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Why 400 pupils are already at school

Children in Haute-Savoie have returned to classes a week ahead of everyone else - so they can go skiing this winter

WHILE millions of children across France are enjoying the final days of the grandes vacances before going back to school next week, 400 pupils living in the Haute-Savoie mountains are already in class.

Students at schools in Megeve, Combloux, Demi-Quartier and Praz-sur-Arly, as well as the town of Vallorcine, near Chamonix, headed back to school on Tuesday so that they can take to the ski slopes for eight Wednesday mornings this winter instead of going to school.

Following changes to the rhythmes scolaires, which come into force this September, schools needed special dispensation from the Ministry of Education to allow the children to take the time off to attend ski classes.

“Ski clubs operate mainly in the morning because the snow is better,” Marie-Anne Boüard, the head of Beauregard school in Combloux, told Nouvel Observateur.

“It's not just about playing sports: winter sports are important sources of employment for our youth,” added local MP Sophie Dion, who has long campaigned for the dispensation.

The early start to the school year to allow pupils to go to ski classes has met with the approval of parents. “It has meant a week less of day care,” Laetitia Gouttry, president of the Association of Parents of Beauregard School.

“Skiing is an institution here,” she added, saying it would be took dark to take children to the slopes after school.

Other towns in Savoie and Haute-Savoie requested similar waivers, but they were rejected as they did not have the support of teachers, parents and the entire school staff.

Photo: Richard King

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