Macron wants (some) pupils back at school a week earlier in France

The summer holidays are too long, said the president. Clarification on the criteria for this is expected shortly

President Macron’s plans for education have met criticism from one of France’s main teaching unions
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The French summer school holiday break is too long and pupils who are struggling should return to class a week earlier, President Macron has said.

This year, all pupils aged 3 to 18 will return to school on September 4 after an eight-week break, which Mr Macron says is too long.

“The holidays are too long and the school calendar is too busy. Pupils who need more attention will be required to return to school from August 20 so they can catch up.

“We also need to reclaim the month of June for pupils who did not pass their end of year exams,” said Mr Macron in a wide ranging interview with the French media Le Point.

While the changes would not apply until 2024, the new Minister of Education, Gabriel Attal, is expected to follow Mr Macron’s lead with a declaration on the subject in the coming days. The minister will have to clarify exactly which students will be affected and how this will be determined.

The president also turned his gaze to the Bac (A-level equivalent), saying “we cannot have the exams so early in the year”.

He had been under pressure from teachers’ unions and parents concerning the organisation of the Bac (A-level equivalent) exams, with some exams falling as early as March. Unions claim that early exams mean too much work before them and too little after, resulting in a lack of incentive for pupils to remain in school until the end of the summer term.

A spokesperson for one of France's main teaching unions, the SNUipp-FSU, Guislaine David, talking to FranceInfo, was critical of the president’s announcement, which she said seemed like “punishment for pupils who are already struggling”.

Union claims ‘presidential meddling’

Mr Macron also said that “history should be taught chronologically” and “each week pupils should have to study and debate a “fundamental text on our shared values.”

However, the teachers union is displeased by what they see as presidential meddling in the education system, with Ms David saying: “it is astonishing that the President of the Republic should talk about education just a few days ahead of the new Minister of Education’s press conference. It is clear that education is no longer a minister’s area, but the president’s.”

The president, whose wife is a former school teacher, has taken a special interest in the French school system, declaring to Le Point that “education is part of the exclusive domain of the president,” that is, an area in which the president alone can determine the decision making process.

Historically, a president would have an exclusive domain over areas such as defence and foreign policy, rather than education.

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