Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle

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This article is about a London school. For other French schools of the same name, see Lycée Charles de Gaulle.
Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle
Lycée Français de Londres Logo.png
Established 1915
Type Independent school
Primary School
Secondary School
Head of School Olivier Rauch
Location 35 Cromwell Road
Coordinates: 51°29′31″N 0°36′29″W / 51.49187°N 0.60792°W / 51.49187; -0.60792
DfE URN 100547 Tables
Students 3,867
Gender Mixed
Ages 3–18
Former pupils Les Anciens du Lycée

The Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, usually referred to as the Lycée or the French Lycée, is a large French co-educational primary and secondary independent day school, wholly owned by the French Government,[1] and situated in South Kensington in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. It includes three primary school satellites: André Malraux (Ealing), Marie d'Orliac (Fulham), Wix (Clapham) and the associated Collège Français Bilingue de Londres (CFBL) (Kentish Town).


1915 and the Early Years[edit]

The school was founded as the "French School of London", largely through the efforts of Marie d'Orliac, with backing from the University of Lille for Belgian and other francophone World War I refugees in 1915 near London's Victoria station and provided a full education for 120 students. In 1920, the renamed Lycée Français de Londres relocated to Cromwell Gardens, opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the late thirties it moved again to a Neo-Georgian style purpose-built school building (AJ Thomas, assistant to EL Lutyens), adjacent to the French Institute in Queensberry Place - another d'Orliac project - with its own entrance in Queensberry Mews. WWII saw the Lycée evacuate to Cumberland. Post-war development of the school was overseen by the revered 'Proviseur' (headmaster), M. Augustin Gaudin, supported by his wife. The school and the French Institute were initially seen as synonymous and were far more interdependent in the post-war years, into the 1970s. Their close relations came to an end with French administrative reforms and the introduction of modern management and accounting techniques in the 1980s. Another notable feature of the time was that Lille University offered a first year of their humanities programme at the Lycée, for those completing the "Terminales" classes and arranged exchanges for teachers as well as pupils. The aesthetics displayed in the architecture of Patrice Bonnet's 1939 French Institute [2] were translated into small touches like the Art Deco designs of the termly "Tableau d'honneur" cards, (the roll of honour) given to pupils deemed to have worked hard. The designs became utilitarian in the fifties.

After World War II[edit]

The school saw steady expansion with the "Baby boom". In 1947 three junior classes (jardin d'enfants, 12e and 11e) had opened in adapted rented accommodation at no. 29 the Boltons SW10, on the corner with Tregunter Road. It was fondly known as "The Boltons" a 'succursale' (satellite) of the Lycée for a period of 15 years. 1952 was the start of an 'English Section' for British or UK-based pupils. (It was subsequently renamed 'The British Section' and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012). Meanwhile, The bombed terraces directly opposite the Natural History Museum on Cromwell Road, temporarily converted into tennis courts, were acquired by the French government and a major development of the Cromwell Road site began in 1955 and was completed in 1957. The corner of Cromwell Road and Cromwell Place was occupied by the Royal College of Art. Only when they moved to purpose built premises on Kensington Gore in the 1980s, were more terrace houses gradually acquired by the French Government. Another temporary "succursale" in the Swinging Sixties was no. 6 Cromwell Place, SW7, home of the then 'English section', watched over by Mme Thérèse Wright. Close neighbours in Cromwell Place were the French Institute's noted bi-lingual Secretarial College and the Alliance Française. In the days before IT, the Lycée library and yearly issue and collection of school textbooks - an enormous logistical exercise - was managed by Mme Betty Galitzine and later by Mme Babette Willmot. For decades, the Lycée's French stationery was procured by Neilson's in Harrington Road. As the school grew, so the kitchens faced an increasing logistical challenge to produce upwards of 2000 hot meals daily on Lycée monogrammed china. Much of the time the food was "passable" - it bore little relation to French cuisine.

