As France has gradually introduced a strategy to ease the country out of the lockdown enforced since March, one of the most important aspects that people have wanted answers for is the education sector. While schools, colleges and universities were closed to students throughout the lockdown, restrictions are gradually lifting across the country, in different stage, after discussions with teaching unions, local authorities, parents’ groups and educational bodies.
Not all educational facilities will be opened up at the same time, however. The government has currently announced the following plans to reintroduce access to schools:
Schools and crèches
From May 11 onwards, the French government announced that schools and crèches around the country would begin to open up again, on a gradual basis. This has been an essential priority for both parents and students, as allowing children to return to school will enable working parents to resume working out of the home, where necessary. For students, it can mean a restoration of social contact and learning, both of which have been heavily impacted over the course of the lockdown. Reopening schools will also be a welcome shift for low-income families, who may lack the support, technology and access needed to continue learning and teaching from home.
As schools begin to reopen however, there will be changes implemented. Prior to the pandemic, most French students could expect to be in a large class of 30 students or more, however, class sizes will now need to be restricted to 15 students or less, to minimise the risk of infection and allow adequate measures for social distancing to continue while in school.
Pupils will also be returning in stages, beginning with the youngest classes, before gradually permitting secondary schools and colleges to resume teaching. Schools will also need to be able to meet a series of measures designed to protect both staff and students, and any schools that do not adequately meet the health protocol will not be allowed to open.
With schools beginning to reopen since May, the French government aims to have all schools open and operational with an up to date timetable by the present date.
Universities have been left last in line for any dates to reopen across Europe, and in France it is unlikely that any universities will be open to physical students before the end of the current academic year. While younger pupils in schools and kindergartens have been prioritised to ease the burden on parents caring for children at home, universities will continue to teach online seminars for the immediate future.
However, although classes may be possible to carry out online, many staff and students in French universities have highlighted the difficulties in learning without face to face contact, as well as the limitations that come without access to labs, libraries and other essential resources. Some universities across France and the EU may consequently review access to certain resources, as the re-opening of France continues to progress.