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French schools: mandatory sport at primary and more maths until 18

President Macron’s election pledges for education come into force in the new academic year

Primary pupils will have 30 minutes of sport per day from the 2022 ‘rentrée’ Pic: BearFotos / Shutterstock

The return of mathematics as a core subject for 16-18-year-olds, as well as 30 minutes of daily sport for primary children, are among the key changes for schools from this September.

Read more: Easy-look chart: When are France’s 2022 / 2023 school holidays?

The reforms, announced in June, follow President Macron’s election promise of a greater focus on education.

Mathematics for première and terminale pupils

Changes for the 2019 rentrée (back to school) saw maths removed as an obligatory subject for pupils in première and terminale, the final years of lycée, although it remained an option for those who chose to take it as one of their speciality subjects. 

Pupils can choose three speciality subjects in première and then drop one of them for their final year.

There are 13 speciality subjects to choose from, although not all are offered in every school. Each subject chosen is studied for three hours per week.

These speciality subjects are studied alongside six core subjects, which all pupils must take: two foreign languages, PE, history-geography-moral and civil education, basic science, and French (replaced by philosophy in terminale). 

From the 2022 rentrée, maths will be added to the list of core subjects as a non-obligatory option. 

Pupils who take up this option will get 1.5 hours of maths classes per week. 

Previously, students in première and terminale who did not select maths as a speciality subject did not receive any maths lessons. 

The French association of public maths teachers, Apmep, said 90% of pupils in terminale had maths lessons pre-2019, compared to 59% following the reform. 

This 1.5 hours of maths could become mandatory starting from the 2023 rentrée, following an evaluation. 

Daily sport for primary pupils

Primary pupils will have a mandatory 30 minutes of sport per day from the 2022 rentrée, following a two-year trial involving 7,000 schools. 

It will be up to teachers to decide what pupils do during these 30 minutes but the activities should take place within the school premises.

The education ministry has also said that pupils should not need to bring special sports clothes for the sessions.

French teachers’ union SNUipp has criticised the measure as being “impossible to put into practice in reality”. 

It was initially due to be introduced in 2024 to coincide with the Paris Olympics but has been brought forward. 

‘School of the future’ expanded

A concept trialled in Marseille called l’école du futur (the school of the future) is to be expanded to the rest of France from this autumn. 

The idea is that individual schools can recruit the staff they need based on the school’s situation, rather than teachers being assigned to them. 

The concept also allows schools more flexibility in pursuing “innovative projects” specific to their location and pupils. 

A trial was launched last September in 59 nursery and primary schools and its expansion suggests the government considers it a success.

Not everyone agrees. The Fédération nationale de l’enseignement, de la culture et de la formation professionnelle says it “seriously calls into question the national character of public schools, the status of teachers as civil servants, the equal treatment of staff in their requests for transfers [to different schools]”. 

The SNUipp added that it could lead to a ‘two-tier system’ where some schools attract better staff than others. 

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