Education International
Education International

France: Improving working conditions for trainee teachers

published 11 December 2012 updated 14 December 2012

The Syndicat National des Enseignements de Second Degré (SNES-FSU), organised a week of action for trainees which took place between 26th and 30th November. Trainees are men and women who have passed the national competitive recruitment examination and must complete a year as a trainee teacher before they are given tenure.

An SNES-FSU - an EI national affiliate in France - survey in October aimed at trainee teachers and completed by 400 people revealed that it is very difficult for trainee teachers and school leaders to join the profession.

Situation of trainee teachers gives rise for concern

The survey reports that– the fact that qualifications in foreign languages and IT can now be demanded for gaining tenure in all disciplines is causing trainees extra anxiety. Almost half of all those who have passed the competitive examinations to enter the profession do not have these qualifications.

The results show that the trainee year is not a year of training and even discourages some trainees from taking up careers in teaching and education. Furthermore, an allowance of 3 hours’ non-contact time for teachers, 6 hours for principal educational advisors and a weekly training day have not improved the situation, according to the SNES-FSU.

SNES-FSU also believes that more jobs are needed to ensure the continuity of education as a public service.

Support needed to retain trainee teachers

Giving trainees more time to deepen their professional training has both a financial cost and a cost in terms of the number of hours worked. The government wants to fill all posts vacated by staff taking retirement. Without taking the urgent steps demanded by the SNES-FSU in June, it will only have future trainees and those eligible for the competitive examination  at its disposal to perform teaching duties and ensure that the 2013 autumn term 'goes well'.

It is the union’s opinion that the government, like its predecessors, believes that taking full responsibility for a class constitutes training. No thought is given to pupils who are taught only by students or trainees throughout the year, i.e. professionals without full qualifications. The SNES is demanding that secondary school teachers and school leaders are recruited during the second year of a Masters qualification based on a competitive exam recognising a highly qualification in their field.

It would also like university students wishing to become teachers or principal educational advisors to have the opportunity to take additional pre-professionalisation modules allowing them to approach their discipline from both an academic and professional perspective. These modules would include observation periods and supervised practice to ensure that the programmes of study are not purely theoretical.

During the course of their  training, the SNES-FSU believes that trainees should be able to allocate a third of their time to teaching practice, a third of their time to observation and discussion with their tutor and a third of their time to theory (with a focus on teaching their subject and class management). The tutor should furthermore be trained and discharged of some of their classes, which would then be taken by the trainee so that the tutor can supervise him/her.

Unions must help to attract and keep teachers in the profession

“EI acknowledges the critical role played by student teachers, teacher tutors and advisors and junior researchers,  in forging children’s and student’s futures in the education sector and in shaping the future of teaching unions and the profession as a whole”, stated EI Secretary General Fred van Leeuwen.

He added: “While intensive recruitment of teachers is crucial to achieving the Goals of Education for All by 2015, teachers should be given a high standard of training to ensure they embark successfully on their careers and stay in the profession. In particular, this requires a good working environment as well as support and guidance from more experienced colleagues.”

For further information on the SNES survey on trainee teachers (in French), please click here