Les Petites Etoiles is a bilingual French nursery school located in north London that delights children. The 15 pupils, aged three to five years old, rotate cupping their hands to hold a baby chicken their teacher has placed for them. This is not the image of French nurseries that UK childcare minister Elizabeth Truss painted to the Daily Mail, where she emphasised discipline. Nonetheless, Les Petites Etoiles follows both the French and English national curriculums, and the teacher for children aged three or above has passed le diplome professionnel de professeur des ecoles, making her more qualified than typically English nursery teachers. The pupils at Les Petites Etoiles have greater focus on behaviour and know what to expect. Nonetheless, French school manager Françoise Fourmond acknowledged that the English system is more creative and attentive to childrens’ needs. French écoles maternelles cater to children aged from two-and-a-half up to six, while English nursery schools accept children from birth up until four or five.
L’Ecole des Petits, located in south-west London, is another French nursery catering to children aged three to six years old. Principal Mirella Otten acknowledged that the difference between English and French nurseries is that the former has a gentler pace and is less like a school, but requires meticulous record keeping. Philippe Fraser, owner of three bilingual French nurseries in London, pointed out that French nurseries’ teachers are highly qualified, but the assistants are not. Meanwhile, English nursery assistants require a handful of good GCSEs or advanced childcare qualifications. Fraser also pointed out that French nurseries typically have over 25 students per class, and they have less tolerance for noise. He added that French nursery food is superior to English nursery food, with four-course meals for two-year-olds and cheese to finish. French children are expected to grow to like all food served, and the rules forbid serving the same dish twice in two months.