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French school strike: How does the ‘minimum reception service’ work?

Primary children should still be able to go to school even if their class is closed 

Several French primary and secondary teacher and parent unions are on strike today (January 13) in protest against the government’s Covid-related school measures Pic: Makeda Art / Shutterstock

[Update January 13 at 14:30 - The government has stated that 38.5% of primary school teachers are on strike today, while the Snuipp-FSU union maintains the 75% figure.]

Even though up to 75% of primary school teachers are on strike today (January 13), all pupils must still be able to go to school, even if their class is closed. 

Read more: Strike action could close half of French primary schools tomorrow

This has been the case since 2008, when a service minimum d’accueil (minimum reception service) was introduced for primary schools. 

When teachers strike and classes close, local authorities must guarantee that children will be cared for, deploying municipal officials, nursery nurses, children’s entertainers and even parents if necessary.

Children will be looked after in school halls, sports halls or perhaps in another school. 

However, with the worker shortages occasioned by the Covid pandemic, some local authorities are struggling to find staff for this minimum reception service. 

In Hauts-de-Seine, for example, the town of Châtillon is reportedly unable to look after children whose classes are closed. Other mairies are limiting the service to the children of key worker parents. 

Often a sign up process is in place for strike days

Parents should be aware that there is often a sign-up process for childcare services during a strike. 

Today’s strike action is the culmination of teacher frustration of the government’s school Covid protocols, which are, unions claim, making it impossible to teach and transforming primary schools into ‘day-care centres’.

Leading primary teachers union Snuipp-FSU has called this strike action “historic” and said that one in two schools could be closed as a result. Collège and lycée teachers will also be striking.  

The strike is supported by parents’ union FCPE, which has encouraged parents to keep their children at home today.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer had commented that: “Strikes will not solve these problems; you can’t strike against a virus.”

Snuipp-FSU argued that this was “not a ‘strike against the virus’ but illustrates a growing despondency within schools.” 

Some have called for Mr Blanquer to resign, but government spokesperson Gabriel Attal has stated that the president was “very much in support of” the minister.

Related stories 

French Prime Minister relaxes school Covid testing measures

Covid rules: French teacher and parent unions call for Thursday strike

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