Less than two months after he had publicly promised there would be “a teacher in front of each class in all schools in France”, Minister of Education Pap Ndiaye was to visit a dedicated recruitment office in Créteil, greater Paris, on Tuesday, to see how education officials are working to ease the acute teacher shortage.
The office was set up by the Créteil academic rectorate to respond quickly to requests from schools to allow the best conditions for students on their return.
Créteil’s move is being repeated across the country, and is being scrutinised by unions and education professionals, amid a potentially serious teaching crisis heading into the new school year.
“The start of the new school year is taking place in a particular context of teacher recruitment,” the Ministry of Education has conceded.
According to the Ministry’s figures, 4,000 teaching positions in primary and secondary education were not filled this year despite various recruitment drives. The number of primary school teaching posts filled at the start of the school year was 83.1 percent, according to official figures, compared to 94.7 percent last year.
At collège and lycée level, a total 83.4 percent of teaching posts are filled, compared to 94.1 percent the previous year. But the shortfall is not uniform across teaching disciplines. Only 55 percent of German language teaching posts are filled, along with 66.7 percent of physics and chemistry posts, and 68.5 percent of maths teacher jobs.
“It is a catastrophic year for recruitment,” the president of the national union of high schools and colleges told franceinfo, while the general secretary of the Snes-FSU estimated on France Inter that the country was “close to a state of emergency in national education”.
Low morale and low salaries in the teaching profession are in part to blame for the exodus of talent, but stricter rules, which came into force this year, on who can take teaching exams are also limiting the number of new recruits, experts have said.
Gabriel Attal, Minister Delegate in charge of Public Accounts, confirmed this summer that national education will benefit from a €3.6 billion increase in funding to plug the gap.
“We have the ambition to rethink the teaching profession in a broad way. This cannot be done in the space of a summer,” Ndiaye told MPs in early August.
But that does not solve the acute situation heading into the new school year.
In Créteil and Versailles, where the teaching crisis is particularly severe, substitute teachers are being brought in on short-term contracts. In Versailles, 400 contractual staff have been renewed and 600 new contractual teachers were to be recruited for the new school year.