Troisième, Tiers Temps and the Brevet Blanc

I’ve had a bit of a break from writing for the last few weeks as my time has been taken up with the ‘to do’ list for troisième.

Back in December, I was approached by the prof principal for my daughter’s class. It turns out that for all those kids who have any disadvantages in the French school system, whether Dyslexia, or in our case being  ‘Anglophone’, there is help at hand. It is possible to apply for ‘Tiers Temps’. Now because I only received the infomation by phone, this got translated onto paper as ‘tearton’, and whilst grateful for the obvious dedication on the part of my daughter’s prof, I didn’t really get to grips with what form this ‘help’ might take.

I received a fiche from school with the request that it be filled in with as much evidence as possible regarding her difficulties and that the form be signed by her doctor. This was duly done, and the medecin generalist signed that she was Anglophone, but wasn’t really in the position to specify what actual aid she would need or be entitled to.

It was only later that I learned about the existence of the ‘Orthophonist/e’, and I suppose that anyone moving to France with children already suffering from difficulties such as Dyslexia would be wised up on this one. It could never be said to be the case for my 15 year old. An orthophonist/e is a specialist who pays special attention to a child’s ability to comprehend  and articulate spoken and written language and information. We were hugely fortunate to have the ability to approach one direct for an appointment without a reference from our generalist, who in fact hadn’t pointed us in that direction anyway, because whilst working ‘à l’etranger’ (abroad) my husband’s Mutuelle (health insurer) allowed it.

My daughter passed a good 40 minutes with the orthophonist after an initial meeting ‘en famille’. The Orthophoniste gave us the ‘low-down’ on the ‘Tiers Temps’. This is the addition of an extra third of time, relative to any individual exam taken, to allow children with difficulties to have a respectable opportunity to succeed in their exams. For those with writing difficulties, for example speed, a physical disability, or those with comprehension difficulties, for example children being examined in their second language’ , Tiers temps gives them the time and ability to overcome their own particular issues. The Orthophonist was careful to check that the awarding of ‘Tiers Temps’ was not going to be held as a long term record against the child’s future.

Several days later I received a report from the Orthophonist noting where the specific problems lay which I was able to print out and include in our application in the knowledge that putting a ‘cross’ in the box ‘handicapé’ would not be a lifelong marker on our child’s education record.

In February the Brevet Blanc, the GCSE mock equivalent was upon us, the difference being that the Brevet Blanc exams actually do contribute to the final Brevet mark. The subjects examined were Maths, French, History/Geo and Education Civique, all 3 hours but adjusted to 4. My daughter reported that there were about 30 students, approximately 1/5 of the year group, who had been allocated Tiers Temps for one reason or another. We had been able to request access to a French/English dictionary as a comprehension aid and my daughter reported that one or two items of the exams were modified from the mainstream exam, mainly in French where the dictée was completely different.

There are another set of Brevet Blanc exams in April, covering the same subjects before the final Brevet Exams are taken in June.  The Brevet Blanc exams are marked externally and the results issued within the month.

I was impressed by the ability to register for this ‘third extra time’ allocation. It certainly made a difference to us, if nothing else than for taking the pressure off my daughter, and giving her the ability to read each exam question more than twice, and to write down the answers knowing that she had understood the questions. It’s not everybody who can go into a formal exam situation after two and a half years in a foreign country and come out with 60% in each subject, with the exception of French Grammar. But as the Orthophonist said – that is exactly the point – French grammar will ‘come’ in time, but making a intelligent child feel a failure by not providing them with room to cope with a passing disability would be a very bad educational ‘call’.

What is also of great benefit to me is having an expert highlight the difficulties experienced by my child, and I do feel that this would be a very beneficial ‘test’ for all my anglophone children to take. A problem identified is a problem on its way to being resolved!

If only they could dispense ‘Tiers Temps’ for struggling mothers so that they actually could get various pieces of paperwork in on time – but that’s another story!

The 2012 Brevet Blanc Papers will be uploaded shortly.

