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EDUCATION

France reimposes mask rules in 39 areas as Covid cases rise

Faced with a slow but steady rise in the number of Covid cases, France has reimposed rules on face masks for primary school pupils in 39 areas of the country.

Primary-age school children in a class wearing facemasks to protect against the spread of the Covid-19 virus
Photo: Pascal Guyot / AFP

The rule on wearing masks in the classroom had been listed in recent weeks in many areas that had low Covid rates, but now 39 départements will be added to the list of 22 départements already exceeding the alert threshold to trigger additional school health measures, taking the total to 61.

The rule will be imposed when schools return from the Toussaint holidays on Monday.

Cases have risen since October 10th, when just 17 départements were above the alert threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 people.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal, speaking after the weekly Council of Ministers meeting at the Elysée Palace, said that the stricter measures would be imposed in schools in certain départements where cases had risen above 50 per 100,000.

The affected parts of the country will be officially revealed when the latest figures are published on Thursday evening.

These two maps, from Covidtracker’s Guillaume Rozier, show where cases are above 50 per 100,000, and where levels may be a week from now.

“From next week …  in the départements where the incidence rate has unfortunately stabilised above 50 per 100,000 inhabitants (…) the mask will again be made compulsory for children of schools concerned,” Attal said in his weekly press briefing.

“As we can alleviate measures of constraint, we will do it,” he added. “Obviously this principle is valid in both directions and as soon as the situation deteriorates, unfortunately, we must reactivate a certain number of measures,” he specified.

In total, 79 of France’s 101 départments had lowered restrictions in primary schools before the holidays in line with an improving health situation. Pupils in collège and lycée carried on wearing masks in the classroom.

For adults, the mask rules remain the same – masks are compulsory on all public transport and in any indoor public space which is not a health pass venue – this affects primarily shops, but masks remain compulsory in many workplaces.

Local authorities can also impose additional mask rules, last week authorities in Loire-Atlantique reimposed rules on mask-wearing outdoors in 68 communes.

Failure to abide by mask rules can net you a €135 fine.

Meanwhile, the number of people being hospitalised with Covid-19 is heading up again, Attal confirmed, but he said that France is experiencing a ‘rise’ in cases rather than a ‘surge’.

And he urged those eligible for a third ‘booster’ dose of vaccine to book an appointment. “Each booster dose is an additional protection against [Covid cases rising in] winter,” he said.

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EDUCATION

Fees to class sizes – what you need to know about private schools in France

In many countries, private schools are the preserve of the wealthy elite, but France has a wide network of private schools that are well within the financial reach of ordinary families - James Harrington explains more.

Fees to class sizes - what you need to know about private schools in France

The education system in France has its problems – at the start of the new school year some 4,000 teaching posts were unfilled and the government has launched an ‘emergency plan’ for English language lessons – but there’s no doubting there are wonderful schools and wonderful teachers making every effort to ensure children from aged three to 18 get the education they deserve.

However the country also has a sizeable network of private schools and around 15 percent of French children go to a private school. While some are undoubtedly expensive and elite, others are surprisingly affordable and provide an extra option for parents when deciding on  a school for their children.

Here’s what you need to know; 

Different types

There are two types of private school – sous contrat and hors contrat.

Sous contrat schools, of which there are about 7,500 in France, are part-funded by the state – teachers are paid by the Department of Education, for example – but also charge fees. France’s numerous Catholic schools, or regional language schools are usually sous contrat.

Hors contrat schools – which number about 2,500 – must still meet general education requirements but can choose their teaching methods and have no state funding. Private international schools found in most big cities, such as the American School of Paris, are hors contrat, but still follow mainstream teaching methods.

For comparison, there are around 60,000 state schools in France.

Prices

Yes, there are expensive private schools in France. Sending your child to the exclusive Ecole des Roches Private Boarding School, for example, will set you back more than €12,000 a term – not quite Eton or Winchester-level fees, but still well out of the reach of a large portion of the population. But, like Eton and Winchester, they’re not the norm. 

On average, fees for a day pupil – one who goes home at the end of the school day, rather than one who boards at the school – are in the region of around €2,250 a year. Meals are not included, and are generally charged at a slightly higher daily price than at state schools.

Financial aid, including scholarships, may be available for less well-off families.

READ ALSO French school canteens to cut cheese course as inflation bites

Boarding and hours

A large number of state and private schools offer Monday-Thursday boarding. It is not uncommon for pupils who excel at certain subjects or sports to attend collèges or lycées some distance from home, and board during the week.

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Daily school hours, meanwhile, are broadly similar, with children generally starting their school day at around 8am and finishing soon after 4pm on school days. Collège and lycée pupils also go into school on Wednesday mornings, and some may have classes on a Saturday, too.

Popularity

Smaller class sizes and a reputation for “better” results means that private schools are increasingly popular. The number of French private schools has increased steadily over the last decade, and now 15-20 percent of pupils go to a private establishment of some form. 

On the whole, private schools tend to do better in results league tables – perhaps in part because of the additional investment from parents, but also because class sizes tend to be smaller, which allows for more one-to-one education. Smaller class sizes and more individual attention mean they may also be a better option for children who struggle in big schools.

READ ALSO What kind of school in France is best for my kids?

Qualifications

State schools and sous contrat schools teach to the national curriculum, which leads, in turn, to brevet and baccalaureate qualifications.

In contrast, some hors contrat private schools offer different qualifications, including American High School Diplomas and SATs, British GCSEs and A-Levels, or the international baccalaureate.

Religion

Although many sous contrat schools are Catholic, most readily accept non-Catholic children and are not allowed to indoctrinate the Catholic faith. Hors contrat schools, on the other hand, may include a religious element to their teaching.

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