French preschools, primary schools and middle schools will reopen next Monday with “mandatory presence” for all of the country’s pupils, President Emmanuel Macron announced in a shock move on Sunday, meaning the nation’s teachers have just one week to prepare for their "back to school” classes.
In a televised address to the nation on Sunday evening, Macron announced that this year’s summer school holidays will be postponed until July 4 and that the country’s children will be expected to return to their nurseries, primary schools and middle schools for two weeks already on June 22. Presence would be “mandatory”, he said.
“Two weeks count, two weeks are not nothing, whether it’s out of an educational aspect or a psychological aspect,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said following Macron’s address. “School should never be considered as a day-care centre of sorts.”
The news sent shock waves through the teaching community, whose members now have only one week to prepare curriculums and organise their classroom groups. Since May 11, when France entered the first phase of its eased lockdown measures, French schoolchildren have been able to return to school on a voluntary basis. According to the government, only 1.8 million of the country’s 6.7 million pre- and primary schoolers have since gone back to class, and just 600,000 of the country’s 3.3 million middle schoolers.
“There are a lot of questions that still remain unanswered: Do we keep with the previous health guidelines or not, do people who are at risk have to come back or not? Once again, the abrupt nature of announcements [like this] hardly allow for our teaching teams to prepare for the resumption of classes in the best conditions,” the Sud-Education teachers’ union said in a statement.