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SCHOOLS

Coronavirus: ‘Closing French schools was right move, but parents are not ready’

The leading teaching union in France has backed the government's decision to close all schools to stem the spread of the coronavirus and had some advice for parents.

Coronavirus: 'Closing French schools was right move, but parents are not ready'
Schools close in France as of Monday, as part of a government effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the country. AFP

Francette Popineau, spokesperson of the country’s largest teacher’s union, FSU-Snuipp told The Local on Friday that she welcomed President's Emmanuel Macron's announcement that all schools would close “until further notice” on Monday March 16th.

“This is the right response,” she said. “We know that other countries that have closed their schools have managed to stem the spread of the epidemic, so we support this decision.”

It remains unclear how long schools in France will stay closed for with minister suggesting “at least two weeks” or until the spring holidays that begin in stages in early April. 

Because France's spring holidays have different timings for different parts of the country that could mean schools in some areas of the country remain closed until April 18th.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Friday that he expects exams to go ahead in the summer.

Working parents, who will now have to look after their children at home, remain confused about their rights.

But France's Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said all parents  with children under 16-years-old in nurseries or schools who cannot work from will have the right to sick pay.

She reminded parents there was no need to go to the doctor for a sign sick note (arrêt maladie) but that it would be declared by the employer.

She also said the sick pay would begin immediately, rather than after three days which is the norm for private sector workers.

However parents in France now face the question of what to with their children over the coming weeks, especially those who will have to continue working from home at the same time.

READ ALSO: 'The last day when everything will be normal' – parents in France braced for school closures

'This won't be a break'

Union leader Popineau said France was not ready to have virtual online classrooms.

“Organising virtual classrooms would require all parents having access to a computer and a webcam. It's a very complicated process. We don’t have the tools necessary, and teachers haven’t been trained to do it,” she said.

“But this will not be a break. Teachers will send over tasks for the children to do at home to keep them busy. It’s important that these tasks are tailored so that the children are able to do them autonomously, without depending on their parents.”

“Parents they have a responsibility to make sure that the children complete the tasks that their teachers have sent over, but we don't expect to transform into teachers. We don't want them to either, as they don't have the capacity or the pedagogical means necessary.”

And her advice for parents

“It's important that parents use this occasion to learn together with their children at home,” she said.

“There are many things parents can do with their children, like playing board games to develop their children's strategic thinking and skills, using audio books or documentaries, or sing together.”

You can find the latest information on the coronavirus situation in France here.

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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