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French teachers to strike over August return

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French teachers to strike over August return
Teacher's have called a strike over working in the sacred holidays month of August. Photo:Moyen Brenn/Flickr
17:53 CET+01:00
Summer holidays are sacred in France and even more so it seems for French teachers. One union has called for a strike after the government did the unthinkable and timetabled the start of the autumn term before the end of August.

Even though back to school for autumn 2014 is a full six months away—and school isn’t even out yet—the first strike of the next school year has already been called.

The members of the national union of secondary and high school teachers (Sydicat National des Lycées et Collèges) sent out warning on Wednesday of the strike pencilled in for the end of August. This time its not about pay cuts or a lack of funding, but a decision to make them to return to school after the summer holidays, in the sacred holiday month of August.

The government has rewritten the school calendar so that teachers have to be back on August 29. Bearing in mind August is traditionally the month when the whole country pretty much shuts down and everyone goes to the beach, the move has not gone down well with in staff rooms.

Union chiefs say the government tampering with their holidays was the final straw.

“In vulgar worlds you could say they are sick and tired of it. Teacher are always asked to do more,” the union's vice president Albert-Jean Mougin told The Local. “There has been this constant nibbling at all that could have been the “benefits” of this career. It’s a symbolic line.”

According to the union the demands on teachers have only grown in recent years. It was once enough to teach, but now they having to be social workers, career counsellors and foster parents.  

“Very seriously speaking, while the teachers in France are firstly asked to transmit knowledge, they are increasingly asked to things outside this domain,” Mougin said. “We have a profession that is worn out and that is in position that is materially worse and worse.”

Teachers aren’t the only ones upset about the new calendar, which was made public on January 24. Ski industry workers are also up in arms about the dates. They believe the spring holidays are too late in the year for skiers to catch the snow, so families wil be put off, thus affecting their jobs.

Parents have also complained that the length of time between breaks is far from the ideal of seven weeks of classes and two weeks off. For example the kids in Zone A, which includes much of the west of France, will do 10 weeks of classes before they get a rest.

The government hasn’t said much so far about all this, but Education Minister Vincent Peillon has said previously he might be OK with a change for the 2015 calender.

If discussions “bring us to a modification, then we will make a change,” he told French daily Le Figaro in September 2013. 

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