The 1960s, revolutions and all that[edit]

With the lull in construction, the school displayed a tremendous flowering in the arts, science and sport. This was nourished by travel. In 1966 a Lycée excursion was led by Mme Raphael to Paris to view the great Picasso Retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais.[3] There were annual organised trips to Val d'Isère for skiing in spring, a Summer School in Pont Saint-Esprit, led by Jacques Iselin and tours of the Soviet Union in association with Dr. Sanger of Westminster School. The return by rail from one such trip was briefly, though alarmingly, delayed by the Soviet led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. Pupils put on plays, mostly in French, at the Institute's theatre (now the Ciné Lumière) and art exhibitions in the entrance halls of the 'Institut' and 35 Cromwell Road. The languages offered through the parallel curricula were Ancient Greek and Latin, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. 'English Section' pupils took part in British school competitions in the recitation of Latin verse. Other pupils were successful in writing competitions organised by the Alliance Française. With the help of former Olympic standard PE teachers, the Lycée was noted for its competitive prowess on the sports field, in the water and in the gym: handball, rugby, basketball, tennis, even cricket (a French invention!), rowing, swimming, fencing and horse-riding. Each year, there was a steady stream of applicants to Oxbridge and to the Grandes écoles and places taken up to study architecture, economics, engineering, medicine, music and science in France, the UK and the USA. To underscore the importance of Franco-British understanding, the Alliance Française annually sponsored a special award to one pupil for "Camaraderie Franco-Britannique".

The wave of student revolutions of 1968 brought about changes in the French educational system which were also felt in South Kensington. The most immediate difference was the ending of the annual ceremonial prize-giving of the Lycée Français which took place in the then newly built Royal Festival Hall for a number of years and which was subsequently moved closer to the Royal Albert Hall. The ceremony was marked by an organ recital by the school's Master of Music, the former Notre Dame de Paris organist and composer Jean Dattas,[4] and by speeches from noted French academics. French ministries and businesses would sponsor generous expenditure on books which were then distributed as prizes to pupils of merit. The 1970s brought in their wake a Counterculture with its liberal attitude to drug use. Like many other teaching establishments, the Lycée had its share of problems and a number of promising careers were tragically curtailed or temporarily derailed by substance misuse.

The run-up to the Millennium[edit]

The continuing expansion of the school, led to further occupation of the mews complex behind Cromwell Place. In fact, there were still horses stabled in the mews in the mid 1960s, when equine odours invaded classrooms on the east side of the site. The erection in 1984 of the Primary School building to Roeven Vardi's design, in the playground on Harrington Road, allowed the primary classes to be decanted out of their cramped conditions in Queensberry Place.

27-29 Cromwell Road.

In 1980, the school was renamed the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle – for the late French President, statesman, co-founder of the European Common Market, who famously said "non" to the British applicants for membership, and leader of the Free French in London who had set up his offices in the decanted Lycée buildings whilst in exile from Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Bombing raids on London, perhaps directed at the leader of the Free French Forces, destroyed adjacent buildings to the Lycée, which gave space for a new block to provide pupils with modern science laboratories and multipurpose classrooms as well as a spacious entrance hall at 35 Cromwell Road. President de Gaulle returned to the Lycée for a final visit in 1962 when he was greeted by the entire school.

Due to limited space at the South Kensington site, the Lycée opened two 'feeder' primary schools, based in Clapham and Ealing, in 1993 and 1995 respectively. Since May 1997, the Ealing 'satellite' is known as the École André Malraux, named after the French author and politician.

International Cross-Roads[edit]

Just as a world changing event, such as WWI, led to the founding of the Lycée, so ever since, the school has reflected world history because of its location in London, a place of political refuge, combined with the attraction of French culture and traditions supported by the Entente Cordiale and because of the remarkable international make-up of the school population. The Lycée community has welcomed wave upon wave of new arrivals from North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Indochina, East, Central and Southern Europe and The Americas. Nor has this been confined to élites. It is observable how family dynasties with French connections have sought to vouchsafe the unique qualities of the Lycée for their young.

The Lycée 100 years on[edit]

82% of the Lycée's pupils are French.

