Thirty years ago, the English and French educational systems were considered, and were to some extent as opposite as possible (Deer, and de meulemeester, 2004). The English system was devoted to the personal and social development of children while the French was devoted to teaching a strong, academically oriented national curriculum. The English system was driven from Local Educational Authorities (LEAs), while the French was driven from the Centre (the Ministry for National Education)
In both countries, the autonomy of schools has, perhaps surprisingly, increased, but far more strongly in England (Osborn et al, 1997). In England about 60% of the decisions which affect secondary schools are taken at the school level, as against only 30% in France. French schools have some autonomy for the organisation of instruction, constrained for the most part by a framework decided at a superior level, but they have no autonomy at all regarding staff management, including the hiring and dismissing teachers (Osborn et al, 1997).
English schools are subject to strong external supervision. Schools are inspected every six years, and the school has to provide a plan in answer to the Inspectors' criticisms (Osborn et al, 1997). The pupils' achievement at the key stage tests are annually monitored by LEAs.
In France, teachers are inspected, but schools are not. There have in some places been experiments of school audits but in all cases, this was conceived as a help to a school, and not as pressure on it. It remains the school's decision whether or not to take account of what the audit has shown. Some official commissions have called for more demanding forms of audit, but these have not been tried (Meuret, and Duru-Bellat, 2003)
Traditionally, it is easier for English parents to be heard in schools than for French ones (Osler, and Starkey 2001). Until recently, it was still the case, at least as far as primary schools were concerned. Parents nowadays have more opportunity than before to express their advice on school life The fact that, for instance, in England inspectors meet parents in the absence of any school staff is certainly not possible in France (Osler, and Starkey 2001).
Whilst both countries have weaknesses within their system, France is lagging far behind England and perhaps it needs further reforms to improve this standing. However it’s very hard to create these reforms, many people are opposed to change as they feel it will destroy their professionalism.