Education International
Education International

France: Teachers mobilise to expand priority education as government looks to cut

published 28 November 2016 updated 30 November 2016

French teachers are preparing to strike on 29 November to demand the government to expand the list of priority education secondary schools, which are set to be reduced.

Staff of priority education secondary schools in France will go on strike on 29 November at the call of the inter-union SNES-FSU, SNUEP-FSU, SNEP-FSU, SNFOLC, SNETAA-FO, CGT Educ'action and SUD education.

The unions are opposing the removal of upper secondary education schools, known as lycées, from the priority education map implemented in 2014. The move is being made despite the union’s work to highlight the difficulties experienced by these lycées and their demands that the latter be kept in priority education. Secondary schools in priority education zones, recognised as areas of disadvantage, are being given additional resources.

Resources vital

In an open letter to French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the unions insist that the situation of the lycées is no different from that of the collèges, France's lower secondary schools, because the same economic, social and educational issues are also present in the lycées.

The trade unions asked the minister “to urgently extend the safeguard clauses to all colleagues but also to the resources granted to the priority education lycées for the coming school terms. This is essential to improve the staff’s working conditions and the students’ learning conditions.”

The unions have also called for dialogue about expanding the priority education map to include general, technological and vocational lycées, based on national and transparent criteria and on the needs of institutions.

A failure to act

The expected 29 November strike follows a similar mobilisation on 17 November in response to a call from the regional interunion association and several academic sections of the Syndicat National des Enseignements de Second Degré (SNES-FSU).The first strike day demanded the urgent establishment of an expanded list of priority education upper secondary schools. The unions say that these actions are in response to what they say is a  failure of the Minister of National Education to act on a 2015 commitment to create a new list of priority education secondary schools based on transparent criteria.

SNES-FSU: List of demands

“Secondary schools no longer being part of priority education would worsen inequalities, and considerably impact on studying and teaching conditions for students and staff. Economic and social difficulties do not end in primary schools,” warned SNES-FSU General Secretary Frédérique Rolet. “In the context of continuing economic crisis, education must be the favoured means of fighting inequalities at all levels.”

The SNES-FSU reaffirmed that general, technical and vocational secondary schools all have a place in priority education, and demands:

·         An expanded list of priority education secondary schools based on need and which gives rise to specific timetables, enabling a significant reduction in the number of pupils per classroom

·         A strengthening of multi-professional teams

·         Allocation of compensation and maintained career bonuses for teaching staff

SNES video: “For an expanded list of priority education secondary schools”

SGEN-CFDT: Unworkable scheme

The Syndicat général de l'éducation nationale(CFDT) believes the current system is unworkable given how it has evolved over time, according to the union’s general secretary, Catherine Nave-Bekhti.

Some secondary schools are managed under the national education scheme, others under the municipal's policy - as is the case for the 58 secondary schools in “sensitive areas”. Others yet fall under several schemes. In addition, each categorisation provides different benefits: additional hours to limit the number of students per classroom, or working in half-groups, tutoring, projects, allowances, benefits for transfers and careers.