited calls from France to Europe to use within one month and the

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        Kertel phonecard from the Post Office which costs €7.50 for 200 minutes. Previous
        assistants have mentioned that a ticket de téléphone is cheaper than a standard télécarte
        and there is an international version which costs €7.50 or €15.

q)      Visit the local mairie for information on social activities/clubs in the town: mairies are
        sometimes very helpful to language assistants regarding social integration and
        accommodation. In small towns, it is a nice idea to introduce yourself to the maire or else
        to his/her adjoint. 2004/05 assistant: “In France every town has lots of associations –
        walking, skiing, tennis, basketball – we joined them all!” You can also investigate voluntary
        work in your area or Erasmus exchange evenings that you can go along to at the local

r)      The assistantship year is a wonderful opportunity to absorb French language and culture and
        gain much in life experience and transferable skills. However it is perfectly understandable
        that when abroad in a completely different environment there may be times when you feel
        homesick, have trouble with pupils or colleagues or with your living situation and so on. In
        these instances it can be useful to know that you have access to an anonymous, non-
        judgemental English-language phone service. “SOS Help” is a telephone listening service
        for the English-speaking community in France, similar to the Samaritans. It is
        administratively attached to the French service “SOS Amitiés”. The telephone number is 01
        46 21 46 46. Although it is based in Paris it serves the entire country. All calls are
        confidential and trained listeners are available every day from 3pm to 11pm, 365 days a
        year. In addition to compassionate, non-directive listening they provide information on
        community services and resources available for English-speaking callers. Website

s)      For travel advice within France and the départements d’outre-mer consult the FCO website
        at .

t)      Past assistants have recommended . The British Council does
        not monitor this website and it is not clear who the contributors are (there may be safety
        issues). We therefore cannot recommend it but you can read on it tips, advice and
        experiences of past and present assistants.

u)      Advice from former assistant: “If you have a laptop but no TV, then downloading certain
        shows for free will really keep you in touch with the culture, whilst improving your language
        skills. On you can download all three news programmes for the day for free
        and on you can watch many popular French shows for free”.

v)      Useful Internet sites: (for teaching English at primary level)

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w)      Quotes from assistants

 “Get involved. It is only through participation that you will derive the enormous benefits that this
year will give you. Many of my fondest memories are from extra-curricular clubs, sports and other
activities I became involved in.”

 “Don‟t be shy! Try everything, talk to anyone you can, get involved and keep busy. Be sensible but
take risks. It doesn‟t matter if you make mistakes, you are new to the country and culture and
you‟re learning a language. Do things with your classes you would like to have done in language
assistants‟ classes at school/university. Make the most of it, it flies by!”

“Bite the bullet and ring your mentor as soon as you have [their number] – don‟t wait for them to
ring you.”

“Don‟t take things too personally because to schoolkids you‟re a new, strange foreign person in
their classroom with a funny accent. They may giggle or not answer because they‟re embarrassed,
but after a while you will build up a rapport with them.”

“Be confident and use English in the class-room. Don‟t let on you speak French otherwise they will
never speak English.”

“Whatever you do, don‟t speak English to the Spanish and German assistants even if they‟re fluent.
We always spoke French and it‟s really paid off!”

“Even if you end up in a place/ situation that wasn‟t quite what you were expecting, be determined
to make the best of it, open to people and opportunities and you‟ll have a wonderful time.”

“The teachers are often very busy so it is up to you to pursue them to resolve issues. I found that
being in touch with the teachers avoided confusion, misunderstanding and mistakes and meant that
any small problem that did occur could be resolved quickly.”

“I always gave out a handout in lessons. I found that the students needed something physical to
look at and base the lesson on. They would lose attention very quickly if there was a completely
speaking based lesson.”

“Accept dinner invitations from teachers and be talkative. If you do this then teachers will be very

 “Be professional. It is a job so treat it as such. If you‟ve got any problems, discuss them straight
away and get the problem sorted out early on.”

“Work hard and you will not only feel proud but also appreciated by those you work with!”

“It is surprising how fast the seven months will go so it is important to take advantage of every
opportunity and to not let the language barrier get in the way.”

“The assistantship is one of the most rewarding, interesting and downright fun jobs I've had.”

“This experience has taught me and showed me the fulfilling feeling that is experienced once you
realise that you can have an impact on a young person's life.”

To read case studies written by former assistants to France please consult the following web

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Paragraph                                                                                Page no.

1        Role of the language assistant                                                      1
2        Period of appointment & first contact with school                                   2
3        Predecessors                                                                        2
4        Induction course (le stage)                                                         2
5        Passport & visa                                                                     3
6        Residence permit (la carte de séjour)                                               3
7        Currency, banks & allowance                                                         4
8        Income tax                                                                          5
9        Insurance (including the procedure for visiting a doctor)                           5
10       Travel                                                                              7
11       Taking a car abroad                                                                 8
12       Buying a car in France                                                              9
13       Accommodation                                                                       9
13a)     Housing benefit (APL)                                                              11
13b)     Taxe d‟habitation                                                                  11
14       Problems arising during the period of appointment                                  11
15       Absence from school                                                                12
16       The British Council                                                                12
17       Study opportunities                                                                12
18       Miscellaneous                                                                      13

          a)      Le Guide de l’assistant de Langue                                         13
          b)      Observation                                                               13
          c)      Religious signs in French schools                                         13
          d)      Teaching Materials                                                        13
          e)      Extra work                                                                13
          f)      Married assistants                                                        13
          g)      Birth certificate and other documents                                     13
          h)      Health Advice for Travellers                                              14
          i)      Penalties for illegal offences                                            14
          j)      Job references                                                            14
          k)      Pension Entitlement                                                       14
          l)      Youth hostels on the Continent                                            14
          m)      The French Tourist Office                                                 14
          n)      Alcohol limit for drivers in France                                       14
          o)      Telephone numbers in France                                               14
          p)      Phonecards                                                                14
          q)      Mairies in small towns                                                    15
          r)      SOS Help                                                                  15
          s)      Travel advice                                                             15
          t)      Assistants in France website                                              15
          u)      Downloadable TV websites                                                  15
          v)      Useful Internet sites                                                     15
          w)      Quotes from past assistants                                               16

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