You might also like to read this:

Choosing Lycées

Images supplied by google.

17 thoughts on “Troisième, Tiers Temps and the Brevet Blanc

  1. Yeah in the US we refer to this time as “extended time.” I never was a candidate for extended time on tests and exams but certain kids qualified for it if they had dyslexia or had ADD/ADHD and had trouble concentrating. I’m not sure what the procedure is for applying for extended time in the US but I remember there being a special room for the kids who qualified for it where they got to take their exams separately.

    Interesting to see the doctor had to write a note saying your daughter was Anglophone! I would have assumed the school could have just provided you a note! Just another ridiculous case of French bureaucracy!


    • What’s even more ridiculous about it is that I had to pay for the doctor’s appointment, 22€ for him to sign the form, which was then reimbursed by the state ‘Assurance Maladie’ and my ‘Mutuelle’. But I suppose while the money is circulating, everyone stays in their jobs!


      • I just now found your blog. It’s very enjoyable reading. My wife and I and 10 year old twins, a boy and a girl, are planning to move to Nantes from the U.S. (Washington, DC area) within the next few months. I was very pleased to read about the Tiers Temps possibility for school. The children have only a small understanding of French, and it will no doubt be difficult in the beginning. Nonetheless it will still help if they can get extra time on tests, etc. Question: Do you know if the Tiers Temps is limited to the Brevet tests or does it extend to other tests in prior grades and years as well at the lycee? I assume that the Tiers Temps is available in Nantes as in Rouen.

        à bientôt,

        Richard Maddow


      • Hi Richard, Firstly can I say thank you. You are exactly the person I was hoping to help when I first started this blog. When we made the leap, there was barely any information at all on the internet and it all seemed a scarey adventure.
        I have firstly to reassure you that moving with two ten year olds should be relatively straightforward. Firstly, I moved with 4 children, 6,8,10 and 12 years without a single word of french between them. They went to school the first day and it was incomprehensible, so was the second and a good few weeks after that. All the children responded differently according to individual character. The 6 year old did not speak for year and then suddenly came out with fluent french and no discernable foreign accent! The 8 year old befriended a french boy on the first day, they are still inseperable, and communicated for months without any discernable conversation but completely understood each other. He was fluent within the year. The 10 year old was musical, was speaking within a month and fluent within 6 (he had also had to jump up a school year due to his birthdate being in October. Our 12 year old was slower, but medical fact suggests that the language links in the brain start to alter at that age and more time is needed to pick up language. Nevertheless, she has absolutely no problems four years on and all 4 kids correct me and sigh loudly at some of my turns of phrase., However, and his is the bit that maybe I shouldn’t tell you – The first two Brevet Blanc exams were sat by her with the Tiers Temps, but on the eve of the final one, I received a call from the headmistress to say she had just received word from the Rectorat (education dept) that her allocation had been removed as they changed their mind on “anglophonism” being a handicap! In the end because it was so late in the day, and because of the stress this would immediately put my daughter, we shoved the letter under the proverbial carpet,and the head gave her the final allocation of Tiers Temps for the third exam but warned that it wouldn’t be available for the actual Brevet.
        The truth is that by the time June had come round, her level of French had improved anyway. She accepted the fact she would do the exam as mainstream and she passed fantastically well with a mention bien (2nd level from top), and is now on her way to getting her Baccalaureat. Her Bac Blanc exams gave her 13/20 for French and the highest mark in her year was 15(the marking for the banc (mock) exams is tough!). My son (the one that was 10 when we arrived did his Brevet summer 2013. He gained a “mention très bien” which is the highest mark possible across all subjects after 3 days revision, and has now started Lycée himself.
        So what I want to say is that “yes” the Tiers Temps exists for all exams (Brevet blanc, Brevet, Baccalaureat blanc and Baccalaureat), “yes” you should apply for it if you need to, but whether you will actually need to is another matter. Your children will, like my son have had 4 years of french before they do the Brevet, and I imagine they will find it a walk in the park. Play the system with the Tiers Temps. If like for us your local Rectorat changes its mind at the last moment it will be bad luck, but sometimes the cogs of the system take so long that by the time they’ve made the decision, the exams have already been done!
        Educationally, I have no regrets and no worries for any of my children. The most difficult decision is now chosing which lycée and soon, which university they’ll go to.
        Your kids will astound you. You may have the odd obnoxious run-in with teachers in the early days who have little understanding or patience, and tell you your children have no hope, but your kids will rise above it within a year or two, and before you know it, they will be beating the French kids in French tests. It really is like that with us. My gut instinct is that when you get to it, you probably won’t need the Tiers temps at all.
        On a final note – we asked our school if they would accept an independant teacher (paid for by us) to come into school during ‘etude'(free periods) and would provide a small room to do some ‘soutien’ (extra tuition); They readily agreed, and we did that for a term and a half. Only as my daughter, now 17, is in lycée have we employed a private french prof to come to our home – but that is because the baccalaureat has exacting standards for french grammar, and arriving at the age of 12 (in 5ième)she had missed some underlying details that she would have learned in 6ième. We are talking about high attention to detail. She’s comfortably beyond the pass mark of 10/20 and this is for perfectionment.
        I wish you all the best for your move. Sorry this is such a long reply, but don’t hesitate to contact for any other question.


