French schools to ramp up security with ‘mock attacks’

French schools will soon be forced to stage simulated attacks in a bid to prepare children for potential terror attacks, among other measures.

French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Photo: AFP
French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve have outlined their plan for new security measures in schools, ahead of the start of the school year next week.
The ministers revealed new security measures on Wednesday based upon three key principles: “Anticipate, get safe, know how to react”, part of a plan that was introduced after the November attacks in Paris. 
These measures included heightened security at the entrance of school buildings, limiting crowds at school gates and increased surveillance.
Wednesday's new proposals saw the creation of compulsory security exercises, including the simulation of a terrorist attack in schools for all children aged three and older.
The mock attacks will be turned into a game for the youngest children, reported Le Parisien newspaper, to ensure they don't associate the exercises with fear. 
Other measures to be introduced will be extensive training of head teachers in crisis situations in a bid to make their crowd control reaction a second nature in the event of an attack. 
Teachers will also get an update on their phones to ensure they receive any alert updates. This will be tested as soon as students and teachers go back to school in September.
The ministers added that these new measures would prepare teaching staff to react safely and smartly in the case of an attack.
The measures come just days after a French MP called on schools to impose a compulsory martial arts programme for students to help with the fear of terrorist attacks. 
Safety in schools has been treated as a priority ever since places of education were specifically named as a target by terrorists.  
Following the November attacks in Paris, the francophone propaganda magazine of Isis urged parents to “fight” and “kill” teachers of laïcité, the French value of secularism in public places.


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.