Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Early childhood and school education funding


3.Funding in education

3.1Early childhood and school education funding

Last update: 27 November 2023


Funding bodies

The State, local authorities and other public administrations (consular bodies, chambers of commerce and industry, hospitals, etc.) together provide over 90% of the funding for school education.

The State

In 2019, the State's contribution to domestic expenditure on education amounts to 56.2% of the 41.2 billion euros allocated to public pre-primary and primary education. 48.8 billion allocated to public secondary education (MENJS-DEPP, Note d'information 20.35, 2020).

A very large part of State expenditure is due to the remuneration of education staff: teachers, management staff, etc. To a lesser extent, this is also explained by aid to families through the payment of grants.

Local authorities

In 2019, local authorities financed 38.6 % of national spending on pre-primary and primary education, and 20.6 % of spending on secondary education (MENJS-DEPP, Note d'information 20.35, 2020).

In primary and secondary education, they cover the cost of technical staff and almost all operating and investment costs. To do this, they pay grants to national public institutions. They also manage catering and accommodation, school transport, and the remuneration of non-teaching staff:

  • the regions finance upper secondary schools (ISCED 3): general and technological lycées, vocational lycées and regional adapted education institutions (EREA). The regions are also involved in funding apprenticeship training;
  • the départements fund lower secondary schools (ISCED 2): collèges;
  • municipalities fund nursery and primary schools (ISCED 02 and ISCED 1).


Public and private companies contributed 8.4% of domestic expenditure on education in 2019 (MENJS-DEPP, Note d'information 20.35, 2020). They are particularly involved in financing apprenticeships (via the apprenticeship tax), both public and private, in the vocational stream of upper secondary education.


In 2019, households financed 7.5% of domestic expenditure on education (MENJS-DEPP, Note d'information 20.35, 2020). This mainly concerns expenditure on catering (particularly in public schools) and extracurricular activities. Schooling is free in public schools. Textbooks are free of charge in schools and colleges, and many regions also provide them free of charge in secondary schools.

Funding mechanisms

Financing of the Ministry of National Education

Since the application, on 1 January 2006, of the organic law of 1 August 2001 on finance laws (known as the LOLF), the State budget has been organised into 'missions' and 'programmes':

  • a mission groups together a set of programmes contributing to a defined public policy. Each mission is the unit for voting on the budget by Parliament;
  • the programme, defined at ministerial level, groups together the appropriations intended to implement an action or a coherent set of actions falling within the same ministry and to which are associated precise objectives, defined in terms of general interest goals, as well as expected results illustrated by performance indicators. For each programme, an annual performance plan is annexed to the Finance Bill, specifying the objectives of the programme and the expected results illustrated by performance indicators and the corresponding resources. The following year, for each programme, an annual performance report will highlight the results achieved and the means implemented to achieve them.

The LOLF thus makes the budgetary procedure revolve around two principles: on the one hand, a logic of public management performance, and on the other hand, a transparency of budgetary information likely to institute a close control by the Parliament.

School education is the subject of an 'interministerial' mission, with several ministries involved. This mission comprises six programmes, each of which includes several actions and budgetary credits, which are voted by Parliament on the basis of stated objectives and renewed on the basis of the results obtained.

Financing by local and regional authorities

Local and regional authorities contribute to the financing of education through their budgets. A distinction is made between two types of intervention by local authorities in the field of education. Those that are part of their obligations, by virtue of the laws of decentralisation (expenditure on the operation, equipment and construction of primary schools, collèges and lycées; remuneration of non-teaching staff, etc.), and those that result from a voluntary commitment, an example of which is participation in the financing of school textbooks for lycée students.

Financing by companies: the apprenticeship tax

The apprenticeship tax is a State tax payable by companies. According to Article 1599 ter A of the General Tax Code, the proceeds of this tax promote equal access to apprenticeship on the national territory and contribute to the financing of actions aimed at developing apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship tax is based on the payroll of the previous year. The tax rate is 0.68%, except for Alsace-Moselle, where it is 0.44%. This difference is due to the fact that the financing of apprenticeship is still governed by the local law created between 1870 and 1919.

A Supplementary Apprenticeship Contribution (CSA) is added to the base for companies with 250 employees or more when the average annual number of work-study students, VIEs or CIFRE theses, does not reach a certain threshold. This contribution is progressive: the fewer young people the company employs on work-study programmes, the more it pays.

