Schools failing to cover absences

Parents and teacher unions report increasing difficulties in finding supply teachers to fill in when staff are off work

14 February 2012

SCHOOLS are said to be facing increasing difficulties with replacing teachers who are absent.

The Education Ministry states the latest figures show 97% of absences were covered last year in secondary school and 92% in primary.

However, leading parents’ federation FCPE says this is “a lie”.

Its president Jean-Jacques Hazan told France Info: “A report submitted to the ministry in 2010 showed that less than half of short-term absences were covered in 2009 in secondary school. How have we gone from that to 97%, I’d like to know?”

In reality, according to France Info, all local education authorities are being faced with replacement difficulties, with Paris and Lille the worst hit. It cited a primary school in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, where, yesterday, parents staged a sit-in at a school where maternelle (infants school) children have had no teacher for a month.

In Hauts-de-Seine disgruntled parents said a maths teacher absent since the start of January had only just been replaced. They said a “two-speed” education resulted as certain parents paid for private lessons so their children did not miss out.

There are said to be two factors contributing to the situation, firstly the government’s policy of cutting teacher posts: in 2006 the unions say there were 30,000 supply teachers, whereas there are now only half that number.

Secondly teaching is struggling to recruit – in some subjects there are not enough suitable candidates going for the teaching exams for the posts available. “Last year 376 maths teaching posts were not filled,” said Frédérique Rolet of teaching union Snes.

Snes is calling on the presidential candidates to improve teacher training and to pay students during the two years of masters studies that are required since a reform which came into play in 2010-2011.

It has also called for a rethink of that reform, which means teachers are recruited five years instead of three after the baccalauréat, and which has recently been subject to criticism in a report by public sector finance watchdog the Cour des Comptes.

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