French government announce return to school plans

Bordeaux school integrates pupils

The French government has released details of how it plans to reopen the country’s schools when confinement ends on May 11.

The return to school, which covers primary and secondary levels, will begin in the week confinement is lifted, but will be staggered across the month.

The plan, announced yesterday by the Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, will see a gradual reopening from May 11 onwards.

Details include class sizes of a maximum 15 children to ensure social distancing, while all schools must meet prescribed hygiene conditions or they will not be allowed to reopen.

The plan is:

  • Week commencing May 11: Ecole maternelle children aged 5-6 (grande section); école élémentaire  pupils aged 6-7 (CP) and aged 10-11 (CM2). Class sizes will adhere to the strict 15 pupils maximum. Monday will be reserved for teachers only with pupils in from Tuesday.
  • Week commencing May 18: Collège: Students aged 11-12 (sixième) and students aged 14-15 (troisème); lycée students aged 16-18 (terminale and première) will start classes. Students at lycée professionnels will immediately start with industrial workshops.
  • Week commencing May 25: All classes will reopen with a ceiling of 15 students per class. 

For students who board, there has not yet been any information on how the return will be implemented.

Informing members of the Committee of Culture and Education, the minister said: “For the children aged 3-4 in (petite and moyenne) at école maternelle, the objective is that all classes are back by June.”

It is expected these maternelle classes will have no more than 10 pupils.

The minister added: “We have yet to define numbers for primary school and for secondary education, but this ceiling could be, for example, 15 pupils.

“There would not be a single class which would have more than 15 students during this period, which would amount to making a half-group with an existing class."

Mr Blanquer insisted the government’s plan can be adopted to suit the needs at local level, and the minister was clear that if parents do not want to send their child to school, that is permitted, but they will have to follow remote learning if so.

The minister added: "The national doctrine is clear, but there is room for manoeuvre at the local level with regard to how these methods are adapted. These are broad principles but there will be a lot of local flexibility.”

As schools reopen, it will be a priority to continue with measures to prevent any potential impact of Covid-19 returning, which could include the wearing of masks.

Mr Blanquer added: “If the sanitary conditions are not met, the school will not reopen. The policy regarding masks and tests will be determined by the advice of the health authorities.”

He confirmed that further consultation is planned with the relevant authorities.

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