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A Comprehensive Guide to the Back-to-School Allowance (ARS) 2023

Trends in school expenditures in France


When the calendar hits mid-summer in France, it's hard to escape the signs of "la rentrée" or "back to school". Supermarkets, TV and radio channels are bustling with promotions, reminding everyone that the lengthy school holidays will go by in a flash and before you know it, the kids will be back to school.

Unfortunately, a new school year is synonymous with new expenses. Families have to delve into buying school supplies, outfits, and other equipment. A crucial component of these expenses is the stationary list, handed out officially by the school. Parents are expected to purchase all items listed before school commences. According to a report by Le Figaro, the average cost of the stationary list for a primary school child amounted to 190,38€, while for a secondary school student, it was 377,85€ the previous year. These expenses can be daunting.


The Trade Union Confederation of Families recently unveiled that there's been a 2.64% decline in back-to-school spending due mainly to the looming inflation impact, forcing people to manage their expenses, sometimes compromising on quality to save costs. Most of the 109 families surveyed in this French research paper stated that they are currently prioritising only essential purchases, meaning that kids are missing out on recommended school items.


For parents in France, the Allocation Rentrée Scolaire (ARS) or back-to-school allowance is a significant financial relief. The ARS is a financial allowance intended for families with children aged between 6 to 18, who are enrolled in public or private educational institutions, apprenticeships, or housed in specialised residential institutions. Understanding the burden of these schooling expenses, especially on lower-income households, the ARS (administered by the CAF, Caisse d'Allocations Familiales) can be a game changer. Here's a detailed breakdown of what you need to know about ARS for 2023.


Understanding ARS: an overview


The ARS is a well-structured financial aid system designed to alleviate some of the burdens of back-to-school expenses for families.


1. The purpose of ARS

The core intent of the ARS is to help families cover costs related to the commencement of the French school year. This includes expenses like school supplies, specialised equipment, and clothing. Given that these costs can accumulate, the ARS provides a timely financial buffer.


2. Who benefits?

The ARS aids nearly 3 million families across France. However, the eligibility does have some conditions. For instance, the ARS is not available to parents who choose home education unless their child is registered for approved correspondence courses, such as those from the Centre National d'Education à Distance (Cned).


ARS 2023: Important dates


The ARS is traditionally paid out in August, ensuring families have the funds before school starts. All students in France share a common back-to-school date, and this year the date is set for Monday, 4th September. This leads up to a busy period for families living in France, who have to manage work, childcare and preparations for the forthcoming academic session.


Income thresholds


The ARS considers your household income from two years prior. For the 2023 academic year, your 2021 income will be assessed. Here are the specific income thresholds and you’ll qualify if you do not exceed the following income related to how many children you have:

  • 1 dependent child: an income of €25,775

  • 2 dependent children: an income of €31,723

  • 3 dependent children: an income of €37,671

  • 4 dependent children: an income of €43,619

  • Each additional child: an extra €5,948

If your income slightly overshoots these limits, you may still have a chance of benefiting from this scheme. A differential ARS might be available, so it's worth checking with your CAF or Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA).


Application agencies


The Family Allowance Funds (CAF) or the MSA (for those linked to the agricultural sector) directly manage the allowance's disbursement.


ARS amounts: what can you expect?

The ARS amount is allocated based on the age bracket of your child:

  • Children aged 6 to 10: €398.09

  • Those aged 11 to 14: €420.05

  • Adolescents aged 15 to 18: €434.61

Applying for ARS: The procedure


1. Existing CAF beneficiaries

If you're already affiliated with the CAF and your child is aged between 6 and 15 at the start of the academic year, you'll automatically receive the ARS. Additional steps may be required if:

  • Your child is below 6 years but starting Classe Primaire (CP): You should provide the CAF with a valid school certificate.

  • Your child is between 16 and 18 years: Declare their current educational or apprenticeship status via the CAF's "My Account" portal or the corresponding Application.

2. New to CAF? Here's what to do

If you're not currently associated with the CAF, start by creating a personal space on the CAF website. Once registered, fill out the "Children" form, which is located in the "Help and procedures > My procedures" section.


What else can I get help with?


The CAF is not just renowned for its helpful back-to-school allowance. The organisation plays an integral role in aiding French families in various facets of daily life, including essential schooling support. We’ve compiled a list of helpful aid provisions offered by the CAF related to education and student life in France:

1. Aid for school meals

School meals can sometimes be a significant expense for families. Recognising this, the CAF provides aid to offset lunch costs. The amount granted depends on the family's resources and the number of children in school. This support aims to ensure children get the nutrition they need without straining the family's budget.


2. Support for leisure activities

Beyond just academic pursuits, the CAF realises the importance of extra curricular development. It offers support for children's leisure activities, making sure that economic constraints don't prevent participation in sports, cultural events, and more.


3. Scholarship assistance

For families with limited financial means, the CAF offers scholarships to help cover tuition costs, especially for higher education. These scholarships aim to provide equal education opportunities for all, regardless of socio-economic backgrounds in France.


4. Accommodation assistance

Many students in France move out of their family homes for higher studies or to attend institutions in different cities. The CAF offers housing assistance, known as the Aide personnalisée au logement (APL), to students who need support to cover rent or residence fees.


5. Childcare support

For parents who are still in school or in training programmes, the CAF offers childcare support. This ensures that young parents can continue their education without worrying about their child's well-being during school hours. It includes support for daycare services, nannies, and more.


6. Study grants based on social criteria

These are aimed at students from 16 to 28 years old pursuing initial training and who face difficulties financing their studies. The grant amount is determined based on the family's income, the number of dependent children, and the distance between the school and the family's residence.


7. Local social action initiatives

The CAF often collaborates with other French local authorities to support initiatives that benefit students in particular territories. This could be in the form of subsidised transport for students, assistance for school trips, or other local education-related initiatives.


Helping with back to school anxiety


Let's give it up for the ARS and CAF. While the dawn of a new academic year brings its challenges, the ARS offers a helping hand to parents in France. The CAF's commitment to fostering a nurturing educational environment in France is evident in its broad range of support services. By providing comprehensive assistance – from meal subsidies to housing aid – the CAF ensures that financial constraints don't impede a child's education journey. For families residing in France, it's always beneficial to stay informed about the various aids available and to check eligibility criteria to make the most of these support structures. Stay informed, check your eligibility, and ensure you utilise this support optimally.


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