REPORT – The non-contractual institution, specialized in dual sports studies and art studies, offers flexible hours for artists and top athletes.
‘I train every afternoon and the game is Saturday’ proudly declares Alexander, before going back to physics and chemistry class. The young rugby player was trained at the Diagonal School in Paris. An establishment without a contract that allows him to combine his training in the Racing 92 training center and a general terminal. Installed on one of the Diagonale sites, in an office building in the 14th arrondissement, his class counts ten top athletes. American football, gym, tennis, horseback riding, swimming, everyone excels in their profession.
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The establishment was founded in 2008 by Michel Naniche and specializes in dual sports studies and art studies. From that time on, this math teacher wanted his students to combine intensive sports training and a normal school curriculum. Fifteen years later, Diagonale is moving from college to prep and has more than 1,100 students spread across Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon and Boulogne. In Paris, classes are held in four different locations, one for artists and three for athletes. The establishment also welcomes designers, singers and even musicians. In full growth, Diagonale is preparing to increase the reception capacity of its campus in Boulogne from 150 to 300 places next year, and from 40 to 100 places on the Lyon campus. The establishment also has an engineer preparatory course specially equipped for dual degrees, preparing to open a commercial preparatory course.
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This success is partly explained by the private, non-contractual status of the establishment, which gives it more pedagogical freedom. Unlike traditional institutions, the school can choose its teachers. “We only recruit teachers who fully support our project”, explains Michel Naniche, the director.
“Getting a class of 18 students to work is much faster, especially to make sure everyone understands their math problems. †Iris, 17, French backstroke champion in 2019
Its non-contractual status also allows Diagonale to limit the number of classes to 20 students. For example, Alexander’s class has only 17 students. If the teachers manage to complete the program with reduced hours due to the afternoons off, it is due to the efficiency they achieve in such small classes. “It’s a huge advantage” explains Iris, French backstroke champion in 2019. And to add: “Putting a class of 18 students to work is much faster, especially to make sure everyone understands their math problems.”
Diagonale also emphasizes study and academic support. This opportunity allows students to be absent for competitions or filming. When they come back, they come to class in the afternoon and enjoy the support of the teachers. “This means we can go to competitions for a week with peace of mind” says Iris. On the artist campus, in the 5th arrondissement, Maloon also praises teacher training for adapting to the limitations of the students. Last year, the 17-year-old actress left for four months to film a series. “They arranged for me to follow the courses via video.” The girl explains before adding: “When I came back I was afraid I would struggle to pick up the pace, but everything went really well.”
The establishment does not offer artistic training
The benevolence of the teachers is accompanied by a real academic requirement† “Our mission is to facilitate their education so that they can live their passion, but also be independent in their work” explains Lucie, the director of the artist site. At Diagonale, students leave their phones at the entrance and hand in two homework assignments per week. For the baccalaureate, the school multiplies mock exams and organizes intensive refresher courses during the holidays. The establishment does not offer artistic or sporting courses and allows its students to manage their training hours. “They don’t have to tell us how to train, we know how to do that” explains Enzo, junior golf champion in 2019.
Students recovering from school phobia
Because the school receives no government subsidies, it is more expensive than a private school with a contract. The rates are set at EUR 4,700 per year for students with a dual degree and 6,700 for others. The Diagonale School has established an equal opportunity policy and offers declining prices for children from modest families. At Diagonale, a minority of students do not engage in high-level extracurricular activities. They choose the establishment for the small numbers and to be well guided in their personal work. “We also welcome high potential students and young people recovering from school phobia” explains Michel Naniche. And to finish “I think it is also one of the strengths of non-contractual establishments to be able to restore confidence in these types of profiles.”