A series of ‘job-dating’ fairs to recruit potential secondary school teachers has attracted the ire of teaching unions, who say it risks lowering standards in the profession.
The events, which took place over four days at the end of May and start of June, were organised by the education authority in Versailles and Pôle Emploi, to plug a shortfall of 2,000 teachers – 2% of its classroom workforce – with contract staff.
Most teachers have the status of fonctionnaire in France’s national school system, which is obtained after five years of university study and passing a series of competitive exams.
However, relatively low wages and a tendency to throw young teachers into the deep end at the most difficult schools in the Paris suburbs before they are able to transfer to other areas means there is a national shortage of teachers.
The Versailles authority, which covers most of Paris, says it is particularly in need of secondary school teachers in science and mathematics.
To try to ease the situation, the job fairs allowed anyone with three years of university education to put themselves forward for a position.
Applicants were given 30-minute interviews where they explained why they thought they would make good teachers.
Organisers promised a rapid response, so successful candidates can start to prepare for the school year as early as possible.
Contract teachers, known as contractuels, do not have the same pay or privileges as fully qualified teachers in the system and are given short-term job contracts (known as CDDs) on either a full or part-time basis.
Their pay is usually the equivalent of €1,700 a month, compared to the €2,000 starting pay for a regular teacher, and can be revised upwards only after they have been teaching for three years.
If the CDD is for a whole year, the contractuel is paid for school holidays, otherwise they are not.
After six years, a contractuel can apply for full teacher status.
The SNES teaching union called the job-dating initiative “unacceptable and scandalous”, and said that as well as the highly publicised Versailles initiative, similar events had been held in Toulouse and Amiens.
“How can anyone think you can assess a candidate teacher’s knowledge and classroom potential with a 30-minute interview?” the union said.
Versailles education authority promises full support for successful candidates, both before the year begins and in future.