1P aka 1 primaire, or else 1st grade.

/scroll down for the back-to-school vocab cheat sheet for parents/

Your child enters Geneva public school this year in 1P?

Parentville’s got you covered.

Just remember: as everything in Switzerland depends on the canton, the school is even more detailed: everything depends on the teacher. Differences from what is described here, are very likely to happen.


You’ll need: slippers, basanes, painting apron, a change of clothes. Also in some school: a box of tissues

You don’t need to buy any books, notebooks, crayons, glue, scissors etc. – such equipment is provided by the schools.

Does your child need a backpack?
Yes. For the snack-box, the water bottle aka “la gourde”, and for the a4 sized folder aka “la fourre”. Make sure the « fourre » can fit in, especially if your child will attend the after school care – « parascolaire ». All books, notebooks, crayons etc. stay at school.

You will get a teacher-parent communication book also called a students book (carnet de l’élève) with all necessary explanations, addresses, and phone numbers. Further pages constitute an agenda. Each day of the school year has its place, where teachers and parents can put important information. At the bottom of the page you’ll find space to request a meeting with the teacher (or teacher’s request to meet with you). You’ll need to sign the book every week. It will become clear once you see how it looks like.

In the first weeks of the school year you will also receive some forms to fill (mainly asking about address, phone numbers, special health issues, languages spoken etc). Nothing complicated.


Kids are expected to be diaper-free, and independent when it comes to all toilet-related issues. They should also know how to dress themselves, put on their shoes, etc. Of course, teachers will occasionally help if needed, but the expectation is for kids to be independent. For that reason it’s best to, for example, avoid shoes with laces until the child can tie them without adults’ help.


Don’t be afraid if your child doesn’t speak French. Most probably, he/she won’t be the only one in the classroom. Geneva teachers are experienced in working with allophone children (=children who don’t speak French). Also, 1P is a playful year, perfect to learn the language. But if you do think your child will do better with some additional help, you can try a kids’ French course in one of the language schools, for example playful Spell Languages (offering both group and private lessons, as well as full weeks during school holidays).


1P is focuses on socializing, board games, songs, and as my daughter put it “that damn coloring”. Coloring is boring for many kids but the thought behind it is to master the pincer grasp, to better work with the pencil the following years. They get to learn their abc’s, count to 12, and write their name. But again, everything depends on the teacher. My daughter’s teacher added a bit of German to the mix.

1P classrooms are filled with toys, games, and colours. There’s usually a library corner, and a separate space for different kinds of play-pretend. There is a blackboard and chalk of course (or whiteboard and markers), but kids don’t have their assigned desks, and sit by the tables usually in small groups. The whole desk matter starts in 2P.


Don’t expect any reading or proper writing happening in Geneva 1P classes. This won’t happen till the 3P. To many of you it might come as a shock, but actually according to a ton of research (example of an article summing it up: here), it is a great advantage of the Swiss system. The same is done in many northern and eastern countries, especially those renown for their educational systems, eg Finland and Sweden.

(By the way, did you know there is a Swedish School in Geneva, offering an English-French language program based on Swedish methods)

They’ll do some math exercises in the form of mazes, solving easy logical tasks. They’ll have basics of geography – starting with their school setting, and maybe naming the streets around. But again, it all depends on the teacher.

They’ll also have science with experiments and learning about plants or animals. There will be a music class with singing. In other words they will be well occupied, and learn a whole bunch of things!

THE DROP OFF: 8h00-8h45

Drop off is from 8:00 till 8:45. Provide your child with a small snack for the morning recess (la recrée): a sandwich, a fruit, dry fruits, a bit of cheese or whatever you want. You’re completely free to choose, apart from the dental prevention week.

In some of the schools parents can walk in with their child only for the first 2 months of the school year (upon drop off, and to collect them). Other schools let parents in the full 1P and beyond. But in most, as of 2P you will be asked to stay outside, and your child will enter the school on his/her own.

THE LUNCH BREAK: 11h30-13h30/14h00

The lunch break is long. It lasts from 11:30, and finishes with an afternoon drop off from 13:30 till 14:00.

During lunch break, children from 1P eat their lunch, have a relax time (they lie down for 20-30 minutes, it is not a nap time). They can bring a cover, a pillow, and something to cuddle.

School lunches, « cuisine scolaire », are an option. Kids can also be taken home for this time, or go with a nanny.


Schools out at 16h:00 every day. There is no school on Wednesdays for 1P.

After-school care, « parascolaire », exists in all schools in canton Geneva. Children are taken care of from 16h till 18h. It’s not available on Wednesdays. Parascolaire is managed by GIAP, not by schools. The activities during these two hours vary a lot from one municapility to another, and even between schools in the same municipality in the canton.


Geneva school holidays 2023/2024

Holidays outside the set school breaks? Can be possibly but is measured on case by case basis. To go away for any number of days, you need to request a permission from the school. If it’s less than 4 days of school leave, the teacher will decide, if it’s more the director of teh school will make the decision. You should hand it in, ideally, at least 14 days in advance.

Exception: Jeûne genevois, that always happens in the beginning of the school year, so you can hand in the request in the first few days of the school year.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves! We have loads of time to plan for those holidays. Let’s first start that the school year!

I wish you and your kids a very smooth transition to the school life, and a very fun and playful year!