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Your child will be bilingual thanks to the “petites écoles FLAM”
Thirty years ago, Saturday schools that helped children learn French and become bilingual did not exist in the UK. What has changed since then ? The "petites écoles FLAM".
What is a "petite école FLAM"?
FLAM comes from “français langue maternelle”. These schools teach the language of Molière all around the world, on Saturday morning or on week days after school. The only children who can be registered are those with at least one Francophone parent and who are studying in a British school.
With 2 or 3 hours a week, children are able to learn the basics of the French language and establish strong foundations such that they can probably continue their studies on the other side of the Channel. There are more than 40 FLAM structures in the UK, including 15 in London. More and more parents are looking for a place in these local schools so that their offspring can learn the language properly.
“Some of our pupils can speak French but cannot write it” Florence Antonioli, the founder of Ma Petite Ecole, said. She used to teach the language to businessmen in the City. After her third child was born, she created the FLAM school to make sure French would not disappear in London. “We do not teach them mathematics or other classic school subjects. Children learn grammar, spelling and conjugation.”
This could be compared to CNED lessons (correspondance courses for long-distance learning), except that these schools accept pupils from 3 years old. Furthermore, they are in a group and can speak French together each week which is far more efficient than sitting at a desk on their own.
In many cases, the parents who register their children in a FLAM structure are not able to get a place in a French school. Others make the choice to put them in a British establishment but want to make sure that their little ones do not forget their mother tongue. Caroline Cassin, who manages the school Et Patati Patata, explained: “Some parents are worried about Brexit. They want their children to have a good level in French just in case they have to go back to France.”
How do these schools work ?
La Petite Ecole d’Ealing is the oldest FLAM structure. They celebrated their 30th anniversary in July. The school’s president Christian Ravel also manages the Parapluie FLAM. This association has been helping the “petites écoles” for three years. They give them books and pedagogical training to the teachers and advise them on how to manage their operations.
“We do not follow exactly the Education nationale” Christian Ravel explained, “nonetheless, our programmes are based on its curriculum. This is why all “petites écoles FLAM” do not offer the same courses.” Indeed, some of them might teach literature or grammar, while others are more recreational. “Some parents could get lost” he continued. “To find the best school for your children, the best option is to talk to the Parapluie FLAM.”
There are FLAM structures of all sizes: some of them take 50 children while others have capacity for 350. Pupils are divided into classes according to their age and French level. Children will learn quickly as there are no more than 15 per class.
How can I create my own FLAM school ?
You do not need to work in a school to be able to create your own FLAM structure. Most of the “petites écoles” founders are parents who could not find an establishment in their neighbourhood. They then found teachers to take care of the children.
You can apply for a subsidy from the Agency for French Teaching Abroad (AEFE). This reducing subsidy can be given for up to 5 years to non-profit structures. You should however be careful, as it is sometimes hard to maintain the school without this financial help. Parapluie FLAM can also help you to manage your costs.
Les petites écoles FLAM in London :
- Boule de Neige : SW15 5PU, Roehampton Lane. Contact : 07915444073 / email@example.com
- Ecole Buissonnière d’East Dulwich : 70 Elfindale Road SE24 9NW. Contact : 020 8693 2746 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ecole grenadine : John Ball Primary School, Southvale Road, Blackheath, SE3 0TP. Contact : email@example.com
- La Petite Ecole d’Ealing : St Augustine's Priory School, Hillcrest Road, Ealing W5 2JL. Contact : 07896 304 369 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- La Petite Ecole de Redbridge : Hermon Hill Methodist Church, Wanstead, E11 2AR. Contact : email@example.com
- L’Ecole des Petits Loups : Muswell Hill Methodist Church, N10 1PP ou Coleridge Primary School, N8 8DN. Contact : 07947 804 902 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Le Petit Poucet : Cheam Fields Primary, SM3 0PQ Cheam. Contact : 07957 972355 / email@example.com
- Les Crocodiles : Baden Powell Primary School, Charnock Road, E5 8DN. Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ma petite Ecole : Rosary Primary School, 238 Haverstock Hill, NW3 2AE ou St Joseph Primary School, Lanark Road, W9 1DF. Contact : 07941 964 609 / email@example.com
- Un Matin Français : Grange Park Primary School, World's End. Lane, Winchmore HillLondon, N21 1PP. Contact : 07740 793 950 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- La Petite Ecole Française d’Elmbridge : Hampton Academy, Hanworth Road, Hampton TW12 3HB. Contact : 020 8255 4331 / email@example.com
- Point-Virgule : St Mary Magdalene Academy, Liverpool Rd, N7 8PG . Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Et Patati Patata : 2 Old Brompton Road, suite 239, SW7 3DQ. Contact : 07966 893 674 / email@example.com
- Mind Your Language : 3 Bradbury Street, London N16 8JN. Contact : 02033 022 5572 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- La Petite Ecole de Wimbledon : Pelham School, SW19 1NU. email@example.com