Lessons at home as Covid-19 closes French schools

23 March 2020
Claire Moynihan and sons Lucien and Doula enjoy some outside lessons
By Jane Hanks

Covid-19 has forced schools to close – and learning at home has been a new experience for teachers and pupils alike.

Claire Moynihan is a primary school teacher at Marcillac-Saint-Quentin, Dordogne, and is supervising lessons at home for her sons Lucien, seven, and Doula, 16.

She said all schools are organising things in slightly different ways.

They can prepare work for their pupils in subjects such as French and maths and either send it out on Monday via their website, or hand it out physically to parents who are able to get to the school.

It is too complicated for primary school parents to upload and send all the work back to be marked, she said, so they are sending out answers a week later and parents can check the work their children have done.

Mrs Moynihan said the main advice they give to parents is to make sure children continue to do some work every day so they do not lose the habit, even if they do not learn new subjects during these unusual times. “It is a good idea to find a way of organising the day so that there are set times for work,” she said.

“Both my sons are finding it difficult so we have decided to work together every morning. It can be pleasant to work together as a family, and when it is sunny, we sit outside.”

For Doula, at lycée, she said the amount of work he gets depends on the individual teachers, some of whom have more difficulty than
others, because they may be taking care of their own children at home.

Some teachers find it easier to convert their subjects to internet lessons than others.

“Today one teacher told the pupils he was putting up a lesson at 10:00 and they would have an hour to read it, do the work and send it back. That worked well because it meant Doula had to do it within a set time”, said Mrs Moynihan.

“He has less work than usual but he does have some to do every day and it is not working too badly. We are all experimenting and getting to grips with a new type of system.”

There have been complaints that the internet systems in place have not been working well, and sometimes not at all as they become saturated.
The government has said that it is aware of the problems and is doing all it can to increase the network to deal with the rise in users.

Parents and older pupils are asked to make sure they disconnect when they are not using an internet platform.

Collèges and lycées have their own digital work environment platforms, though that is not usual for primary schools and many teachers are having to communicate by email.

Different organisations are offering free courses online for pupils, which can be used by schools.

Distance learning organisation CNED has made lessons, from kindergarten up to high school, available via its Ma classe à la maison
programme, with activities, lessons, and videos that teachers can use for their students.

There is a video explanation with English subtitles.

It can be used by any school and by March 18, 1.3million accounts had been created.

The government has also asked Radio France and France Télévisions to broadcast more educational programmes during this period, and France TV’s education channel Lumni – lumni.fr – should expand its offer.

Other stations, such as Educ’ARTE, have been asked to make their programmes available free to schools.

Teachers’ union SNUiPP gives a list of material that can be used by teachers, and parent-teacher association PEEP is making the contents of its online lessons in maths, French and English free to members for three months.

Children’s magazine publisher Bayard Jeunesse has put a selection of activities online to occupy children when they are not doing their school work.

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