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Why were some classes closed after the start of the school year?

Noémie* returned like everyone else on Thursday 1 September at the Pyramide school in Puteaux. A week later, her mother receives an e-mail from the principal informing her that the teacher has been transferred to another institution, and therefore her class has been closed. “After this incomprehensible announcement, I picked up my daughter in tears,” she proves. “After these months of distancing or closing classes due to Covid, she was finally able to find some stability at school and overnight she finds herself without a teacher.”

An exceptional case, however, according to the Ministry of National Education, which estimates that it is several dozen classes. “There are 44,000 primary schools in France, which corresponds to the number of schools in Germany, Italy and Spain combined. The network is extremely fine and distribution is necessarily more complicated to manage. There are always problems, movements of pupils who pass through the networks of academies,” we are told. The ministry also reports that it is witnessing a “demographic decline of primary school pupils”, meaning a reduction in the number of pupils in these classes.

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Surprising families and teachers

It remains that these few unforeseen closures have something to anger some. Misunderstanding on the part of the family. “The class was open this summer, we didn’t expect it to close when the school year started,” confides mom Noémie. “We hear that we are short of teachers, how can we hope to attract the professions when people at the academic level are treated like pawns?” At a time when the school is going through a recruitment crisis, with the vacancy rate at 83.1% compared to 94.7% last year, last-minute teacher walkouts are not happening.

In Puteaux, parents are showing their anger with strong actions outside the school, an online petition and a rally outside the town hall. The mayor combined his voice with the voice of the families and the teaching staff of the pyramid school. In a letter addressed to the academic director, she stated that “this closure of the class after the beginning of the school year disrupts the entire organization of the school and especially worries the children” and “asks for the reopening of the class”. Anger is also spreading in Seine-et-Marne, where two schools have suffered classroom closures, La Marne reports. Here, too, parents mobilized to express their displeasure, in vain.

“Conditional” class opening

Do it yourself, but according to the ministry it is necessary. Budget allocations and workforce forecasts occur around January. Most classroom openings or closings are decided months before the start of the school year, but some, called “conditional,” are temporary to allow room for possible adjustments before the start of the school year. “We are aware of the difficulties this brings to families and teachers. But we have no other option, given that there are always last-minute moves, until the last moment to confront our forecasts with reality. And sometimes it requires reorganizing things, even if the beginning of the school year has already been,” the Ministry of National Education told us.

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For their part, the teachers’ unions blame the strike. “This phenomenon exists every year, admits Audrey Lalanne, national delegate of the UNSA Teachers’ Union. It is no less difficult to deal with: the closing of a class is always the heart that turns a school upside down”, continues the trade unionist, for whom “the vacancies are far from enough.” Departmental secretary of the union CFDT general nationwide education, Chloé Muller goes even further: ” Children are being tested by the health crisis, they are falling behind in learning.In my opinion, this particular start of the school year should be better taken into account and a decision made to provide more resources to the facilities so that the classroom is not closed this year.

*Name has been changed.

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