Monday, 26 May 2008

Holding Back The Marauding Hoards.....

...or alternatively - don't let the animals out of the zoo!!!!

The college that the girls go to in Bedarieux is surrounded by 15 foot high walls/fencing with gates at the front entrance.

At 7:45am and 17:00, the gates are very generously opened for 15 minutes and you can enter or leave freely.

At all other times the college gates are kept locked.

There is a caretaker who lives in a bungalow just inside the entrance, and her job is not to let anyone in or out of the gates unless they have a valid reason.

From the outside you ring the bell, talk into the intercom, and provided you look like a parent with an appointment at the Headmaster's office, she lets you in and then watches to ensure that you do in fact walk into the building and nowhere else.

From the inside, you go up to her main window looking out over the gate, and try and persuade her that you really DO have permission from your parents to leave the premises. And her answer is always NO unless (virtually!) your parents are standing right next to you!!! Even then she tells you (plus your parents) to go into Vie Scolaire and get the proper authorisation form signed in triplicate.

Each student has to carry their carnet at all times. It is like their passport to life at college. Amongst other things it contains:
- a certified photo of the student
- certified specimen signatures of their parents and/or guardian
- their timetable
- any mots from teachers, telling their parents about things they have done wrong or have not done at all (eg homework!)
- forms completed by their parents confirming when they missed school and why eg due to sickness
- the marks they get in their tests

AND, most importantly, the times they are allowed to leave the school premises each day. Or not, as is more often the case.

In order to get out the gate, a student has to show the caretaker their carnet, who then checks if the parent has certified that they are allowed to leave at that time, on that particular day. If it is not in the carnet, tough - the gate stays locked with the student inside!The adult you can (just about!) see in the narrow open gateway is in fact a teacher. He is young, good looking, wearing a chunky cardigan (think Starskey, not Hutch!) and today he was on guard duty.

Come 12:00, the college recognises that many students go home for lunch whilst demi-pensionaires stay and eat at the canteen. So at that time the gate is opened and manned for about 15 minutes by a teacher (sometimes two) who stand guard.

They check each student's carnet and only if it is in order, properly certified with permission to be let out at that time/day, do they allow the student to escape.

It is our daily amusement whilst waiting in the car for the girls to be let out, to see the various tactics employed by students trying to leave when they are not allowed to.

Watching sometimes the smallest, petitest young female teacher taking no nonsense from 15 year old young adults often nearly a foot taller, whilst a huge crowd of students is building up behind, all waiting in line for their chance to escape.

Here is Nic having just got through - still holding her carnet in her hand. When we first watched this system in practise, we were amazed and gob-smacked! It might seem draconian by UK standards, but it works.

The school's attitude is that between the hours of 8:00am and 17:00 the students are their responsibility, and they therefore have to ensure the students are on the premises unless certified by the parents to be allowed out.

In Bedarieux itself, shopkeepers do sometimes ask to see a student's carnet to ensure that they are allowed to be out in the town, before serving them.

Our kind of town!
When LeeLee first started school here, she was ALWAYS forgetting to take her carnet in to college. And we kept getting a letter sent to us each time telling us that she had broken one of the strict rules.

In order to be allowed out, we would either have to go into the Secretariat and sign a permission form, or bring the missing carnet with us and hand it through the bars of the fencing to LeeLee.

We got so fed up that we instigated our own rule. Forget it three times in a month and we REFUSED to get her out of jail free! That focused her attention - having to stay on the premises and either miss out on lunch or pay for a canteen meal out of her own pocket money!

Cruel, nasty parents?! Us?! You must have been talking to our daughters.....

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