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Parents’ groups demand action on missing teachers

For years parents and parent associations have been alarmed at the high level of absent teachers. Now Liliana Moyano, president of the Féd­ération des Conseils de Parents d’Elèves, FCPE, has warned that France is at the critical moment when things must change, as parents could no longer put up with it.

“It is serious and, of course, affects the most vulnerable students who don’t have parents who are able to pay or organise private lessons for them.
“It really began when 80,000 teachers’ jobs were cut under the last president – and now there just aren’t enough to fill in when others are missing.”
The second largest parent association, PEEP also highlighted the severe lack of teachers in some disciplines, particularly maths, sciences and languages – just as a study showed France worst in the
EU for pupils’ maths abilities.

PEEP demanded the government “open a crisis centre and deploy exceptional methods to find teachers” as by the Tous­saint holidays some baccalaureate or brevet classes had gone seven weeks without one single hour of sciences or maths, “seven weeks when distraught parents had to witness their children struggling at the beginning of the school year.”
FCPE encourages parents to register missing teachers on its Ouyapacours (ouyapacours.fcpe.asso.fr) website which was set up in 2009 to collect data.
The word is short for “Où il n’y a pas cours” or ‘Where there are no lessons’.

Its figures show that from September 2014 to March 2015, parents recorded more than 20,000 days when their children’s teacher was absent with no stand-in.
Mrs Moyano said parents should notify the site “as soon as their child says they have no teacher. It helps us highlight this problem.”
Missing teachers was one of the reasons why Connexion reader, Jane Prime decided to start home schooling her two daughters.
“Our oldest daughter was in a collège in Auvergne with about 200 pupils and while the small size had its advantages, teachers were often not replaced if ab­sent or sometimes there wasn’t a teacher in a subject as it was too small to attract full-time teaching positions and teachers were shared with other collèges.
“We were disappointed with the schooling and because our two daughters are also involved in sport, which takes up a lot of their time, we opted for them to be educated at home. Our second daughter has studied
all her collège years at home.”

Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem promised improvements and published the government’s own figures.
These showed each primary child in 2015-16 was without a teacher for an average of 2½ days a year while, in 2014-15, lycée and collège students lost 29 hours a year.
They also revealed that rep­lacements were brought in on just 38% of absences of fewer than 15 days.

Mrs Moyano welcomed the move: “It is a step in the right direction. Up to now the government has refused to reveal the true level of the problem. It would be even better if we had figures for each region.”
The ministry has also promised to better inform parents on absences and an extra 1,500 replacement primary teacher posts will be created in 2017.
In collèges and lycées it is the establishment itself which has to come up with a replacement if the sick leave or absence is for fewer than 15 days.
The school can ask its own teachers to do up to five hours’ overtime a week up to a limit of 60 hours in a year and they are being asked to draw up staff agreements at the start
of the year so they know who to call on for sickness cover.

For periods of more than 15 days’ absence it is up to the regional education authority to find a replacement – they can bring someone in on a short-term contract – but, in reality, teachers often go off with a short-term sick note from a doctor which is then repeated.
This leaves the school to deal with the absences as they are repeatedly under 15 days and do not become ‘long term’.
Ms Vallaud-Belkacem has also promised to give more support to teachers to reduce absenteeism due to illness.

Teachers on training courses or on exam duties also cause problems and where possible these will be moved to Wed­nes­day afternoons or holidays.
Mrs Moyano says that after years of campaigning, the FCPE is happy to see changes being made but they do not go far enough and it urges parents to sign up to Ouyapacours.
She added: “There seems to be a lack of teachers throughout. We need a long term solution to the problems of education which are not helped by constant changes of government and policy.
“No country has ever managed to create a useful reform in just four to five years.”

The government promised  an extra 60,000 teachers in 2012 and expects to reach that figure in 2017.

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