How would planned power cuts affect schools in France?

Schools are not on the priority list of services which would maintain power

We look at how schools might be affected by potential planned power cuts this winter
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Reader Question: If there is a power cut in our area in the morning, how will we know whether or not to take our children to school?

The government has announced that schools will be affected by power cuts if they do occur as they are not included on the priority list of essential services like hospitals.

The only reason why a school could escape a power cut carried out in its area would be if it was in the same supply network as a priority site.

Education Minister Pap Ndiaye has said that if there is a power cut in the morning (between 08:00 and 13:00), schools in the affected zone will be closed for half a day as pupils cannot be expected to attend without heating, lighting or a functioning alarm system.

He added that in this situation: “pupils will return at the beginning of the afternoon, with – without doubt – a meal for those who are on their lunch break.”

The children of key workers may be able to go to a centre located near a priority service if their school is closed for a power cut, in a similar set-up as happened during the Covid lockdowns.

Cuts would be a last resort

This information has been received negatively by some teachers and parents, who are only just emerging from months of closures caused by the pandemic.

However, the education ministry has insisted that power cuts will only happen as a last resort if the pressure on the network becomes too great.

Electricity supply monitoring tool EcoWatt will send out a red alert three days in advance if the system comes under significant strain and a controlled power cut becomes necessary. Providers will then release information on their websites on the areas which will be affected by a power outage from 17:00 the day before.

Customers can type their address into the search tool on the Enedis website, for example, to see if their area will be impacted.

The time at which people will be notified of power cuts if they do occur is also worrying schools, with teachers having observed that pupils will normally have left by 17:00 the day before, making it difficult to communicate instructions to them.

“Some children will not have the information and will come all the same; what are they planning for them if the school is completely closed?” Sophie Vénétitay of the SNES-FSU union asked.

It is not yet known what will happen at boarding schools, which could also be affected by power cuts in the evening.

“They cannot ask parents to travel 90kms the night before to come and get their children if the school must close,” Ms Vénétitay said.

The education ministry has said that work will be done to prepare schools in the coming weeks and that ‘information documents’ will be sent out.

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