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French Education Revolution - No More School on Saturday Morning

Monday 01 October 2007

The French Government have announced that Saturday morning schooling for all school children is to end.

For those at primary school in France the changes will take effect from September 2008, whilst for those at lower secondary school, it will start in 2009.

Although the announcement is a significant one in a country with a long and curious tradition of Saturday schooling, many local education authorities have already used discretionary powers to alter the organisation of the school year.

As a result, the school calendar is a mixed and confusing one across the country. Around 25% of primary children attend school four days a week, whilst others do a 4½ day week, with around 50% attending on a Saturday morning, but others doing so on a Wednesday morning. It is much the same at lower secondary school.

Whilst the Government claims it is making the change in order to improve family life at weekends, many consider the decision has more to do with cutting jobs than giving families more time together.

Thus, in primary schools it is not proposed to redistribute the three hours of Saturday attendance across the week, so the total number of hours children attend school will be reduced. For most, it will mean a four day school week.

Nevertheless, French children attend school more hours than anywhere else in Europe, with 936 hours per year, against a European average of 800 hours per year. The new primary school year will be 864 hours.

Children at lower secondary school will not have their hours reduced, but will attend school five full days, Monday through to Friday.

Parents have expressed their overwhelming support for an end to Saturday schooling, although parents’ organisations oppose any reduction in the length of the schooling week, preferring instead a reduction in the length of each school day and changes to the school holiday calendar.

The beneficiaries of this decision may well be children with difficulties at school, as the Government has stated it wishes to provide special tutoring classes during school hours.

They have also talked of opening schools on Saturdays for cultural and sporting activities, supervised by teachers working on a voluntary basis. We are not anticipating there will be a stampede of teachers willing to offer their services for this deserving cause.

You can read more in our guide to French School Education.

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