petite anglaise

September 1, 2004

back to school blues

Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 7:17 pm

It’s that sinister time of year when the advertising industry concentrates its efforts on making French schoolchildren lust after all manner of scholastic paraphernalia in the name of la rentrée. This is, in my opinion, a rare example of France actually outdoing the UK on the rampant commercialism front.

In every supermarket and department store in the land you will find aisle upon aisle of exercise books, stationery supplies, pencil cases and rucksacks bearing the latest cool kiddy/teen brand logos. Clothes and sports shops are clearly in on the conspiracy too. The implication being that if your child does not start the new school year with a completely new (preferably designer) wardrobe, an Olympic standard sports kit and a shiny new bag containing the equivalent of half of the WH Smiths stationery department, you are a bad parent and your child will be a social outcast. It’s a very serious business: I have seen mothers nearly in tears because they have left their rentrée shopping too late and there are no more Spiderman ring binders to be had for love nor money.

I’m belatedly understanding why compulsory school uniforms are “a good thing”. French schoolchildren do have a self-imposed uniform of sorts: jeans and trainers. But as your child’s popularity level is directly proportional to the coolness of the brand name emblazoned on his/her jeans and trainers, imagine the guilt you have to live with if you can only afford something from C&A?

French schoolchildren buy all their own books, including exercise books, and then cart them around all day as lockers don’t appear to exist, with the result that every year we are treated to an item on the 8 o’clock news about the dangers of little people carrying rucksacks exceeding their own bodyweight. And they do – because homework starts at the age of six. I wish I was joking. Responsible parents are encouraged to invest in a bag on wheels not dissimilar to your average granny’s shopping trolley. Surely owning one of those is social suicide?

Right now I’m breathing a HUGE sigh of relief that my little tadpole won’t be starting school for another two years (at the ripe old age of three ???!!!?) I need some time to psychologically prepare myself for the soul-destroying experience of going against all my principles and buying her the fluorescent pink Barbie rucksack and matching accessories she is bound to want.


  1. mine have fluorescent POWERPUFF girl rucksacks for nursery school. utterly taste free. I’m SO with you on the school uniform. I hated mine when I was at my vile comprehensive school, but I could never have competed in the “coolness stakes” that we have here like France. terrible.

    Comment by Vit — September 23, 2004 @ 1:07 pm

  2. …..and I thought it was only over here in Ireland that the kids had to carry all their books with them, because the schools have only recently heard of lockers. And every year, without fail, the parents of the newest batch complain loudly about the back problems that their tiny offspring are suffering. The schools ignore it, knowing that it is a rite of passage through September. Come the winter, there will be other things to worry about. And so it goes on….

    Comment by Ruth — September 23, 2004 @ 1:07 pm

  3. Hi, I’m writing from Malaysia and unfortunately, the kids here have the same problem. They have to carry huge school bags and it is popular to see shops selling school bags with wheels. A couple of years ago, the govt announced that lockers would be built, but until now, they have yet to be built.

    Comment by Colleen — September 23, 2004 @ 1:08 pm

  4. I LOVE this time of year back home. Don’t you just get high on the smell of all that new stationery? Or is that just me…When I was four I carried a suitcase to school. It was covered in Mickey Mouse stickers that said ‘I’ve been to the Isle of Man’. Boy was I the coolest kid ha ha! I fell over it running for the bus one day and bust my knee. They still made me go to school. I swear that case is probably still sitting in my parents’ attic.

    Comment by Claypot — September 23, 2004 @ 1:08 pm

  5. Do they think they are somehow strengthening the kids’ backs that way?

    Comment by Stuart — September 23, 2004 @ 1:09 pm

  6. Well, since we all had to walk to school 4 miles in the snow barefoot, it’s best that they be given something to hold over the heads of their offspring: “Lockers? Ha! When I was your age, I was carrying my weight in books to school every day. In a burlap sack. Shoeless. Over broken glass…”

    Comment by Nigel M — September 23, 2004 @ 1:09 pm

  7. My primary school had just abolished school uniforms, but my parents still sent me to school in my older brother’s hand-me-down uniform regardless.
    How cool is that?

    Do children still wear hand me downs?

    Comment by Tim — September 23, 2004 @ 1:10 pm

  8. Well, here in Portugal we have the same problem. No store is too small to sell school props for “la rentrée” of September… God, and the horrible things on sale!!

    And here there’s no uniforms so we have the same problem you saw in France with clothes competition. For those who can afford it, of course.
    But the most ridiculous in a bank making publicity using “la rentrée”. A stupid game of words, I must say. It combines the word notas = grades and the same word notas = money… and says something like this: “this year, we’re all worried with the our notas (grades/money). So, go to bank *** and blablabla”

    It’s pathetic…

    Comment by Paulo — September 23, 2004 @ 1:11 pm

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