We’re a non-profit charity with the aim of advancing the education of children, particularly but not exclusively through teaching of the French language and about the diverse cultures of the French-speaking world.
Our primary focus is French tuition for our students, creating an environment for our students that will encourage and enhance their bilingualism.
“Thanks to Ecole des Copains, my child can experience a French speaking environment which I just cannot provide at home as my husband is English. Without this Saturday morning experience, it would be a real struggle to get any French spoken at home. I love the family atmosphere as well.” –Joëlle
The charity currently provides lessons to more than a hundred children every Saturday of the academic terms from 9:45am to 12:15pm. We use 10 classrooms at Beechwood School. We also operate a library from the Church Hall. Lessons in French language and culture are provided for children aged 4 to 18
The teaching team is composed of qualified French teachers as well as parents who began as Teaching Assistants. The team follows an agreed Teaching Programme, and has an observation process in place to encourage development and ensure quality.
Classes are conducted entirely in French and so the children attending the school must, at the very least, be used to being spoken to in French and be able to respond.
The school uses a range of teaching methods to engage the children in learning French and to assist their general development. These include sing-songs, stories, recounting, acquisition of new vocabulary, new language structures, reading and writing activities. Celebrating French holiday traditions, such as the Galette des Rois and Bastille Day is also part of our curriculum. Our members come from Europe, but also Africa and the Caribbean, classes try to incorporate this in their lessons.
The learning objectives and programs are based on the “Bulletin officiel de l’apprentissage des langues étrangères et régionales” published by the conseil de l’Europe.
Older pupils’ lessons focus on both French language and French culture, including history, geography, literature and the arts, and citizenship.
“It can be hard to get up on a Saturday morning to go to French school, but although I moan sometimes, I always enjoy it once I’m there; it’s like going to see a gang of friends, and my teacher is lovely (Béné this is for you if you get to read this message one day!) –Sébastien
“The adult classes are great fun, and it’s really helping me to encourage my kids to speak French at home.” –Alex
L’ école des Copains also provides French classes (Beginner and Intermediate level) to non-francophone members. These classes began in April 2016 in response to members’ request for an initiative to help parents support the advancement of their childrens’ French.
“C’est vraiment cool et mon français est (un petit peu) magnifique maintenant!” –Richard. (Dad, and aspiring bilingualist)
In the community
We hope to educate the community more widely about not only French language and culture, but also bilingualism and multilingualism. These two issues affect a large section of the community in Kent, but are not well understood by education and medical professionals.
By providing opportunities for mutual support as well as doing some advocacy, such as suggesting bilingual awareness training for primary school teachers, we hope to help the many families who feel frustrated and isolated in their efforts to preserve their cultural identity.
Many of our services are offered on a voluntary basis, such as members reading in schools,
The wider, more public projects we pursue, are chosen based on their merit in supporting our members’ needs in addressing the issues of bilingualism and multilingualism.
We’ve been operating since 2008 under the name Petite Ecole Kentoise (PEK), which had two schools – one in Harrietsham and another in Tonbridge. In the beginning each school had about 20 students and 4 teachers.
In September 2015 the school at Harrietsham (which later moved to premises in Lenham) had grown to over 40 students and 4 or 5 teachers, while the school at Tonbridge had grown more significantly, to 116 students and 11 teachers.
Due to this rapid growth, the Tonbridge school had to move from the Hildenborough Church of England Primary School, to larger premises. We are now located at Beechwood School, Tunbridge Wells.
With differing sizes and needs of the two schools, and the members in Tonbridge wishing to formalise the charity’s unincorporated status, PEK members in Tonbridge decided on 5 March 2016 to become an independent entity and register as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).
Our new school, L’École des Copains, opened officially in September 2016.