Financial Autonomy and Control

Pre-primary and primary education (ISCED 0 and ISCED 1)

Public nursery schools (ISCED 0) and primary schools (ISCED 1) do not have the status of a public institution. Consequently, they have neither legal personality nor financial autonomy. According to Article L214-4 of the Education Code, the municipality is responsible for public nursery and primary schools. It is the owner of the premises and is responsible for their construction, reconstruction, extension, major repairs, equipment and operation.

The traditional management method for schools is "régie directe municipale": financing is provided by the municipal budget, which supplies the material resources. The funds are entirely managed at the level of the municipality: the mayor is the authorising officer for expenditure, the accountant is the municipal collector. The service staff, responsible for the maintenance of the premises or caretaking, and the specialised territorial agents for nursery schools (ATSEM) are municipal staff. The State is responsible for the remuneration of teaching staff.

The direct management by the municipality and the absence of financial autonomy do not allow much flexibility, but two régies allow the collection and spending of money for the operation of the school:

  • Régie d'avances: set up by the municipality, this system appoints a régisseur d'avances, who in a school may be the headmaster or any other teacher accepting this function, and entrusts him/her with a part of the municipal credits intended for the school's operation. The administrator can use these sums, on behalf of the accountant, to pay for small material and operating expenses.
  • Receipts: in the same way as for the imprest account, an administrator can be appointed to collect money from families. The administrator reports the receipts to the accountant. Apart from the establishment of an imprest account, a teacher cannot collect any sums from families for the running of the school.

Secondary education (ISCED 2 and ISCED 3)

collèges and lycées are local public education institutions (EPLE), a category of public institutions under the Ministry of National Education. Like all public institutions, EPLEs have legal personality and administrative and financial autonomy. They also have pedagogical and educational autonomy, which is reflected in the school project adopted by the school's board of directors.

According to article R421-58 of the Education Code, the budget of collèges, lycées and regional adapted education institutions (EREA) comprises an "operating" section and an "investment" section. It is established within the limits of the resources of these institutions, in compliance with the nomenclature set by the Minister of the Budget, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Education, and according to the guidelines set by the local authority to which the institution is attached. These resources include :

  • subsidies from the local authority and the State ;
  • any other contribution from a public authority;
  • own resources, in particular donations and legacies, resources from catering and accommodation services, proceeds from the sale of objects made in the workshops, the apprenticeship tax, etc.

Expenditure in the "operating" section covers teaching and educational activities, heating and lighting, maintenance of equipment and premises, general expenses, catering and boarding, and assistance to pupils.

Fees within Public Education

Primary education (nursery schools and primary schools) and secondary education (collèges, lycées d'enseignement général et technologique and lycées professionnels) are provided free of charge in public schools (Articles L132-1 and L132-2 of the Education Code). There are, however, costs for households, linked to catering and various activities. Here are the main expenses, by educational level.

Pre-primary (ISCED 0) and primary (ISCED 1) education

  • catering costs: Article R531-52 of the Education Code states that the prices of school meals provided to pupils in public nursery and primary schools are set by the local authority responsible for them. Municipalities are responsible for the catering service in nursery and primary schools. However, school catering is not an obligation.
  • "garderie" / "étude surveillée". This is a service offered by nursery and primary schools respectively, which consists of keeping children after the statutory timetable, at the request of the parents.
  • School insurance, optional but strongly recommended, even compulsory for children who attend the canteen and participate in extracurricular activities organised by the municipality after school.

Municipalities may apply a sliding scale of charges for canteen and after-school care, taking into account household resources.

Secondary education (ISCED 2 and ISCED 3)

  • Catering costs: Article R531-52 of the Education Code establishes that the local authority responsible for them sets the prices of school catering provided to pupils in public secondary schools. The price of a meal is set by the department for collèges and the region for lycées;
  • school supplies: in general, individual school supplies that remain the exclusive property of the pupil are not covered by the principle of free education. The Ministry of National Education recommends that teachers limit the prescription of school supplies in a ministerial circular and establishes a list of recommended school supplies;
  • textbooks. In collèges, textbooks are loaned to pupils by the departments. In lycées, the purchase of textbooks is theoretically the responsibility of households but is often provided by the regional councils;
  • equipment for secondary school pupils. In the technological and vocational streams, pupils must, depending on their speciality, acquire clothing (smocks, overalls, etc.), safety equipment (shoes, etc.) and tools (carpenter's, construction worker's, cook's, hairdresser's 'toolbox', etc). The costs are extremely variable, generally lower in the tertiary sector, significant in most industrial sectors, and highest in the hotel and catering sector (easily €250 to €400).

