Covid-19 in French schools: What are the rule changes from Monday?

Pupils work in the classroom of an elementary school in Lyon, on the first day of the French school year.
The rules will change for primary schools in France. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP
France's education minister has made changes to the Covid-19 protocol in French schools, which are aimed at keeping as many classes open as possible.

What are the current rules on class closures?

Up until now primary school classes across France have closed for seven days with pupils forced to continue learning from home if one case of Covid-19 is reported. Any pupil testing positive must self-isolate for 10 days.

If secondary school pupils – who being over the age of 12 are eligible to be vaccinated – are infected, all unvaccinated students in the class are required to self-isolate for 7 days. Those who are vaccinated can return to class if they show a negative test.

But on Thursday the country’s Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced that from Monday 29th November there would be a change in policy for primary schools and maternelles.

What are the new rules in primary and infant schools?

Under the new system, if a Covid-19 case is reported by one pupil, the other pupils in the class would then need to take a test. Those who return a negative result will be allowed to go back to school straight away.

Any pupil who tests positive will have to isolate for 10 days as is currently the case.

The tests would be carried out by families, rather than in schools. They could be either PCR or antigenic and would be free.

“The new measure from next week is designed to protect our students and fellow citizens. There will no longer be systematic closures of classrooms. Only students showing a negative test will be able to go back to class,” said Blanquer.

While second tests after seven days are not obligatory for primary school children (they are for unvaccinated secondary school pupils) the education minister strongly advises parents to undertake them.

A class will close completely however if it emerges there are three positive cases are uncovered over a period of seven days. This would occur if following the original positive case,  two other pupils test positive. 

Children aged 11 (6eme) will also be given two self-tests per week to be carried out at home. They will not be obligatory.

The current health protocol in schools, which is at level 2, remains in place meaning mixing of pupils is limited, contact sports are banned and barrier gestures enforced.

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The minister said that there were currently 8,500 classes closed across France meaning tens of thousands of pupils were out of school. The Covid incidence rate among 6 to 11 year-olds has risen sharply in recent days.

At the height of the third wave of the pandemic last spring over 12,000 classes were closed.

France has made it a priority to try to keep classes and schools open during the Covid pandemic. Apart from the enforced closures during the first wave in spring 2020, schools have remained largely open apart from a slightly extended spring holiday last year.

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