France fully reopens its schools – but do parents really have to send their children back?

Monday June 22nd marks the day that France's schools fully the reopen for all pupils - the final stage of a phased reopening that began in May. But what are the rules for parents?

France fully reopens its schools - but do parents really have to send their children back?
Photo: AFP

French schools were shut down on March 16th, the day before the country went into lockdown, although in areas that had high levels of Covid-19 cases many local authorities had already closed schools.

As the country began to emerge from its strict two-month lockdown, schools were among the first things that reopened on May 11th – albeit only for a very few pupils.

The gradual and phased reopening began with primary schools then moved to secondary schools in June, but strict limits on class sizes meant that many pupils were only attending part time, while some parents opted to continue with home schooling.

But from June 22nd, schools reopen fully and attendance is compulsory.

Here's a look at the main points:

Minimum space requirements have been relaxed. This is the big change that has allowed schools to run full classes again. Previously they needed to allow for 4m sq of space per pupil, which limited class sizes even without the maximum class size limit. This has now been relaxed to 1m sq per pupil, allowing most schools to resume full classes again. The maximum class size of 15 (10 in nurseries) has also been scrapped.

There are still strict hygiene measures in place, with hand-washing and hand gel use enforced and teachers keeping classes separate as far as possible. Many schools have also brought in new rules for parents doing the drop-off and collection.


Schooling is once again compulsory – during the early stages of lifting lockdown, it was up to parents whether they sent their children back. However, the education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said that authorities will not fine high-risk parents who don't want to send their children back to school.

Parents who fall into a high-risk Covid-19 group – for example those with severe asthma or people undergoing chemotherapy treatment – will not be fined, provided they are in communication with the school and come to an agreement to continue with home schooling.

“School principals won't chase up the parents, they won't waste their time keeping track of absent pupils or putting the matter up to a disciplinary board,” Jean-Rémi Girard, president of the National Union of High Schools and Colleges (SNALC), told LCI radio.

“At best they will call the parents on the first day of the child's absence from school, they will agree on a reason why, and it will stop there.”

Pupils who fall into high-risk categories can also obtain a medical certificate to stay off school.

The return to school is not a long one – it will last for two weeks in fact before schools break up for the summer holidays on July 4th.

France early on decided that the school year would not be altered and the eight-week summer holiday would continue as normal. Summer holiday clubs and activities which working parents often enrol their children into will go ahead as normal this year.

The government has defended the two-week return to school, saying it was crucial for schools to reestablish contact with pupils and their families before September and identify any pupils at risk.

Towards the beginning of the lockdown, the education ministry revealed that between five and eight percent of pupils had been 'lost' to the system – with no contact between schools and pupils or their parents and no online schoolwork completed.

President Emmanuel Macron was a strong component of reopening school as early as it was safe to do so, arguing that it was crucial for equality, as disadvantaged pupils would lose out on much more education that their middle class classmates during the lockdown.




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How to adopt a pet from a French animal shelter

Around 300,000 pets are abandoned every year in France, many of them during the summer months. So if you're looking for a pet there are many lovely cats and dogs in shelters looking for a good home - here's how to go about it.

How to adopt a pet from a French animal shelter

Where to look

French animal welfare charity the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) is an excellent place to start – it currently lists nearly 4,500 animals available for adoption. 

But there are lots of other smaller, local organisations – it may be worthwhile dropping in to see a local vet as they will generally know of local groups seeking homes for abandoned pets.

There will be paperwork

First-time buyers of cats or dogs have to sign a ‘certificate of commitment and understanding’ before they will be allowed to buy an animal, and the same applies to those looking to adopt. 

After the signed document is delivered to the authorities, future owners have seven days to change their mind – the idea is to prevent people from ‘impulsively’ buying or adopting pets only to abandon them later. 

The SPA, certainly, demands that would-be adopters are of legal age and are willing to take part in a “responsible adoption process”.

These things take time – as you should expect for a commitment that can last more than a decade. As the SPA website says, it seeks to ensure “that each decision is carefully considered and that the adopted animal matches its new family and way of life”.

The process may include home visits, interviews and discussions to help adopters find the animal to which they are best suited – older people may not cope well with an energetic puppy, for example.

READ ALSO What you need to know about owning a dog in France

Shelter animals

Some welfare organisations ensure their animals spend some time with ‘foster families’ until they are adopted. This means that the organisation has a pretty good idea how that animal is likely to behave when it gets to its new adopted home.

It is more difficult to judge an animal’s character if it has been kept in a pen in a shelter.

It will cost money

A financial contribution will most likely be requested by the organisation from which you are adopting. The sum will depend on the age and type of animal being adopted. 

The SPA, for example, asks for a donation to cover vets’ fees of between €250 and €300 for a dog, depending on its age, and €150 for a cat or a kitten.

Another well-known animal welfare organisation in France, Les Amis des Animaux, has a slightly different scale of fees covering the cost of chipping, vaccinations – including rabies/passport in mature animals, sterilisation, worming, et cetera. 

READ ALSO What you need to know about microchipping your pet in France

What else you need to know

Under French law, pet dogs – and cats and ferrets – over a certain age must be identified and registered on a national database. 

The animal must be identifiable by a tattoo or microchip – the latter is the most common method these days – that is registered on the Identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD) database

The procedure to insert the microchip, or ink the tattoo, must be carried out by an approved professional. The procedure should be done by a vet and costs between €40 and €70, the shelter will tell you whether your new pet already has a microchip or not.

You might not believe it if you have walked along certain streets in Paris, but you can be fined if you fail to pick up after your pet. 

The standard fine is €68, but the mayors of some towns have imposed stricter rules in the street, in parks, gardens and other public spaces. 

The French government’s Service Public website lists other rules regarding the health and wellbeing of pets. Read it here.