Teaching unions say 1,097 classes to close

Minister does not agree and counts only 207

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Despite President Macron promising a ‘moratorium’ on closures of school classes in rural areas a teaching union says it has already counted 1,097 classes closing for the 2018 rentrée.

It has led to parents around the country taking to the streets with “Non, à la fermeture d’une classe dans notre école!” placards and signing petitions to save their school.

Classes are closed or amalgamated when there are not enough pupils to make a complete class with the numbers needed varying from department to department and on whether the school is rural or urban.

Teaching union SNUipp-FSU says that of the 90 departments which have settled their staffing levels, there will be 1,097 classes closed in rural schools and 289 opened; so 808 lost in total.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer does not see it like that and, by his count, only 207 classes will be closed in total in the 45 most rural departments.

National news website FranceTVinfo has prepared a map of the planned closures using figures from SNUipp-FSU and you can use this to check your area. It shows that Saône-et-Loire is worst-hit, with 47 fewer classes.

Every year education authorities in each department have to decide how they will distribute the numbers of teachers allocated to them by the government around their schools in line with government objectives and changes in numbers of pupils.

It is always a hotly disputed issue as there never seem to be enough teachers to go around. This year unions in many areas are warning that there will be savage cuts and some classes containing 30 pupils.

This, despite the fact that in 2018, the education budget is the highest ever, more than €50billion euros for the first time at €50.6bn. This is an increase of €1.3bn on 2017.

Mr Blanquer has said primary schools are priority and wants to see the number of pupils in 5,600 classes in deprived areas halved at the rentrée. He has accordingly increased the number of teaching jobs by 3,881.

However the teaching unions say this is not be enough and schools in non-priority areas will suffer as a result.

They point to the government’s education priority of reducing class sizes in elementary classes and ‘reinforced’ education classes (which are most often in urban areas) and say that this has swallowed the bulk of the extra teachers, hurting the rural schools.

SNUIpp-FSU says it is on standby to help fight class closures and protests have already taken place at schools in Dordogne, where several schools are worried they may face class closure; Creuse which is being offered new classes in some schools but losing in others and Corrèze which expects to lose nine teachers.

In the Somme, the unions have got together for the first time since 2011 to fight what was at first thought to be the loss of 63 classes, but has sinces been scaled back to 36.

The decision process starts in September when teachers have to send in prospective class numbers for the following year and the government has said that, overall, there are 32,657 fewer pupils this rentrée.

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In December, the government tells each region how many teachers it will have for the following year and the region then divides its allocation among the departments, according to pupil numbers and different special needs. Mayors are consulted.

In February, a Conseil Départemental de l’Education Nationale meets to discuss and give its opinion on the proposals. It is made up of the prefect, the department council president, teacher and parent representatives and local councillors.

The final decision is published in February after this meeting. In May, school heads send in the updated lists of pupils signed up for the following school year and adjustments can be made accordingly and are possible right up to a few days before the rentrée.