Determining School Grade Levels

Arriving from abroad, do you know your child’s grade level equivalent in France?

When relocating, choosing the appropriate grade level for your child can be a daunting task. Some helpful tips, along with a chart below, will help you determine the right one.

It is important to remember that not only the birth date counts, but also the curriculum when making a grade level calculation. I suggest listening to the advice the school admissions will provide.

Cut-off dates are often different from one country to the next, and curriculum can vary greatly. In the UK, the cut-off date is August 31st, whereas in France, it is December 31st. If your child’s birthdate falls within that time period, they could be set back a year when you return to your home country.

At the same time, you want your child to succeed, and even excel, in their studies. When we relocated outside of France, we made the mistake of placing our son, who had an August birthdate, into 1st grade. This would have been the normal year to learn to read and write in both France and the US, but British curriculum runs about 6 months ahead of other countries. Since children there are taught to read in Kindergarten, all the other children in my son’s class already knew how to read at the start of 1st grade. My son struggled quite a bit that year, and it could have been an intense failure had I not served as a home tutor with a lot of patience!

Considerations for Younger Children

In France, your child can start nursery school before the age of 3. You will find public nursery schools all over the country. In Paris, you can even find them within walking distance of your home. Having free public nursery schools is perfect for working mothers. The city also offers before- and after-school care in caring and professional facilities.

Your child must turn three by the end of the calendar year to start French public nursery school. Some schools accept children earlier, if spaces are available. If your child was born in January, February or March, and you would like them to start school at the age of 2½, check with your city hall.

To help with conversions, we provide a table (below) of the school grade level equivalents of several countries. It is helpful to know that sixth grade in America is the same grade level as French 6ème! And the countdown goes in opposite directions.

We are here to help you find the right choice among the different private, international and public school choices available to you. Feel free to contact us.

Country France USA Britain
Cut-Off Date: December 31st Determined by State August 31th
Nursery school
Petite Section Pre-school Nursery
Moyenne Section Pre-K Nursery
Grande Section Kindergartnen Year 1
Primary school
Cours Préparatoire or CP Grade 1 Year 2
Cours Elémentaire 1st year or CE1 Grade 2 Year 3
Cours Elémentaire 2nd year or CE2 Grade 3 Year 4
Cours Moyen 1st year or CM1 Grade 4 Year 5
Cours Moyen 2nd year or CM2 Grade 5 Year 6
Middle School
6ème Grade 6 Year 7
5ème Grade 7 Year 8
4ème Grade 8 Year 9
3ème Grade 9 Year 10
High school
Seconde (2nde) Grade 10 Year 11
Première (1ère) Grade 11 Year 12
Terminale (Tle) Grade 12 Year 13



Spain Germany Japan
March 31st
P.3 Kindergarten Junior
P.4 Kindergarten Middle
P.5 Vorschule Senior
1st year of primary (Primer curso de ciclo inicial) Erste Klasse Grade 1
2nd year of primary (Segundo curso de ciclo inicial) Zweite Klasse Grade 2
3rd year of primary (Primer curso de ciclo medio) Dritte Klasse Grade 3
4th year of primary (Segundo curso de ciclo medio) Vierte Klasse Grade 4
5th year of primary (Primer curso de ciclo superior) Fünfte Klasse Grade 5
6th year of primary Segundo curso de ciclo superior To be determined Grade 6 (Primary school)
1st year of middle school (1° ESO) To be determined Grade 1 (Junior High)
2nd year of middle school (1° ESO) To be determined Grade 2 (Junior High)
3rd year of middle school (1° ESO) To be determined Grade 3 (Junior High)
4th year of middle school (1° ESO) To be determined Grade 1
1st year Baccalaurate (1° Bachillerato) To be determined Grade 2
2nd year Baccalaurate (1° Bachillerato) To be determined Grade 3