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Schools shut as teachers stage mass walk-out

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09:15 CEST+02:00

Thousands of children will have the day off on Tuesday as teachers across France take strike action to protest against job cuts.

 

For the first time, teachers from the private sector will join their public sector counterparts in the action, which will include over 100 demonstrations across the country, including one through central Paris.

Teachers are campaigning against annual reductions in the number of teaching posts, which amount to 65,400 since 2007, according to newspaper Libération, with a further 14,000 planned for 2012.

Teaching unions wanted to "deliver a strong message that education should be at the heart of this country's priorities", said Sébastien Sihr of the SNUIPP-FSU union, quoted in Le Monde.

"The policy of not replacing one out of every two teachers who retire is a dead-end. Worse, it widens the educational inequality already deeply rooted in our country," said the union in a statement.

Unions believe that 54 percent of primary school teachers will stay away from school on Tuesday. The education ministry claimed it believed only 20.5 percent would take action.

Primary school teaching staff are required to declare if they are going to be on strike 48 hours in advance. The union believes at least 90 schools in Paris alone will be forced to close for the day.

Education minister Luc Chatel appeared to shrug off the remarks, suggesting the strikes might be motivated by elections that will take place in October to select teaching representatives on key administrative bodies. 

"An education strike at the end of September is not really revolutionary," he said, according to Le Monde.

Chatel also stuck to his guns over the cut in posts, saying "the real question today is personalized" teaching, rather than "quantity."

"We won't be able to deliver quality if we don't have trained people in sufficient numbers," retorted Bernadette Groison of the FSU union.

Teachers in private schools will be joining the strikers for the first time to protest against job cuts. Around 15 percent of French children attend private schools.

Teachers in France are poorly paid compared to their European counterparts. An OECD study found that the average salary for a teacher with fifteen years' experience in France is €35,856 ($48,540) compared with €62,930 in Germany and €47,047 in the UK.

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