Education International
Education International

France: the much-needed relaunch of secondary education

published 16 November 2012 updated 27 November 2012

The start of the 2012 school year, prepared mainly by the former administration (the Sarkozy government) has been a difficult one for secondary schools, owing to a lack of resources and the job cuts of recent years.

Thirty five thousand posts were lost in secondary schools during President Sarkozy’s five years in power, under a policy of non-replacement of one civil servant in two. These massive job cuts have left colleges and secondary schools severely stretched, affecting pupils, teaching staff and non-teaching staff alike. The combination of pupil numbers and job cuts (-6,550) has left its mark. Class sizes have risen in many cases to 28 or 30 pupils in colleges and 35 or more in secondary schools.

This policy has led to a severe recruitment crisis, hence the need to make jobs in education attractive once more. The urgent measures initiated since July – including job creation - taken by the new government, are a step in the right direction, albeit with limited scope. The choices to be made this autumn in terms of education policy and the budget will be decisive.

Special circumstances: the preparation of a new framework law and school programme

After 10 years of draconian policies, fatal to the education system, the staff and pupils of secondary schools and colleges are seeking a fresh outlook. And their expectations are high:  restoring the democratisation of the education system, combating social and geographic inequality, and a much-needed raising of standards in the training and skills of all young people. The future Schools Act envisaged by the government must meet those aspirations.

In July, the National Education Ministry launched a major consultation about what it termed the “rebuilding” of the school system. It has taken the form of workshops attended by trade union organisations, parents’ federations, education movements, associations, and public figures. It will be followed by a series of negotiations with staff representatives. This process should lead to the adoption of a new law at the beginning of 2013.

Campaign: The National Secondary Education Convention

This future framework law must meet one primary objective: to give the education system a future again. Secondary school staff must seize this opportunity to bring their views, demands and hopes to bear on this forthcoming framework law. The SNES has shouldered its responsibility as the majority trade union and has decided to give shape and form to this process.

That is the purpose of the National Secondary Education Convention launched in September by the SNES along with two other unions, the SNEP (physical education and sports teachers) and the SNUEP (teachers in vocational schools). The campaign consists of giving education staff their say so that they can draw up lists of demands in school establishments. In the first half of October, departmental and regional syntheses will be drawn up and delegates will be named to participate in the national synthesis day which will take place in Paris on 25 October. This day will close the National Secondary Education Convention and, at the beginning of November, an account of the national convention will be published for widespread distribution and media publicity.

By Odile Cordelier, National Secretary of the Syndicat national des enseignements de second degré-Fédération syndicale unitaire(SNES-FSU/France), and Vice-President of Education International’s regional structure in Europe, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE).