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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Vincent Peillon entre deux grèves

by Maud Dugrand

Education Minister Stuck Between Two Strikes

Translated Thursday 31 January 2013, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Following the big strike in Paris, the SNUIPP teachers union organizes a day of action on Jan. 23 dedicated to “the needs of the schools.”

Between 90% (according to the teachers unions) and 78% (according to the school board) of the Paris elementary school teachers struck on Jan. 22 to protest against the return to the four-and-a-half-day school week as from next Autumn. Their concern is due to the hasty implementation of a reform that is, moreover, insufficiently financed. “I’ll go all-out, including in financial terms,” Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë responded on Jan. 22. “But it’s a matter of giving Paris children an extra head start and access to science, to culture, to sports, so I’m not going to back down,” he stated.

The problem is that the concerns of the teachers are not limited to the French capital. For Jan. 23, the SNUIPP-FSU, the main teachers union among primary school teachers, is thus organizing a national day of questioning. The objective is not only to bring out the “needs of the schools” in the coming school year at a time when the attribution of teaching hours is being decided, but also to warn of the necessity of including school councils in the organization of extra-curricular activities, which are the responsibility of town halls.

This brings one back to the reform of the school week, which is the focal point of concern. “We aren’t opposed in principle to this adoption of the four-and-a-half-day week,” repeated Sébastien Sihr, the general secretary of the SNUIPP-FSU. “But this issue must not conceal those needs visible in the global picture. I’ve written to the minister to ask him for a detailed calendar. We’re demanding a review of the curriculum, a reworking of the set-up for evaluating pupils, and the rehabilitation of the Network of Specialized Aid for Failing Pupils (RASED)… It’s necessary to give substance to this priority in the primary schools.”

Education Minister Vincent Peillon was not heckled by the teachers unions alone on Jan. 22. Fellow Socialist Jean-Christophe Cambadélis also heckled him. “He doesn’t always have the required tact to accomplish what is necessary,” was the Paris deputy’s opinion of the minister. He went on to warn: “If there’s discontent, you have to smooth things out and let things slide. If it’s the beginning of a mobilization, you’ve got to be careful.”

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