Six unions called the national protest action – FSU, FO, SNCL, Sud Solidaires, CGT Education and Snalc which together represent around three quarters of the country's teachers – demanding better working conditions, higher salaries and protesting over the government’s education budget for 2021.
“The number of teachers is insufficient, they are much less paid and classes are busier than in other European countries,” the national union for teachers and professors, SNUIpp-FSU, wrote in a letter addressed to the parents.
A march took place in the centre of Paris and there were also numerous smaller protests around the country.
The education ministry put the percentage of teachers who had walked out at 11 percent, while the unions said between 30 and 40 percent of the country's teachers were on strike.
Teachers in France have long made their discontent regarding staff, resources and salaries known through protests and sporadic strike-actions, but their dissatisfaction with the current government seems to have grown during the pandemic.
More than three in four (77 percent) of the teachers asked by pollsters in December told the polling institute Ipsos that they did not believe their worries were “taken into consideration” by the education ministry.
More than four in five (81 percent) said they felt poorly or very poorly protected faced with the Covid-19 virus, according to a second survey conducted by FSU in December.
In September, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced a €400 million-package to bump up teachers' salaries across the country “starting from January”.
However, 69 percent of the country's teachers would not benefit from the measure, FSU said.
They also said the 2021 budget did not sufficiently take into consideration the extraordinary health situation, which forced schools to reduce the number of pupils per class.
“Parliament has adopted a budget that falls far short of the educational ambition our country needs,” said the FSU Union in a press statement they co-signed together with FO, SNCL, Sud Solidaires, CGT Education.
Nor did the budget consider “the state of fatigue of the staff, exhausted by years of deteriorating working conditions,” they wrote.
France has vowed to keep schools open despite the current Covid-19 health crisis, saying they will be the last establishments to close in order to stem the viral spread.