During his trip to Marseille, the President of the Republic announced that he wanted to reduce the duration of school holidays in the summer. He hopes to reduce inequalities between students.
“It’s a blow of com, wind to avoid talking about other subjects that concern Marseille.” Séverine Gil, president of the parents’ federation of 13 is convinced of this. Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reduce summer school holidays will not succeed.
The President of the Republic, on a three-day visit to Marseille, wants to relaunch the debate, but he is not the first to open the debate on summer vacation. Ministers of National Education have already broken their teeth there. Luc Chatel, under Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011 then Vincent Peillon under François Hollande in 2013, had wanted to shorten them by two weeks… Without success. So why is it so complicated to touch the summer school holidays?
Because it would impact the economy
“Holidays are important economic issues. The debate cannot take place by only pointing the finger at teachers who have too many holidays”believes Caroline Chevet, sacademic secretary SNES-FSU, the main union for secondary school teachers.
Reducing summer holidays means reducing the periods of frequentation of tourist sites. In our region, the tourism industry weighs 20 billion euros, or 13% of regional GDP, according to figures from the regional tourism committee.
But not all professionals would be impacted in the same way, explains Nicolas Gyot, president of hoteliers at Umih 13. “For a destination like Marseille, business tourism can compensate. But seaside destinations are likely to oppose this project. Resort tourists are those who consume the most in activities and restaurants”.
Beyond tourism, the entire economic sector would be impacted. “I work in the transport sector, and the summer holidays imply an increase in activity”, points out Séverine Gil. “And beyond that, all of our companies are organized around these holidays. So turning all that upside down to put the rhythm of the children back at the center, I say bravo. But I don’t think Emmanuel Macron will be able to do it.”
Because teachers defend their working conditions
Fewer holidays for students also means less holidays for teachers… Who are not ready to work longer without compensation.
“We are currently witnessing an unprecedented crisis of vocations”, alert Caroline Chevet, member of Snes, the main union of college and high school teachers. This year again, the teaching competitions were not full.
“It is irresponsible to announce a deterioration in working conditions in a profession that is struggling to recruit”, point Caroline Chevet. She recalls that secondary school teachers work an average of 43 hours per week.
She nevertheless agrees with the president on one point. “For several years, we have been losing class hours. With the reform of the high school, the seconds have gone from 30 to 26 hours per week.”
She mostly points ‘evaporation’ high school students at the end of the school year, because of the new organization of the baccalaureate. “Let us already take care of maintaining the students during the 36 weeks of compulsory lessons. Let’s make sure we give them lessons in good conditions, with trained teachers and by reducing the number of students per class”.
Because measurement is not enough to reduce inequalities
Emmanuel Macron’s wish is to reduce inequalities, and to allow children from working-class neighborhoods to keep busy during the two summer months.
“It’s true that time out of school increases inequalities”, grants Caroline Chevet. “During the year, we are rather in favor of welcoming students to schools later in the day, by providing additional human resources. But the fight against these inequalities is not limited to national education”.
For her, it is first necessary to allow children and adolescents from working-class neighborhoods to have access to sports and cultural activities during the summer. “The social centers are in a sorry state, subsidies to associations are reduced. And when you see the state of sports infrastructure in Marseille…”
In the northern districts, only two swimming pools will remain open to the public this summer, i.e. a pool for more than 120,000 inhabitants.
The trade unionist therefore believes that it is first necessary to put the means to allow the most modest to take advantage of the summer break. “With eight weeks of vacation, we are not on an excessive duration either.”
France is one of the least generous European countries with summer holidays. The young Irish, Portuguese and Latvians rest 13 consecutive weeks. The Nordic countries offer nine to eleven weeks of rest to pupils, while being considered as successful education systems.