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Covid rules to ease in French schools after February holidays

Pupils returning from the break will see restrictions regarding mask-wearing, testing and social mixing relaxed 

Covid rules are set to ease slightly in schools as pupils return from February breaks Pic: Halfpoint / Shutterstock

Covid rules are set to ease in French schools after the February break, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced today (February 11).

Under the changes, school Covid protocols will pass from level 3 to level 2 when pupils return from their holidays. 

This means that: 

  • Primary school pupils and staff will no longer have to wear a mask in the school’s outdoor spaces.

The date of this change will depend on the zone of France. In Zone B it will be on February 21, in Zone A it will be on February 28 and in Zone C it will be on March 7. 

  • Pupils will be allowed to play sports inside without a mask, but must continue to socially distance. If the lesson involves contact sports, masks must continue to be worn.

  • Limits on inter-year mixing – for example in school canteens – will be relaxed

In addition: 

  • From February 28, pupils identified as close contacts of a positive Covid case will only need to take a self-administered test on day two after the case is detected, as opposed to days zero, two and four at present

  • From February 21, pupils having to undergo Covid tests will no longer need to present a ‘statement of honour’ (attestation sur l’honneur) confirming that they have indeed carried out the test

Parents and teachers demand additional measures 

Parent and teaching unions in France are calling for further steps to be taken to facilitate children’s learning and ease the pressure on staff. 

The Snes-FSU union has reported that there are currently around 50 educational settings engaging in strikes or protests against the government’s current provisions for schools. 

Sophie Vénétitay, the Snes-FSU’s secretary general, told Franceinfo that: “The reduction of dotations horaires [the financial allocations provided to fund teaching and some extra activities within schools] means that on the ground there will be classes cancelled. 

In addition, “smaller class groups will be abandoned even though pupils need more than ever to be supported after two years of this health crisis, which has caused some to fall behind.” 

In the Parisian suburb of Gennevilliers, for example, “for the fourth consecutive year, the Guy-Môquet collège has been very severely affected by the loss of hourly allocations: 32 in 2022, 20 in 2021, 33 in 2020 and 11 in 2019.

Funding for “a total of 95 hours of classes per week has therefore been removed while staff numbers have continued to rise,” meaning that there are fewer funds to share around, said one of the school’s teachers, Gauillaume Auzou.

Mr Blanquer responded that: “There has never before been such a big budgetary increase for education as there has been during this presidential term.” 

Primary teacher union SNUipp-FSU reacted positively to the education minister’s announcements today, with co-secretary general Guislaine David telling Franceinfo: “Finally the method has changed! We are arriving at measures which have been discussed before being put in place. 

“It has taken this ministry 20 months to change their methods regarding forward planning and informing staff. [Now] staff have been informed of the changes by email before the minister spoke to the press,” which was one thing that unions were calling for during the teacher strikes that took place in January over the government’s Covid rules.  

Ms David added that she found the rule changes to be “fairly satisfactory”: “We are moving towards a wiser approach by putting in place measures which do not come in from one day to the next but rather if the epidemic is really getting better.” 

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