      • Thank you so much for your reply, and you and your blog is exactly what I was hoping to find to guide us in our journey.

        I am confident and optimistic in the kids abilities to learn French and progress, my wife being more the worrier. Question: you mention the Rectorat in your response, I am assuming you are referring to the Catholic school system. Do you have an opinion about religious vs. public? (We are Christen so Catholic is fine.) It is my thinking that a Catholic school which includes a primaire/college/lycee might be a good approach success and that we might expect more acceptance and understanding towards ‘foreign’ children with language issues, but maybe this is just a guess. It is my understanding that, unlike the US, a private school in France would not necessarily come with a huge price tag, so that makes it an option.




      • Hi Richard, Each local rectorat deals with all education for its designated area. It deals with both private and state education. The French private system is merely state education with catholic embellishments. The catholic schools are permitted one hour of religeous educaion per week per class but add to that by organising evening speakers, ‘messe’ (mass) optional and various optional other activities. (if you type in Entrée into my blog search engine you should come up with our ‘first year with the early decisions)
        We chose private for one essential reason, all 4 children could be accepted into the same school at the same time, and we believed this would boost their sense of security. We chose the school because of the nurturing attitude of the directrice of primaire, and the directrice of collège; both of whom were pro us bringing in our own soutien teacher (although in the end we only did it for the two collège age children) I cannot guarentee that a state school would allow this but I have no experience of asking the question either! As the rectorat chooses staff for schools, no matter whether public or private, the school cannot hire or fire bad staff – hence we had some staff who were very accomodating and some who were downright impossible. For example I gave my kids mobile phones so that in difficulty they could text me – one got caught texting to ask for a translation and the phone was confiscated. No matter my appeal to the head, they were unrelenting that use of mobiles was banned for all kids, no matter what!) I have heard views that catholic schools can be cliquey and public schools believe in absolute equity and no special favours – but frankly I think that probably boils down to individual personality and I think it is possible to say the reverse!
        As far as fees are concerned, the private schools receive the same funds from the state as do the state schools. The fees are for top-ups. State schools can often have slightly more modern facilities but this does not say the teaching or standards are better in the state system. Our private school is currently extensively modernising, but as a rule you can expect the facilities for both to be easily 10 years behind the UK with a lot less health and safety. At first you may be shocked but soon you’ll find it refreshing, although sometimes exasperating! They have a grading (sliding scale)system for private school fees based on your tax form (Declaration des Impots). This will be a bit more complicated without the form for you for the first year, but generally, the more kids you have, the greater the reduction for the second and following children – -10%, -20% etc. At a worst case scenario the fees would be approx 150€ per month per child over a 9 month duration. On top of the fees there are plenty of outings to theatres and museums but these never come to much more than 5€ per time. There is often a school trip during the year for a week, and the max that I have ever paid was 500€ for a week in the UK with all entry tickets and accomodation and food included.
        We were really happy with out choice of private primaire/college. It did not have its own lycée but many do. In the end my daughter opted for lycée publique to do the OIB (very well worth it for your children being American as they can miss the first year of American uni and go in at a higher level- check my post on the OIB) and my son opted for Lycée privée and the Anglophone option. For my daughter it was all to do with her education, for my son, all to do with his friendship group. I let them choose! I have no negative issues with either.
        If I had to do it all over again, now that I have sifted past the various stereotypes flung against state and private, I wouldn’t be aversed to state at all. I think the importance is to ask your french employer or future colleagues (if you know anyone yet) for recommandations for an “ecole familiale” (family friendly) and meet the head of the school and get a sense of the place. We came over in the june before our planned move in August and put the children into school for 4 days as a taster. The school was excellent and actually put them in a class which already had a bilingual child in it.This was very lucky for us but it helped them get over the shock before the “real thing”.
        Don’t hesistate to ask other questions, and if either you would like to have a proper phone chat let me know.


