School holidays in France: The dates you need to know

The new school year is about to begin in France but parents are already unhappy about some of the planned holiday dates.

School holidays in France: The dates you need to know
Photo: AFP

French parents (or at least those that work full time) often express their frustration about the number of school holidays, due to the difficulties in taking time off or finding someone to look after their offspring.

And just days before kids go back to school in France, parents are already expressing their disquiet, not so much over the sheer number of holidays (because they have more or less accepted that now) but over some of the dates.

The most controversial break this year is the annual La Toussaint (All Saints) holiday, which will take place from Wednesday October 19th until pupils return to classes on Thursday November 3rd.

The fact the two-week break begins and ends in the middle of the week has drawn criticism from parents who claim this oddly timed holiday will prove difficult to coordinate.

“The positioning of these holidays right in the middle of the week creates real disruption, notably for boarding school students,” a spokesperson from France’s Parents Federation (Federation des Conseils de Parents d’Elèves) told BFMTV.

Tourist industry chiefs have also expressed frustration because they fear the dates of the break will discourage families from going away.

With holiday rentals typically offered from Saturday to Saturday, there are also worries that the tourist industry may suffer from these inconvenient holiday dates.

Thierry Grégoire, a representative from French hotel group UMIH, told Europe 1 that “this makes no sense economically”.
However, government officials continue to defend their calendar, with Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem saying “55 organisations did not have anything to say about the Toussaint holiday”.
The minister added that holiday dates intend to strike the right balance between an “effective rhythm of learning” and “vital resting time” for students.
“It was decided in collaboration with parent organisations, trade unions and tourist organisations.”
The ministry explained that the current plan ensures that there are never more than seven weeks of school between each holiday.
For the winter and spring holidays, the amount of time between each break varies from 5 to 7 weeks depending on the school’s geographical zone.
France's school calendar is fixed for three academic years. The Education Ministry is in charge of deciding the schedule, alongside the interior, transport, tourism and agriculture ministries. 

Below is the full list of school holidays for the academic year 2016-2017:

Toussaint holidays : Wednesday 19th October to Thursday 3rd November 

Christmas holidays: Saturday 17th December – Tuesday 3rd January

Winter break:

-Zone A (Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon, Poitiers): Saturday 18th February – Monday 6thMarch

-Zone B (Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Caen, Lille, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, Strasbourg): Saturday 11th February – Monday 27th February

-Zone C (Créteil, Montpellier, Paris, Toulouse, Versailles) : Saturday 4th February – Monday 20th February

Spring break :

-Zone A (Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon, Poitiers): Saturday 15th April – Tuesday 2nd May

-Zone B (Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Caen, Lille, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, Strasbourg) : Saturday 8th April – Monday 24th April

– Zone C (Créteil, Montpellier, Paris, Toulouse, Versailles): Saturday 1st April –Tuesday 18th April

Ascension day: This year, students will not be guaranteed the Friday and Saturday morning off following Ascension Thursday.

Summer holidays: Saturday July 8th to Friday September 1st.

by Fatima Al-Kassab

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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.