The Lycée International was created in the early 1950s as the school for the children of military personnel working for SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe). The founding principle of the school was to combine an education in French with teaching in another language represented by the various nations forming part of NATO. The Château d’Hennemont, which had provided accommodation for both German and Allied forces during the Second World War, now took on a fresh lease of life as an international primary school – a role which it continued to fulfil until the early 1990s.
When SHAPE moved to Belgium following the French withdrawal from the unified command structure of NATO in 1966, the new Headmaster, Edgar Scherer, found himself with drastically reduced pupil numbers and only two national sections left (the German and the Dutch). The school was duly reorganised and redefined as a state lycée (senior school) whose vocation was to educate the children of expatriates and also to take in local French children with the potential and motivation to become bilingual through one of the section's languages.
By 1968, four other national sections (including the British Section) had been restored or created and others then followed at regular intervals. The most recent section to be created is the Chinese Section in 2016.
Shortage of space on the Lycée International campus led some sections to open classes in other local French schools, known collectively as the ‘partner school network’ (réseau). This movement began with the Collège Les Hauts Grillets in the 1970s. The British Section then started classes in the Collège Pierre et Marie Curie in 1981 and added primary classes in Le Pecq some seven years later. As a consequence, nearly 40% of British Section pupils are taught in partner schools.
The Lycée International was one of the first schools in the world to offer the International Baccalaureate (the IB) until the French Government decided to develop their own international version of the French Baccalaureate - the BFI - Baccalauréat Français International, formerly the Option Internationale du Baccalauréat (OIB) - in the early 1980s. As a result, all fifteen sections now offer the BFI, whose existence is seen as a unifying force within the school. The Lycée International, Saint-Germain-en-Laye remains France’s principal examination centre for the BFI.
There are nearly 2200 students on roll on the Lycée International campus itself. If one adds the children who are externés and those in the partner schools, then almost 4000 young people are now following a bilingual, bicultural education in the Saint-Germain-en-Laye - Le Pecq area.
The Lycée International underwent an extensive rebuilding and refurbishment programme, to equip the school with the resources to meet the needs of our twenty-first century learners. The redevelopment was completed in 2020.