The English National Programme

What is the 'Lycée International'?

The International Lycée is made up of a Collège (middle school) and a Lycée (upper school) which together form a state secondary school for 11-18 year olds, financed by the French state and local authorities. The state curriculum is taught in French, and various national languages are taught within the national programmes. Although known as 'programmes' in Ferney-Voltaire, these are in fact 'international sections', defined by French law. The programmes have primary sections.

What is the Programme ?

The Programme, which is entirely financed by fees paid by parents, organises the teaching of part of the time-table within the Lycée, in English (6 hours for secondary pupils and 3 hours for primary pupils). Programmes exist in German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish as well as in English. Students in the Programme are first and foremost taught and supervised within a French school (either the International Lycée/Collège for secondary students, or one of over 35 primary schools in the 'Pays de Gex'), which is part of the state educational system. Pupils cannot be in the Programme without being in such a school. The English Programme (which is the largest of the national programmes in the Lycée) is autonomous in many ways.  It is financed and run by parents, has its own office, appoints its own staff, teaches and is inspected to UK standards, and generally is self-governing and self-managed. It owns its own equipment, including libraries and a computer room, but is also able to benefit from the excellent facilities offered by the Lycée/Collège. The Programme works closely with the Lycée/Collège on such matters as testing and admissions, discipline, reporting, time-tabling, use of rooms, and other administrative issues.

What do the school and the Programme offer ?

Together they offer an academic bilingual education, offering British qualifications in certain subjects (notably GCSEs) and leading to the French baccalauréat, with or without the prestigious International Option, the OIB (l’Option Internationale du Baccalauréat). This option, taken at the end of secondary education (when pupils are generally 17-18), converts the French ‘baccalauréat général’ into a uniquely bilingual university entrance level examination. A version of OIB exists at the end of the collège: this is ‘l’option internationale du brevet’. The school offers neither the International Baccalauréat nor A level : as part of a French state school, the Programme's focus must be on the French baccalauréat during the final years of the Lycée. Nonetheless, many of our students use this examination to gain entrance to a range of outstanding non-French universities, in Britain, the USA or Canada.

Which subjects are taught by the Programme ?

Students are taught in English for six hours each week. Four of these hours are dedicated to the subject of English, the while two hours concern a second subject. All other subjects are taught in French by the French school. The total number of hours taught within the Lycée/Collège each week is between 24 and 36 (including English National hours), depending on age-group, and options taken. The Programme teaches in English to those who already speak the language as a mother tongue or at a good second language standard. No EFL/E2L teaching (English as a Foreign or second language) is offered. Four hours tuition in the subject English each week leads to GCSEs in English and English Literature, then to the OIB English Literature courses, which are of A level standard. A second subject is taught for two hours each week : this is either Maths (which must be studied in French as well as in English in the school) or History-Geography (taught bilingually, half in French and half in English). Maths may be taken at GCSE level; History-Geography leads to OIB examinations. Students opt for one or other of these subjects as the second subject studied in English. Options are chosen in 6ème for two years and then in 4ème for two years. For further details see the 'Options' and 'Options Courses' pages on this site.

To sum up : in the secondary school, 6 hours of tuition within the Programme each week are made up of 4 hours of the subject English, and 2 hours of a second subject taught in English. The rest of the school week is occupied by teaching of all other subjects in French. Primary pupils attend their local French school  and are taught  English in the Programme for one afternoon each week. This afternoon of teaching takes place in the International Lycée.

What sort of teaching is offered by the Programme ?

The Programme is based on the UK educational system, and its teaching is an informed and up to date interpretation of the best of that system, including ‘home’ GCSE syllabi (rather than IGCSEs), application of the National Curriculum and the National Literacy Strategy, and inspection by UK inspectors. In terms of educational ethos, we have high expectations about progress and performance within a culture which is nonetheless centred on pupils’ needs and interests and on the development of the pupils’ own personal commitment to learning. Average group size is relatively small, so that we are able to place much emphasis on active oral participation. Students and staff are motivated and ambitious.  Good relationships are built upon clear definition of expectations and positive communication.

How does the Programme's  primary section work?