      • A phone chat would be marvelous. Perhaps not immediately, but in the near future definitely. Sometimes, talking by phone is so much more fulfilling. As you know my name is Richard, my wife is Cecile and our children are Jared and Arianne. How would we do the phone thing?



      • BTW you mention in your response: “The 10 year old…. had also had to jump up a school year due to his birthdate being in October.” Both of our children were born in October, so we were wondering if you could explain what you mean that he had to jump up a school year. Possibly this might affect us also. I add that they are currently in the 5th grade and they were able to begin school, first grade or CP) at age 5. Thanks again,



      • The school year in the Uk is determined between September and September which means that all children born after the 31 august of any particular year are put with children with birthdays up to the following 30 august of the next calendar year. In France the school year is determined between January and January. My son, with a birthday in October was in his penultimate year of primary (yr 5) in England and we expected him to go into last year primary in France (CM2), but when we arrived in France, because his birthday was in October he was shifted up a year into 6ième. Hope that helps!


      • Miranda:

        Thanks again for the info and your phone number. We’ll look forward to chatting.

        It sounds like there won’t be any effect on us, as the kids were in a state that uses the same calendar as France when they began school. So they were born on 16/10/2002 and are currently in 5th grade (the end of primary) or CM2. But it worked well for your boy, right!

        a bientot,



  2. Your post has come at just the right time for friends of ours who have a dyslexic son and had thought they might have to return to UK to get him an appropriate education. I shall pass her the link straight away. Thank you.


  3. My daughter, who was 5, when we came here, was referred to an Orthophonist by her teacher when she was 7 1/2 – he’d realised her reading difficulties were due to something else other than general stroppiness and being English. She was diagnosed as being mildly dyslexic – she scrambles the letters in some words to make new ones and simply doesn’t see other words. The orthophonist didn’t attempt to “cure” her, but taught her, mainly though board games, not to be thrown when a word didn’t make sense but to go back and look at it again without panicking that she didn’t understand.

    She was reading within six weeks. The next year her class had a Readathon – who read the most books during the term (they also had to answer a sheet of questions on each book to prove they really had!), she got fourth prize out of thirty two.

    She’s never looked back. She was a slow reader for years and is now a voracious one, she got her Bac and is now a fully qualified engineer (Bac + 5) and also writes.

    Not surprisingly, I think the orthophonists here are brilliant.


    • This is so rewarding, reading how other people have succeeded and been supported. I hope people in the midst of these kind of issues feel encouraged by this. Understanding the difficulties with expert help is the key to overcoming them.


    • I suppose so, though not all disability is permanent. The french description ‘handicappé’ is a little gentler on the esprit, and I would certainly classify myself as handicapped when it comes to competing on a day to day basis just due to my lack of language ability. On the plus side – the label ‘handicappé’ is not recorded on the system and has to be applied for at each ‘epreuve’ or examination annually. Thus when the disability disappears so does the label.


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