Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The View from Here France - Everyone's Getting the Back to School Blues: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The View from Here France - Everyone's Getting the Back to School Blues: News

Article excerpt

Memories of Mediterranean and Atlantic beaches will quickly fade as French children return to school next week after what is guaranteed to be a frantic burst of last-minute shopping. The imminence of the rentree scolaire, as the start of the school year is known, means parents who have left it late must devote part of the weekend to the annual ritual of stocking up on increasingly expensive stationery, accessories and school wear.

Francois Hollande's new socialist government has kept one campaign promise, increasing grants for 5 million children in lower-income households at a cost of Pounds 300 million. But as the academic year begins, attention will switch to his ability, in the face of continuing financial crisis, to live up to his version of Tony Blair's famous commitment to "education, education, education".

The government has already approved the return to five-day schooling in primary schools and sees that sector as most in need of further improvement. The agenda includes proposals to lengthen the school year, combat violence, push up standards and improve teacher training and evaluation.

But there is also the small matter of the 60,000 teaching jobs Mr Hollande pledged to create, starting this year. His gradual realisation of the need to tackle France's massive public deficit, with official auditors warning that he must impose cuts of Pounds 35 billion this year and next, has already fuelled doubt that he can see through key aspects of his bold tax-and- spend manifesto. …

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