Primary pupils are taught within the Programme for one afternoon a week. Our primary section caters for pupils during the last four years of primary education (CE1, CE2, CM1 and CM2), broadly from ages 8-11. We offer 3 hours of primary tuition per week.  To choose our primary Programme is therefore, first and foremost, to choose the French school system. Students attend their local French primary school and are released on Tuesday afternoons to be brought by their parents to the International Lycée to be taught English within the Programme. There are Wednesday afternoon CE1, CE2, CM1 and CM2 classes as well as two Tuesday classes at each of the levels mentioned above. We teach only English at this level : there is no second subject. Entrance is by test in April or May for the intake class (CE1) and in September for all other years. Pupils may not be admitted before they are in the CE1 year in French school. Notice of testing is placed on this website (see the Important dates page) and is distributed to all the French primary schools of the 'Pays de Gex'.

How are secondary students admitted to the Programme ?

They are admitted by entrance test , the purpose of which is to ascertain their ability to speak, read and write English at mother tongue or at good second language level. The test is designed to select those students who master English well enough to benefit from the Programme’s mother-tongue level teaching. A principal testing session takes place in April or May for admissions the following September. Notice of this is placed on this website. We also test in late August or early September for pupils who cannot attend the earlier test. We test and admit pupils at other points in the year if space allows. Contact the Programme Secretary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), to enquire about admission and testing. You must read the admissions page(s) on this site before doing this.

Can students who do not speak French attend the lycée ?

Since special intensive teaching in French (known as 'Français langue etrangère' or FLE) is offered by the Lycée, the answer is yes. But it must be remembered that to choose the International Lycée/Collège is to choose to be educated mainly in French. Broadly speaking, the younger the student, the more time he or she will have to master French and the French educational system before facing crucial examinations, such as the baccalauréat. Many younger students have made the transfer to being educated in French very successfully. But some older students have found this difficult. If you are hesitating before choosing the Lycée or before accepting a posting which will oblige you to place your children in the French system, you may contact the Head of Programme, Peter Woodburn, who will talk through with the you the likely long-term implications of your choice.

How is a place gained in the Lycée/Collège ?

If you are coming from an overseas educational system (including the UK and the US), your child will be tested for admission to the school at least in mathematics, and usually also in French. You may join the school speaking little or no French, since there is special intensive French tuition (FLE) for new arrivals. There is also intensive tuition in mathematics (known as 'Mathématiques spéciales'), which occupies a place of particular importance in the French educational system. Admission to the school depends upon test results and upon places available. Children whose families reside in Switzerland will be offered a place only if there is room. Contact the Proviseur’s secretary, (Tel : +33 (0)4 50 40 00 00) to find out about places, testing and admission. Contact the Programme secretary (at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Tel: +33 (0)4 50 40 82 66) if you need advice about applying to the French school and for all admissions enquiries for the Programme.

Which area does the Lycée serve ?

The Lycée International is the only lycée (senior school) serving the whole of the French region known as the ‘Pays de Gex’, between the Jura and Swiss border. Middle schools, which take pupils aged 11-15 are called ‘collèges’ in France. There are several of these in the ‘Pays de Gex’. The International Lycée has its own Collège on the same site, making it an International Lycée with a Collège. For pupils within the collège age-group living outside Ferney-Voltaire, special permission must be given so that they can attend the International Collège rather than their local collège. This permission is granted readily for those students who have been tested and accepted in the English National Programme. A network of buses is provided free of charge for Lycée pupils who come from all over the ‘Pays de Gex’. Collège pupils are allowed to use these free bus services too. Practically all students eat in school rather than going home. The canteen costs about €150 per term, at present.

How much are school fees ?

The Lycée is a state school and all aspects of its provision, including special tuition in French and maths, are free for those living in France. The Programme is financed only by parents. Fees are set at the beginning of the year by the parents’ association (known as ALA-ELP), according to the number enrolled in the Programme. Fees are paid in instalments in October and January. The parents’ association also bills for certain books and certain UK examination fees. It asks all parents to pay fees promptly upon receipt of bills. For a full current statement of fee-scales, please see the Tuition fees page on this site.

How is the Programme governed and managed ?

Behind the Programme, the work of the parents’ association, ALA-ELP, is a crucial part of the Programme’s success. ALA-ELP is a 1901 law association.  It is run by an elected committee of parent volunteers. The officers (President, Vice president, Treasurer and Secretary) give of their time with particular generosity. The Association communicates with parents via publications and annual general assemblies, held in school. The committee work closely with the Head of Programme and the teachers. Parents help the Programme in other ways, too. Parents act as class-room assistants in the primary section, for example.

We warmly welcome the help and interest of all parents, and are very interested in any talents you have to offer as a volunteer. Please contact Peter Woodburn by email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have skills to offer as a parent volunteer or feel that you can help the Programme or the Association in some other way.

Additional information