SHARE
COPY LINK

EDUCATION

French summer holidays too long: Minister

France’s Education Minister Vincent Peillon has once again incurred the wrath of teaching unions, this time by stating his intention to cut the country's sacrosanct school summer holidays to six weeks by 2017.

French summer holidays too long: Minister
File photo of holidaymakers on the Côte d'Azur. Photo: Nicolas Beaumont

‘Les grandes vacances’ – the two-month summer break from school, is a tradition that runs deep in France. But it appears to be under threat.

On Sunday, Education Minister Vincent Peillon floated his intention to cut the length of the holidays from eight to nine weeks, down to six.

“We should be capable of having six weeks [school holidays] – that’s enough,” Peillon told BFMTV.

The Socialist minister also proposed “zoning” for the summer holidays. This is a system, already in place for winter and Easter holidays, where France is split into geographical ‘zones’, each with a different start and end date for the holidays.

Zoning was introduced in 1964, to prevent overcrowding on beaches and ski resorts, as well as other tourism-related problems.

The reaction to Peillon's announcement has been swift from France’s teaching unions.

"It's absolutely incomprehensible," Sébastien Sihr, secretary-general of SNUipp-FSU, France’s main teachers’ union, told The Local on Monday. "One minute he is propising to reform the school day, the next its the calender year. The parents, local authorities and the teachers cannot understand what is going on.

"It is not a taboo subject for us, but the whole school calender and timetable needs to be looked together," he added.

Christian Chevalier, secretary-general of the SE-UNSA union said “You don’t announce something brutal like this in that way,” said .

Referring to Minister Peillon’s apparent lack of consultation with teachers’ unions, he added “It's a great way to get everyone to dig their heels in against you,” Chevalier told financial daily Les Echos.

The proposal has gained support in some quarters, however. President of the ‘Fédération des Conseils de Parents d’Élèves’ (Federation of councils for the parents of school pupils), Jean-Jacques Hazan told BFMTV that he welcomed the minister’s idea.

“Nobody can afford to go away on holidays for eight or nine weeks,” he said. “And it’s a social reality that more than 3 million children never actually do,” added Hazan.

Peillon has had a frosty relationship with teachers’ unions lately, over his plans to increase their working week from four to four and a half school days – a move which has led to nationwide strikes by French schoolteachers.

Later in his TV appearance on Sunday, Peillon backtracked, denying that he had said he wanted to cut the holidays, and adding "six weeks holidays is the ideal model, but we'll have to have a long period of consultation."

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

EDUCATION

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.

SHOW COMMENTS