TOMORROW sees pupils going back to school across France and the new five-day primary school week brought in across the board.
However in a few communes there are pockets of resistance against the changes, being led by right-wing mayors who oppose the Socialist government’s reforms.
Some four thousand communes brought in the changes last year, ending the four-day week and bringing back another half-day of school, usually on Wednesday mornings (or in some cases Saturdays).
This week sees the remaining 20,000 communes with primary schools follow suit.
The changes followed claims by various experts that children were too tired because of the longer classroom hours per day that the previous system involved. However they do not necessarily mean less time on school premises on school days, as schools are being asked to organise more extra-curricular activities.
However opponents have claimed that, on the contrary, the extra day is tiring, and is disruptive to previous arrangements for children’s out-of-school activities.
The Essonne department in the Ile-de-France is reported to be notable for the number of rebellious mayors – around 30 communes there are said to be opposed to the change.
The mayor of Yerres, also leader of right-wing party Debout la République – Nicolas Dupont-Aignan – has ordered padlocks to be placed on the school doors. The mayor of another commune, Janvry, Christian Schoettl, has invited children and staff to go out on a “big coach outing”, instead of attending school.
Mr Schoettl claims several hundred communes around France – out of some 4,000 (from a total 37,000) that have noted their disapproval - may actively oppose the change.
However new Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told Le Monde that the new system was obligatory, and any communes opposing it were just harming the children’s interests.
“In the vast majority of communes this reform is no longer contested and organisation problems have been overcome through dialogue,” she said.
She added: “If mayors do not make sure the law is respected then the prefects will do it for them. There will be no exceptions to children’s right to schooling in our republic.”
Ms Vallaud-Belkacem added that her priorities will now include improvements to marking, which should aim more at “stimulating the pupils instead of discouraging them”, and making schools more welcoming to parents. She said reforms of the collège stage will follow the changes in primary school.