For members


Can parents take children out of French schools for a religious holiday?

Pupils in France do not go short of holidays - but what is the situation if you want to take your children out of school during the term-time?

Can parents take children out of French schools for a religious holiday?
Pupils in a classroom. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

In France, children must be in education between the ages of three and 16 years.

Students must attend scheduled classes, unless they have legitimate reasons for their absence – and going on holiday outside of the standard vacation periods set by the school calendar does not constitute a legitimate reason.

“It is not possible to envisage à la carte vacations that would disrupt the functioning of classes and harm schooling”, according to France’s Education Ministry.

Religious holidays, on the other hand, are acceptable reasons for a day off.

A circular published in 2004 stated: “Authorisations of absence must be able to be granted to pupils for major religious holidays which do not coincide with a day off and the dates of which are noted each year by an instruction published in the Official Bulletin of National Education.”

This would include festivals such as Yom Kippur or Eid al-Fitr, which often fall during the term-time in France. The list of major religious holidays for 2022/23 is available here.

The big events of the Christian calendar usually coincide with either a school holiday period (Christmas) or a public holiday in France (Ascension or Assumption).

READ ALSO Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

Otherwise, according to the Education Code, the only legitimate reasons for absence from school are the following:

  • illness of the child 
  • communicable or contagious illness of a family member
  • a formal family reunion
  • or temporary absence when children are obliged to travel with responsible adults

This does not necessarily mean that taking a child out of school for a holiday is completely banned. You can ask the school principal for permission to take your child out of school during term time, and explain why you are doing so.

The principal may agree, or may ask you to submit a formal request for authorisation of absence, which they will send to the regional Academic Director of the National Education Services.

What if you just take your child out of school?

Official sanctions are rare – cases don’t often get that far – but in the most serious cases, parents can go to jail if they fail to give adequate reasons for repeated absences.

After four half-days of unjustified absence in a month, an educational team will investigate the causes of the absenteeism and propose support measures to the parents, if required.

If the absences continue for more than 10 half-days in a month, the headmaster may refer the matter to the Academic Director of National Education Services (Dasen) who will summon the parents and issue a formal notice to ensure their child attends school. 

After that, if absences continue, the matter may be referred to the public prosecutor, who will decide what action to take – the usual step would be a €135 fine.

But, in the most serious cases, parents risk two years in prison and a fine of €30,000, under article 227.17 of the Penal Code, if they are convicted of failing to educate their children.

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For members


Can foreigners in France be called up for jury service?

Juries are used in the majority of criminal trials in France and can sometimes involve foreign jurors. Here's what you need to know.

Can foreigners in France be called up for jury service?

Can foreign residents in France be called up to be a jury?

In order to be called for jury duty, you must hold French citizenship, so foreign nationals in France who have gained French citizenship are eligible to be called up.

If you simply a resident in France with a valid residency permit you cannot be called for jury duty.

Aside from holding French nationality, there are some other criteria you must meet as well in order to be called up.

  • Be over 23-years-old;
  • Know how to read and write in French;
  • Have never been found guilty of a crime or délit (less serious, mid-level offense);
  • Not be under someone’s care and legal responsibility (sous tutelle) because of a physical or mental disability; 
  • Not be a civil servant stripped of their function;
  • Not be a member of government, parliamentarian, magistrate or member of the police, prisons authority or gendarmerie. 

Anyone who has a personal relationship (family, friends, romantic partners) to the accused, the plaintiff, their lawyers, court interpreters, witnesses or one of the magistrates, cannot serve as jurors. 

How good does your French need to be?

Although the Justice Ministry has not published guidelines as to what level of French jurors will require, Maître Sabine Haddad, a Paris-based lawyer, has written that if you believe you do not “master the French language”, you can request not to take up jury duty via a signed letter addressed to the court (a demande de dispense). 

It is assumed that the vast majority of jurors selected will speak French fluently, given that most of them will have been raised in France. And legal language can be complicated for French people as well as foreigners who have spent years living in the country. 

When would a jury be used?

In France there are two kinds of criminal courts.

Every département has a cours d’assises which is a criminal court dealing with serious crimes that can carry a sentence of more than 20 years in prison (like rape, murder and armed robbery). Jurors – or jurés, in French – work alongside professional magistrates during cours d’assises proceedings to decide whether the accused is guilty or not.

Other criminal offenses that can carry a sentence of between 15-20 years are judged in a kind of criminal courts known as a cour criminelle. No jurors are involved in these proceedings. 

How are jurors selected?

Jurors are randomly selected from the electoral list of the commune in which they live. If you have been chosen at this stage, you will be informed. 

Each commune sends a list of names the the départemental cour d’assises when requested. The court then removes profiles that don’t meet the eligibility requirements, have already served as a juror in the last five years, or who for other reasons are unfit to serve as a juror. 

A special commission then examines the demandes de dispense – or requests to avoid jury duty – from those chosen during the initial random selection. 

A second selection of 45 jurors is then made and those to have been named as jurors can then be called to preside over a session of the court. Each case normally features 6 first choice jurors and 9 back-up jurors who are once again selected at random the shortlist of 45. 

Is there any way to get out of jury duty?

If you don’t turn up to jury duty without a legitimate reason (motif légitime) you can be fined 3,750. 

To avoid jury duty, you must deliver a signed letter to the court explaining why. This letter is known as a demande de dispense and must be delivered to court before September 1st ideally. If not, you must attend the first day of the hearing and provide evidence as to why you cannot serve as a juror. 

Legitimate reasons include:

  • Being over 70-years-old;
  • No living in the département where the cour d’assises is located as your principal residence;
  • Having difficulties that will prevent you from attending court, such as serious illness, an ill child or deafness. 

As already mentioned, lawyers say you can also use non-mastery of the French language as an excuse. 

Do jurors get paid? 

The average jury duty lasts about 15 working days, during which you must remain available. 

If you work in the private sector, your contract is suspended for the duration of the court session – your employer has the obligation to provide you with a document that proves your salary and any further evidence that can demonstrate how you will be losing money during your leave (this can be used later to claim compensation). If you work in the public sector, you are automatically granted a leave of absence. 

The financial compensation you receive depends on whether you work in the private or public sector.

Private sector jurors receive a flat fee of €96.16 per day. If their employer decides to keep paying them while they are on jury duty, they can accumulate this fee alongside their normal salary. The fee counts towards a juror’s annual taxable income. 

If a private sector worker is not remunerated by their employer during jury duty, they are eligible for further compensation of up to €90.16 per day, alongside the initial €96.16. Both payments must be requested directly from the court

Public sector employees receive the €96.16 per day alongside their normal salary. 

You can also apply for money to cover costs of food, accommodation and transport while you are on jury duty. The amount you will receive depends on a variety of factors including where you live and what mode of transport you use. A full guide is available here

Your employer has a legal obligation to let you complete jury duty. 

What is the role of a juror?

Jurors receive a small amount of training before presiding over a case – or more often than not, multiple cases during a single court session. The court president and prosecutor will explain your responsibilities and you will also be asked to watch a short film. Often, jurors will be offered the chance to visit a prison too. 

When the trial begins, you will be asked to sit in on hearings and listen to deliberations from the judges. After this, you will take part in secret votes alongside other jurors and the magistrates. The first vote is on whether or not the suspect is guilty and the second is on the severity of the sentence. 

How you vote is entirely up to you. 

Jurors are expected to be attentive, impartial and discrete. You are not supposed to talk about the case with people outside the courtroom. And you must not reveal any final decision before the day of sentencing – doing so could land you with a €15,000 fine and a year in prison.