What changes about schools in France from this September

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What changes about schools in France from this September
It's back to school on Monday for 12 million pupils in France. Photo: AFP

La rentrée or the return to school is here and there are a few changes to France's education system this year that you should know about.


Some 12 million school pupils will return to classrooms across France on Monday for what's known in French as la rentrée.

After around two months off for the summer holidays the pupils at écoles maternelles, primaires, colleges and lycées will once again be back in front of their teachers.

But there will be a few changes this September that will impact many pupils. Here's a rundown.

Class sizes cut

The move to cut class sizes for primary school children aged six to seven in disadvantaged parts of French cities and towns will continue in September.

The flagship reform which was an election promise by President Emmanuel Macron was initially put in place last September in certain high priority areas, but will now be rolled out in more unprivileged suburbs. 

The reform saw the government force schools in high-priority zones to divide their classes into two for children aged six to seven. 

Instead of a maximum 24 pupils, there should be 12 or less per teacher. 

In all around 2,500 classes nationwide will be targeted by the reform, meaning roughly 30,000 children will eventually benefit from the special treatment.

From September, the initiative will also be expanded in the same high-priority zones to a second school year, for pupils aged seven to eight, meaning 5,600 classes will take part.

The aim is to correct one of the biggest failings of the French public education system: the gap in achievement between children from poor and 
wealthier backgrounds.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer is yet to unveil any results of the change, but he claims the feedback has been "more than excellent".

No mobile phones at schools

Before the summer French MPs reached an agreement to ban mobile phones for all three tiers of French education (primary, middle and high school) from September onwards, except if they are used for educational purposes.

Teachers have been calling for the ban to curtail a growing distraction in classrooms, with nearly nine out of ten French teens aged 12 to 17 now owning a smartphone.

Besides cutting down on screen time, the bill also aims to protect children from dangerous online content such as violence or pornography, as well as cyberbullying.

It also makes it easier for teachers to confiscate phones if necessary.

Each school will decide how to apply the ban, for example by making students hand them over when entering school premises or requiring them to keep them turned off in their backpacks.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer had defended the government's plan in June as "a law for the 21st century" and the "technological revolution".

Critics have called the bill a "purely cosmetic" attempt at resolving the battle schools face against mobile phones, pointing out that schools already have the option of banning phones.

Primary schools return to four days

September will once again see a change to the primary school timetable at many schools across the country.

That's because education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has given primary schools around the country the option of returning to a four day week.

A previous reform brought in in 2013 extended the school week from four days to four and half which meant pupils were in the classroom on Mondays Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays as well as half a day on either Wednesday or Saturday morning.

But that reform proved unpopular especially in many rural areas and the education minister believes that in September some 60 percent of schools will scrap the half day on Wednesdays or Saturdays and return to a four day week.

That might mean good news for town halls, which are in charge of running primary schools, due to the money they will save, and teachers are believed to be in favour, but it might not be good news for pupils.

France has been criticised by the OECD think tank for the negative impact long school days have on young pupils.

Tests for primary school pupils

Six to seven year old pupils in the first year of primary school, known as CP will be tested in French and Maths in September and again in February.

The tests will last only 20 minutes and, according to the minister are designed to give teachers a better idea of the individual needs of children so they can adapt their teaching accordingly. 

Seven to eight year-old pupils in the next year up (CE1) will also be tested in the same subjects but only in September.

Parents will be told the results.




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