2015 marks the school's centenary. It constitutes both a French and British cultural landmark in the UK's capital and, with its associated French Institute, a site of remarkable architectural heritage.[2] The Lycée caters for some 4,000 pupils between the ages of 3 and 18 and teaches predominantly in French. Usually referred to simply as "the Lycée", the school is an important centre for London's sizeable French community and one of the most academically successful French schools outside France. Its curriculum and management are overseen by the French National Ministry of Education through the Agency for French Teaching Abroad (AEFE). In addition to serving the French community in London, 9% of pupils at the Lycée are British, placed in the school by parents wanting their children to benefit from a bilingual education. The Lycée has a proud multicultural and international mix of pupils, with over 50 different nationalities.

The school charges fees, but these are subsidized by the French government:[5][6][7]

The vast majority of the teaching at the Lycée is in French according to French curricula and indeed, up to the quatrième class (at the age of 13/14), all pupils are taught entirely in French. From troisième onwards (equivalent to Year Ten or freshman year), pupils can opt either to stay in the French Section and study for the Brevet and the Baccalauréat or, to transfer to the British Section (64 students per year) and work towards the GCSEs and A-levels. The British Section has had a very good reputation and excellent results since it began.

The school was refurbished during summer 2008, following the buyout of Peterborough School (Clancarty Road, Fulham), to vacate most of the South Kensington primary school, for occupation by secondary school pupils.

In 2008, the British Section of the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle (the branch which enters pupils for British school examinations) was ranked 15th in the Financial Times schools league table,[8] and 16th in The Times schools league table.[9]

Winter sports uniform (left) and summer sports uniform (right).

Academic results[edit]

French Baccalauréat[edit]

The Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle is one of the best French schools abroad as shown by its outstanding results: Baccalauréat results 2010

Section Number of candidates Succeeded % Mention Très bien Mention Bien Mention Assez bien Total honours
Literary 15 15 100 1 6 7 14
Economics and Social Sciences 68 67 98,52 13 22 22 57
Scientific 95 95 100 46 25 18 89
Total 178 177 99,43 60 53 47 160
  • Percentage of honours "Mention Très Bien": 35% of the students.
  • Percentage of honours "Mention Bien": 30% of the students.
  • Percentage of honours "Mention Assez Bien": 26% of the students.
  • Percentage of total honours : 90% of the students.


Results A-levels 2010

  • 100% of students received their A-levels
  • 59.3% received A*+A (The national average being of 27%)
  • 22% obtained a B
  • 18.7% of students obtained their A-levels with a C or E

Heads of the British Section[edit]

  • Anthony Morgan (1958 - 1979)
  • Alan Harrison (1979 - 1994)
  • Rachide Bennamar (1994 - 2000)
  • Rosalind Nichol (2000 - 2010)
  • Kelvin Zane (2010 - current)[10]

Notable former pupils and teachers[edit]

Connections with the Lycée[edit]

Another Lycée opens[edit]

The ongoing demand for French education in London has led to the opening of a new 'Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill' in 2015. It occupies the former listed Brent Town Hall building in Wembley.[14] Unlike the older Lycée, it will be managed by a charitable trust.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fury as London Lycee makes room for Sarkozy's son". The Independent. 17 December 2007. 
  2. ^ a b "LOH Building Details". Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  3. ^ "Pablo Picasso : Exposition rétrospective de 1966 - francetv éducation". Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  4. ^ Jacques Ghémard. "Jean Dattas - Les Français Libres". Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  5. ^ "Le lycée français de Londres". Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  6. ^ "Lycee Français Charles de Gaulle". Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  7. ^ "Lycee Français Charles de Gaulle (British Section)". Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  8. ^ [1] Archived 13 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Education | The Times". 2015-05-31. Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  10. ^ information gleaned from the Lycée's official history in French: Faucher, C. Rauch, O. Zuniga, F. Simon, É. "Le Lycée français Charles de Gaulle de Londres, 1915-2015", ISBN 978-0993097706
  11. ^ Benoist, J-M, "Marx est mort", Paris PUF, 1970
  12. ^ "Knitting Circle Kay Dick". 2008-04-16. Archived from the original on 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2015-06-05. 
  13. ^ "Drama - Jane Eyre - The History of Jane Eyre On-Screen". BBC. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  14. ^ Title -- MrMrsMsMiss First name: Surname:. "Home". Retrieved 2015-06-05. 

External links[edit]