Paris as a growing financial centre – what are the education options?

Now the UK has finally left the EU, Paris is a likely destination for an increasing number of international assignments. Whether there is a trickle or a rush of international companies setting up or consolidating there remains to be seen but families are assured of a quality education and cultural experience for their children. Marianne Curphey reports.

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The uncertainty over Brexit has led around 100 financial services companies to relocate from London to Paris, with some setting up new headquarters there and others setting up satellite offices initially. The movers include asset manager, insurance companies and banks.Paris has ambitions to become the leading financial centre in Europe after Brexit. While around 250,000 people work in the financial services sector in the UK, Paris has around 180,000 employees in the sector, according to Paris Europlace, the organisation that promotes the financial sector in Paris. This puts the French capital in pole position in Europe, ahead of rivals such as Frankfurt or Dublin.

Relocation ambitions

The European Banking Authority (EBA), which is a regulatory agency of the European Union, has been based in London since 2011 but has now relocated to Paris, with 250 employees moving as a result. The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), an independent EU authority set up to provide investor protection, is already based in Paris, as is Finance Innovation, which fosters and supports the growing FinTech industries. Goldman Sachs is already working on a Paris-based equity trading platform, while asset manager BlackRock has been building up its Paris operations for the past two years. Other companies are expected to follow suit amid concerns over how financial services companies will be able to operate if key parts of the Brexit agreement are not sorted out.Estimates of the jobs created in Paris as a result of Brexit range from 4,000 new direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs, according to Paris Europlace.

The appeal of Paris as a place for work, culture and education

Benjamin Hunter, Head of School at Ermitage International School of France, which is based 15 km outside Paris, says the school has a number of families who work in the finance sector.“Not only is Paris an ideal location for them, with a recent article in Le Figaro explaining how France has been better for companies during the pandemic,” he explains. “Maisons Laffitte, where Ermitage is located, is 15 minute direct train ride to the Financial heart of France, La Défense. Many families relocate to Maisons Laffitte to have dual access: a quality international school in a safe and less urban environment and easy access to Paris and the financial hub, La Défense.”
He says that while it is difficult to measure the true impacts of Brexit on our families, as a school community there has not been much of an impact.“We have had increased interest in applications from the UK, with many families maintaining interest but in a holding pattern waiting for the official Brexit deadline to see what happens,” he says. “We have not seen a departure of families rushing back to the UK.”One of the advantages for globally mobile families of attending an international school is the transferability of the curriculum and academic programs and facilitated transitions from school to school.“International schools have a better understanding of the expectations of globally mobile families and offer programs that are in line with the demands,” he explains. In addition, the school offers a strong university and career counselling approach that looks at opening doors worldwide and not just nationally within France.”For children and young people joining a school such as Ermitage, there is the the benefit of being in an open minded and caring environment with families and teachers with shared and common values.“International schools have a stronger tendency (in comparison with national schools in France) to look at the whole child; taking into account pastoral care, extracurricular activities, and overall well-being of each student,” Mr Hunter explains.Ermitage offers the French Baccalaureate  - a strong educational program that is demanding and rigorous.“It usually requires students to acquire skills to become independent learners to succeed,” he says. “It is internationally recognized by universities as being a tough Diploma to get and therefore places the students towards the top of the application pool.”French schooling is widely accessible around the world and is standardized (in accredited schools) to ensure each child is given the same content. This helps internationally mobile families who may need to relocate, because the same curriculum is taught in all schools accredited by the French government, offering a high level of continuity and familiarity for the student.

Focus on schools in France and choosing a French education webinar

In the recent webinar chaired by Fiona Murchie, managing editor of Relocate Global, parents can hear a Head of School and an Advancement & Engagement Director and from two leading International Schools in France discuss what makes Paris such a special place to educate children and to explore the country.Benjamin Hunter of Ermitage and Courtney Knight, Advancement and Engagement Director at the International School of Paris,  explains how you can give your child the advantage of learning the French language and experience an International Baccalaureate (IB) education from early years and through to the Diploma Programme and on to higher education.International children and their families will flourish in France, thanks to the cultural and social advantages of living in Paris and a robust choice of internationally accredited schools, offering curriculum options such as the IB, as well as French-government accredited schools.“Paris is the most visited city in the world,” says Courtney Knight. “It is a special place both socially and culturally. In our school community we have a special link to the city and benefit from the dynamism that is Paris.

What are some advantages of an international or French curriculum education?

Benjamin Hunter, head of school at Ermitage International School of France, leads a dynamic team of teachers and staff across diverse academic paths for 1400 students.Ermitage offers the International Baccalaureate at middle school and the Diploma Programme for the last two years of high school. Ermitage currently has 200 students on the IB track spanning 50 nationalities. Of those a quarter are boarders, while the rest are local students. The curriculum allows students to choose to specialise in certain subjects while the French education system has strong roots around the world.“The level of French has to be at native level when you get nearer to the lycée,” he says. “Students are working towards a French Baccalaureate and you have to be able to pass exams in French. The French programme is not one you can dip in and out of. You really have to commit because the French are looking to build on skills that are years in the making.”Continuing your French education, even if you have to move schools and continents, is made seamless and possible because of the uniformity of the curriculum in French-government accredited schools.Johanna Mitchell, Director of Lumos Education, explains that the French curriculum is highly transferrable because all French schools across the world which are regulated by the French government follow exactly the same curriculum.“This means that a family following the French education system can transfer globally without any problems at all. French schools are very good atcommunicating with each other.”Courtney Knight explains that the International Baccalaureate education system encourages students to ask questions and learn about concepts, which is very different to rote learning of facts. Instead, the curriculum embraces a process of inquiry and reflection so students can think about and apply what they have learned.“There is a lot of importance on languages in both our schools,” she explains. “In the IB at least two languages will be studied and half our students will graduate with a billingual IB Diploma.”

Higher and tertiary education opportunities

The opportunities and rigours of the International Baccalaureate education system means that students are well prepared to apply to and succeed at the top universities in the world.At the International School of Paris students can use the university counselling department to think about their options either within France or in the wider world.“We need to give children the knowledge that they are the changemakers. We are growing that mission that exists in our school,” she says.Benjamin Hunter says IB students got to universities in Canada, the UK, the US and the Netherlands and they are very successful in their chosen courses.“We are confident in our students’ ability to adapt and make an impact right from their first day of university,” he says, “whether that is in London, Paris, Montreal or The Hague. We encourage them to be impactful and solid in their values and we have a university counsellor who can help them make the right choices. As a school we are a bridge to further and better things.”Both schools have adapted quickly and efficiently to Covid-19, ensuring that students were able to continue their education even during lockdown. Now that students are physically able to join lessons again, they are enjoying the benefits of interacting and being together.“We feel that families are safe here and able to build a future that is very positive,” he says. We are 15km from Paris but we have the opportunity of having an international community which is really rooted in French culture and identity.”Fiona Murchie, managing editor of Relocate Global, said that for international families who are looking for a French education, the opportunity to study an engaging curriculum that is transferrable around the world could be a very attractive option. 

Meet the speakers

Find out more about all of the speakers and panelists who participated in the autumn 2020 Great International Education & Schools Fair.

Find the perfect school from the comfort of your home

Now is the ideal time to discover the right school for your child. As schools hosted Open Days and Virtual Events throughout the autumn, we used the opportunity throughout November to showcase the schools around the world that welcome relocating families and international students, not only at the beginning of a new academic year, but also at any time, with rolling admissions to meet the needs of families on the move.
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