Financial Support for Learners' Families

Pre-primary education (ISCED 0)

There is no specific support for families with children attending educational institutions at this level.

Primary education (ISCED 1)

Families can apply for direct financial allowances:

  • a financial allowance paid by the family allowance funds (CAF) to households whose resources do not exceed a certain ceiling;
  • the "allocation de rentrée scolaire" (ARS – start of school year grant), paid by the family allowance funds, on a means-tested basis, to households of pupils subject to compulsory schooling (aged 6 to 16) as well as to those aged 16 to 18 on presentation of a school certificate. For the start of the 2020 school year, the amount of the ARS is set at 469.97 euros for a child aged 6 to 10.

In some départements, there is a school attendance grant for children who are half-boarders (or boarders) at a primary school located more than 3 km from their home. The amount varies according to the department.

A municipal grant for primary schools also exists in some municipalities. It is generally means-tested and the amount varies from one municipality to another.

There are also indirect financial allowances, represented by

  • aid for school transport paid by some local authorities
  • the provision by municipalities of school textbooks and possibly some individual school materials.

Secondary education (ISCED 2 and ISCED 3)

The direct allowances available to families, subject to means testing, are the same as those for primary education:

  • a financial allowance paid by the family allowance funds to households whose resources do not exceed a certain ceiling;
  • the 'allocation de rentrée scolaire' (ARS), paid by the family allowance funds, subject to resources, to households of pupils subject to compulsory schooling (aged 6 to 16) and to those aged 16 to 18 on presentation of a school certificate. For the start of the 2020 school year, the amount of the ARS is set at 490.39 euros for a child aged 11 to 14 and 503.91 euros for a child aged 15 to 18.

There are also indirect financial aids, such as the loan of school books or the 'social fund for canteens':

  • At the lower secondary level, schools lend textbooks free of charge to lower secondary students. While many regions have chosen to provide or participate in free textbooks for secondary schools, some do so in the form of indirect aid: credits paid to schools or the purchase of collections that become the property of the school and are loaned to students.
  • The social fund for canteens is intended to enable pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend their school's canteen (secondary school pupils and pupils in special education). During the school year, the head of the school obtains the opinion of the board of directors on the criteria and procedures to be used for the allocation of aid.

The secondary school social fund and the secondary school social fund

In public lower and upper secondary schools, a social fund for secondary school students makes it possible to provide exceptional assistance to a pupil to meet the costs of school life and education. This aid, granted by the head of the school, on the advice of a committee chaired by the head of the school and made up of members of the educational community, student representatives and parents, is in cash or in kind.

Regional and departmental aid

In addition to the national scholarships, pupils can benefit from financial aid at local level, offered by the municipalities, départements and regions. This aid is part of the policy defined by the local authorities: it therefore varies from one municipality to another, or from one region to another.

Financial support for families of children with special educational needs

The following financial support is available to families of children with special educational needs. With the exception of the Allocation d'éducation de l'enfant handicapé (see below), they are means-tested:

Allocation d'Éducation de l'Enfant Handicapé (AEEH)

In order for a person who assumes responsibility for a disabled child to receive the AEEH, the disabled child must be under 20 years of age and have a disability of at least 80%, or between 50% and 79% if the child attends an adapted educational institution, or if his or her condition requires the use of an adapted device, or if his or her condition requires the use of care as part of measures recommended by the Commission for the Rights and Autonomy of Disabled Persons (CDAPH).

In addition, both the person claiming this benefit and the disabled child must be permanently resident in France. The AEEH is made up of a basic allowance of 132.61 euros, to which a supplement may be added, the amount of which is graduated in 6 categories, depending on the cost of the child's disability, the cessation or reduction in the professional activity of one of the parents due to the disability, and the hiring of a third person. A specific increase may be added when a child receiving the AEEH is dependent on a single parent:

  • exemption from boarding costs in regional adapted education institutions;
  • reimbursement of accommodation and treatment costs by the health insurance fund or social assistance;
  • transport costs for pupils in medical-social institutions borne by the care bodies and school transport costs to their institution borne by the département or, for the Ile-de-France region, by the State;

Financial Support for Learners

Pre-primary and primary education (ISCED 0 and ISCED 1)

Grants for pupils do not exist in pre-primary and primary education.

