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Summer holidays may lose 2 weeks

Primary pupils to get longer school year as education minister looks to improve schooling

SCHOOL holidays for primary-age children may be cut under plans to increase the number of teaching days from the present 144 to 180 a year.

Education Minister Vincent Peillon will wait until the end of a national consultation on schooling on October 1 but has already said he favours cutting the present nine-week summer holiday, which is amongst the longest in Europe.

This, tied with the extension in late 2013 of the school week from the present four days to four-and-a-half, will be a big step towards his goal.

French primary children are at the lower end of the scale for days in school and the new plan would push them nearer to the European average.

Education psychologist François Testu said that cutting the holidays would be a bad idea for the pupils as they needed the break to "discover new things and friends away from school".

Peillon said during a TV interview that his proposals had already been criticised by the tourism industry - which has seen business down 5% this year - but he said the changes were vital for the children's future and he would look at zoning the holidays to help.

This would use three academic zones like the February holidays and eke out the summer for tourist businesses between July 1 and August 31 - with a four week common period between July 15 and August 15.

The new 4.5-day school week will start from the rentrée in 2013 and a poll by parents federation Peep said parents backed children going to school on Wednesday mornings rather than a return to Saturday morning school. In all, 75% of those polled agreed.

Other changes to the school day could come out of the national consultation which has heard calls for cutting it from the present six hours - which children find tiring - to a four-and-a-half hour day.

However, nothing will change quickly and Peillon said that if it needs three years to introduce the changes then "we will give it three years".
Photo: Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

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