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French teachers walk out in a second nationwide strike

The Local France
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French teachers walk out in a second nationwide strike
A demonstrator wears a banner with a slogan reading "So teachers don't work, right?" during a rally after a call for strikes and protests by teaching unions over pay and work conditions, in Lyon, central-eastern France, on February 1, 2024. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

Unions have called for teachers to walk out again this Thursday, less than a week after another nationwide industrial action saw one in five teachers strike.

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Just a few days after last week's strike, which saw at least 20 percent of teachers across France walk out, educators are staging another one-day protest.

Three of the largest teaching unions, Snes-FSU, CGT Éduc’Action and Sud Éducation, called on workers to walk out on Tuesday, February 6th.

The single-day strike is in protest against poor working conditions, low salaries, and a general disapproval of the new education minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra.

This round of protests is also against reforms announced by France's previous education minister (and current PM) Gabriel Attal, who called for 'clash of knowledge' (choc des savoirs) measures which would stream students in early secondary school (6ème and 5ème) into different levels based on ability in French and mathematics.

The proposal to set up level groups will be presented to France's consultive body on education, the Higher Council on Education, on Thursday.

There will be a protest starting at 2pm in Paris, moving from the Place de la Sorbonne (in the 5th arrondissement) and heading towards the Ministry of Education.

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Five large unions representing teachers are also now calling for a "week of action" from February 5th to 9th in an effort to "defend state schools, demand the start of discussions on salaries and to abandon the 'knowledge shock' measures".

In France, primary school teachers must give 48 hours notice before walking out, while secondary school teachers are not required to give any notice. 

During last week's strike, the ministry of education estimated that 17 percent of its staff overall walked out, including 20 percent of teachers. According to unions, like Snes-FSU, 47 percent of staff in secondary education walked out, and 40 percent of primary school educators did as well.

What is the controversy related to the Minister of Education?

During an interview in mid-January, Oudéa-Castera referenced teacher absenteeism when explaining why she had chosen to send her children to private schools.

She said it was because of "loads of teaching hours without a serious replacement" teacher at her son's public school.

Speaking to reporters on her first visit to a school as minister, she said she had been "fed up, like hundreds of thousands of families" across France.

All three sons of Oudea-Castera have instead attended the Stanislas school, a Catholic institution near her home in Paris. The minister later apologised for her comments.

Teachers have also expressed frustration over the fact that the new education minister is also the head of the ministry of sport and 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Guislaine David, the head of the FSU-Snuipp union, told AFP last week that the minister's comments "set things on fire". 

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