As French high schools (lycées) reopened on Monday after two weeks of rescheduled Easter holidays and two of remote learning, some pupils refused to re-enter the educational establishments.
Calling for the education ministry to cancel their final exams in June after a turbulent year due to the ongoing pandemic, teenagers pushed garbage cans and other objects in front of their schools to stage un blocus (a blockade) in protest.
[#Bac2021] A #Bayonne les élèves du lycée René Cassin se sont mobilisés aujourd’hui pour demander un bac en contrôle continu 📺 Reportage ce soir 18h50 @F3euskalherri et 19h @F3Aquitaine (cc @UNLnational ) pic.twitter.com/hx4FRb31a4
— Stéphanie Deschamps (@StephanieF3EH) May 3, 2021
The protest, labelled “BacNoir” (Black Bac), denounced Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer’s decision to maintain some of the baccalaureate exams, which the protesting pupils said would “increase inequalities” caused by the Covid-19 virus.
🔴+ de 100 lycées bloqués ce matin selon le @MNL_National.
— Peuple Révolté (@PeupleRevolte) May 3, 2021
“We are demanding the total cancellation of exams for all high schoolers,” five high school unions said in a joint statement, published on Twitter, where they asked to instead only use continuous assessment (contrôles continus) where pupils are graded based on their assessed work over the year.
Eighty-two percent of this year’s baccalaureate has already been replaced by continued evaluations.
📢 Les lycéens du général, du professionnel et les BTS se mobilisent contre le maintient du baccalauréat et des examens de BTS.
— Mouvement National Lycéen (@MNL_National) May 2, 2021
Some 100 high schools across France faced blockades in Monday’s protests, most of which passed off without clashes.
🔴Aujourd'hui à Bordeaux, Cherbourg ou Marseille, les lycéens se mobilisent pour réclamer le contrôle continu !
Ces #blocus visent à manifester notre colère après n'avoir pas été entendus ❌
— Mouvement National Lycéen (@MNL_National) May 3, 2021
In Aubervilliers, north of Paris, a police source confirmed to French daily Le Parisien a report that there had been fireworks thrown at police on Monday morning, but said no one was injured in the incident.
Plusieurs tirs de mortiers pendant le blocus du lycée d’Alembert à #Aubervilliers. Des dizaines d’élèves refusent toujours d’entrer dans l’établissement. #Bac2021 #BACNOIR #baccalauréat #Blanquer pic.twitter.com/dnzDlIZaaE
— Yazid Bouziar (@ybouziar) May 3, 2021
Some schools continued the protests on Tuesday morning, but the big day – according to high school unions – will be Wednesday, May 5th, when they are calling for a national day of blockades.
🇫🇷 FLASH – Tentative de blocage du collège-lycée #Balzac dans le 17e arrondissement de #Paris. Les forces de l’ordre étaient déjà présentes sur place. Les élèves réclament l’attribution du #Bac2021 en contrôle continu. (@ybouziar pour Mediavenir) #BacNoir pic.twitter.com/5xn2RCdxGp
— Mediavenir (@Mediavenir) May 4, 2021
“For 14 months now, we have been studying in terrible conditions, with long distance learning, cancelling of classes and a lack of teachers,” the unions’ statement said.
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It added that pupils were “anxious and vulnerable, and yet they are forced to come in thousands to take their exams inside the establishments.”
Blanquer on Monday said he was “open” to making changes to the exam period, but said he remained convinced that maintaining some tests would be in the pupils’ best interest.
“We will reevaluate again so that this becomes the best possible options for the pupils,” Blanquer told Europe 1.
— Infos Françaises (@InfosFrancaises) May 3, 2021
The government used continued evaluations last year when schools closed for months in spring as part of the first nationwide lockdown set up to halt the spread of Covid-19. During the second and third lockdowns schools largely remained open, with a rescheduled Easter holiday and two weeks of remote learning for older pupils.
Lycées have also been authorised to operate up to 50 percent of remote learning in areas with high infection rates.