Yesterday we went to visit the school we hope Lauren will return to after her year of on the road schooling, the Lycée Français Charles Lepierre, in Lisbon. The kids aren’t back yet, but teachers were, all looking slightly frazzled as they prepare to receive their over 2000 (!) kids back for ‘La rentrée’ next week.
First impressions? Its huge. Compared to the lovely Maputo French school with around 600 kids, LFCL as those in the know call it, is enormous. With separate sections for preschool and various other groupings of 3-4 years, with separate playgrounds and buildings, it seems to be run with military precision. The director of elementaire was too busy to give us more than 5 minutes, but they were a productive 5 minutes, and with a very French roll of the shoulders and twist of the hand, he gave us permission to faire un petit tour of the primary school buildings and the grounds.
There seem to be 7 or 8 classes for each year, as opposed to the 2 Lauren was used to – she seemed a little overawed but also excited at the prospect of so many kids.
The school is heavily oversubscribed, caused by Lisbon’s increasing popularity with French nationals, and more generally with digital nomads and celebrities (Madonna visited the school recently as she has moved to Lisbon, and is reported by the Portuguese press to have enrolled her son at the school). No guarantees were given about admission, but we were told French nationals have priority, then children coming from the French system – which will include Lauren as she will be doing the full curriculum for her year by correspondence, through the French education ministry. If she doesn’t get in, we may consider moving to Porto, which also has a French school.
Lauren was particularly interested in seeing the canteen and the library – in the former she loved the hi tech conveyor belt system for stowing the trays and in the latter she was delighted to meet Joana the librarian who not only showed her the library but gave her 5 books to read – 2 of which have already been devoured. So much for packing light!
Extracurricular activities include a vast array of sports and arts – Lauren is particular interested in the Surf classes held every wednesday.
Overall I have mixed feelings about the school – there is no doubt that the fairly academic and structured French system suits Lauren, and there is no doubt that it is one of, if not the, best schools in Lisbon. The various teachers we met on our petit tour were lovely, stopped to talk to Lauren (and did talk to her as well as me, which was nice) and were interested in our plans and very welcoming.
But it’s so big. It’s such a change from the lovely school in Maputo where even I, a long-time avoider of PTA and committees and social events at school, still knew most parents and teachers by sight and Lauren knew all of the kids. I feel like Lauren will be just another small fish in a highly competitive and enormous pool, and while part of me thinks that is exactly what she needs, another part of me wants her to stay in a cosy, comfortable environment for a few more years. But that’s just me being an overprotective mummy, I am sure she will thrive and be finding her way around the place in no time, if we manage to get her in. And if it doesn’t work out, well we can simply choose a different path.