Judges order English woman to have her children taught only in French

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The Independent Online

An English woman was ordered by two senior judges yesterday to send her children to a French-speaking school because her estranged husband wants them to keep their cultural background.

An English woman was ordered by two senior judges yesterday to send her children to a French-speaking school because her estranged husband wants them to keep their cultural background.

The 35-year-old woman, who is seeking a divorce from the 42-year-old Frenchman, wants her daughter, aged eight, and son, six, to have an English education. But the father says that because the children live with the mother, they will lose their French cultural background if they are educated at an English-speaking school.

Both children, who cannot be identified by order of the court, were born in England and speak "reasonable but not fluent French", according to the mother's evidence. They are now attending small private schools but both will move next week to a day school in London where lessons are held in French only.

Bruce Blair QC, representing the mother at the Court of Appeal, said that the father had said his wife could not be relied upon to promote a bilingual and bicultural background for the children. Mr Blair said the mother spoke fluent French, had a French boyfriend and took her holidays in France with the children, who were constantly exposed to the culture and language.

In his judgment Lord Justice Walker said he could not alter the ruling of the High Court judge David Gee that "the best opportunity for the future of these children is for them to have the opportunity of going" to the French-speaking school.

Lord Justice Walker, sitting with Lord Justice Brown, said both parents were "well educated and prosperous". The mother intended to stay in London but the father may return to France. Their children were said to be bright and doing well at their respective schools.

The girl's headmistress, in a plea to the court not to send the eight-year-old to the 2,500-pupil French-speaking school, said: "She would be lost in a class of 30 at a large school."

Lord Justice Walker said the father maintained that his children had a bilingual and bicultural background and he wanted that to continue, although they would be live in England. He said the mother wanted her children to have an English education and objected to the French-speaking school because of its size, the fact it taught in French, which would make it difficult for her to help them with their homework, and the disruption the move would cause to them.

Lord Justice Walker said Judge Gee had found that the French school would be the best solution to achieve a balance of Englishness and Frenchness for the children.