Secondary education (ISCED 2 and ISCED 3)

Secondary school grants (ISCED 2)

Any pupil enrolled in a public collège who is dependent on a family meeting certain income conditions may receive a collège grant.

Grants for collège pupils are paid by the secondary school in the public sector. For the 2020-2021 school year, the annual amount of the grant is €105 for level 1, €294 for level 2 and €459 for level 3. This amount is paid in three instalments (each term).

Lycée scholarships (ISCED 3)

Secondary school grants are awarded to pupils enrolled in secondary schools and in Etablissements régionaux d'enseignement adapté (EREA) on the basis of criteria that essentially take into account the level of household income as determined by tax legislation. They are divided into 6 levels, depending on the resources of the person(s) responsible for the student and the number of dependent children. For the year 2020-2021, the annual amount of the grant varies between €441 for the first level and €933 for the sixth level. This amount of grant is paid in three instalments (each quarter).

Specific shares or bonuses supplementing the scholarship are provided at certain levels of schooling:

  • Equipment allowance : 341.71, paid in one instalment with the first term of the grant to first-year students in certain specialities of the CAP, vocational baccalaureate, technological baccalaureate or technician's certificate. This bonus is awarded automatically according to the training speciality;
  • Qualification bonus: amounting to €435.84, this is paid in three instalments to scholarship students enrolled in a CAP or BEP class preparing for a mention complementary to the CAP or BEP. Scholarship students in the second year of a 3-year vocational baccalaureate can also benefit from this allowance, but it cannot be combined with the bonus for entry into the second year;
  • Boarding bonus: This bonus is granted to all national scholarship students attending boarding schools.
  • The boarding bonus is modulated according to the level of the scholarship held by the scholarship holder. Families do not have to fill in an application form, this bonus is automatically allocated to boarding scholarship holders. The bonus is paid in three instalments by deduction from the boarding fee invoice. The annual amount of the grant varies from 258 € (1st level) to 423 € (6th level);
  • Bourse au mérite: This is a merit-based grant designed to supplement the award of a lycée grant. Pupils with a scholarship who have obtained a "Bien" or "Très bien" mention in the diplôme national du brevet are automatically awarded a merit scholarship. This supplement is paid throughout their schooling until the end of the cycle leading to the baccalauréat in order to help them continue their studies. The annual amount of the merit scholarship, which is a supplement to the lycée scholarship, varies according to the level of the scholarship, from €402 (1st level) to €1,002 (6th level). The merit scholarship is paid in three instalments at the same time as the lycée scholarship.

Private Education

Funding mechanisms

With regard to the financing of the private sector (which accounts for approximately 20% of pupils), a distinction is made between public schools under contract and public schools without a contract.

In the case of public schools that have signed a contract of association with the State under Articles L442-5 to L442-11 of the Education Code (i.e. approximately 80% of private schools), the State covers the remuneration of teaching staff, the social security and tax charges payable by the employer and the costs of initial and in-service teacher training.

In return, these schools must provide the same education as public schools, recruit teachers who are employed under public law and undergo the same inspections as public schools. The départements and regions also contribute to the financing of secondary schools under contract (collèges and lycées respectively).

Government-dependent private schools do not receive funding from the State. Teachers' salaries, maintenance of the premises and operating costs are paid for by the parents.

School fees

The tuition fees of public schools are set by each school and therefore vary greatly. According to the Fédération nationale des organismes de gestion d'établissements scolaires catholiques, at the start of the 2018 school year in government-dependent private schools, the average parental contribution per year and per pupil varies between 389 and 1 176 euros depending on the level of education (from nursery to high school). The price is much higher for government-dependent private schools, where parents pay teachers' salaries, maintenance of the premises, and operating costs.

Financial aid to families and pupils

Pupils enrolled in public schools under contract are entitled to the same financial aid and grants as pupils enrolled in public schools. Pupils enrolled in private schools without a contract have access to public grants and scholarships only if the school is authorised by the Rector of the académie.