France looks set for another change to the school timetable

France could be set for yet more changes to the primary school timetable as Emmanuel Macron wants towns to decide on how many days a week pupils go to school.

France looks set for another change to the school timetable
Photo: AFP
Just like pretty much every president before him, Emmanuel Macron wants to change the primary school timetable.
Or at least he wants to give local mayors the power to do just that.
Macron intends to introduce a decree or “par ordonnance”, which will allow towns the chance to keep or abolish the timetable reform introduced by former minister Vincent Peillon in 2013, according to Le Parisien. 
Previously primary school pupils had no classes on Wednesday's, but Peillon's controversial reform shortened the school day and made classes compulsory on five days a week. Although on Wednesdays pupils only have lessons in the morning.
Teaching unions and town halls had protested the shift to a five day week, citing extra costs and organisational difficulties.
Macron wants to give town halls, which are in charge of primary school education the power to decide on whether to stick with the reform or revert to the old timetable.
Many mayors have suggested they are in favour of the flexibility.
Primary schools will also decide whether to keep or abolish extra-curricular activities that are in-part funded by the state until 2019 (except for in the poorest areas). 
Among other changes he hopes to introduce as part of his education programme are reduced class sizes for the youngest primary school students in priority areas, which will include allocating the funds to create the extra space necessary to bring in this change. 
Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly said that reforming education is one of his top priorities and his main aim is to give schools more individual power — a luxury currently only afforded to private schools in France — meaning that education will be less centralized. 
That would mean headteachers would be able to decide which teachers to recruit themselves rather than it being done by central education authorities. 
Most teaching unions have banded together against this “revolution”, arguing that if schools have the power to hire teachers then the best schools will attract the best talent and leave poorer schools worse off.
Macron also said during his campaign that he wants mobile phones banned from secondary schools (colleges).
Some of the changes could be implemented as early as autumn this year. 
Ten ways France must fix its 'failing' school system


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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.