The school struggles with the lack of substitutes: a violation of equality?

Since last January, many school hours have been lost for French students. Teachers often affected by Covid are absent and not replaced. Despite the comments of the majority, the concern is not the alleged absenteeism of French teachers, but the lack of available replacements and thus the lack of teacher recruitment. This situation puts pressure on schools, principals and teachers in difficulties, but above all endangers the learning process of thousands of students.

Five teachers absent, four planned for at least a week, one announced the night before, the teacher positive for Covid. An almost ordinary day in this school of 10 classes in the center of Montpellier. However, there will be no replacement in the school. You should know that, as in many departments, the lack of replacements is cruel. In the Montpellier district, the ZIL (replacements intended to cover minor absences) are allocated to long replacements, some for the year and this since the beginning of the school year. Regular sick leave and even maternity leave are therefore not replaced. Parents who could have picked up their child, the other students are divided into classes. As usual in primary education, students of absent colleagues are welcome, even if no chairs or tables are available.

Risky situations

“We therefore each welcomed 8 additional students into our classes, while I already have 28 students…”, explains M*, a teacher at the school. “Among the students I welcome, a CE2 boy known to have behavioral problems, for example, is intolerant of all the frustration. It benefits from the presence of an AESH for twelve hours a week, but since the creation of the PIAL, the AESH has to be pooled. When he came back from morning break and after a frustration caused by my refusal to let him into class with a stick, he became furious. Middle finger, insults to me, yells one after the other. He eventually ended up against the glass of the patio doors and fled into the school after telling me he was going to kill himself.” M. gives chase, takes his statement seriously and leaves his thirty-six students unsupervised, little choice in such a situation. “Faced with his refusal to follow me and afraid of hurting him by carrying him alone, I go back to class for a while – the time to make sure everything is okay – hoping he will be alone will come down. Three students from another class then come and tell me that this student is sneaking through the halls. I leave again to try to reason with him, and find him in front of a colleague who is also forced to leave her students. Curled up in a corner of a classroom that had been left empty, he still refuses to follow us. Hastily we decide to carry him together, against his will, and accompany him to the after-school manager who, as it was almost noon, was there. We are both in shock and as it is afternoon we cannot take the time to go back to what had just happened with our students. One of my students had burst into tears, fearing the violence of the situation. Twenty minutes later my colleague comes to tell me that she blocked her neck while wearing this student. That’s why she doesn’t come back in the afternoon. So we ended the day with 6 non-replaced teachers from the 10 classes”.

Not enough seats for everyone

In this other school in Indre, this time in a rural area, there are three classes. Absences are very rare, however common among teachers, according to a report from the Court of Auditors. But today one of the PEs is missing. After calling the constituency, his colleagues are waiting for a possible replacement. Meanwhile, the 26 students are welcomed in the classrooms. 26 students divided into two classes. Each of the teachers present was therefore with almost forty students, ten of whom had to sit on the floor all day… No replacement showed up…

A consequence of the lack of recruitment

These testimonials are not insignificant, but not exceptional. For a number of years, the lack of recruitment of first-level personnel at national level has led to this type of situation. Academic management puts a teacher in front of the student, that’s the priority, that’s what you can see. And they do that with a limited number of substitutes, as Alain Talleu, head of the SNUipp-FSU du Nord (59) explains. “For a year now, we have been dealing with major replacement problems at the approximately 1,500 schools in the department. To get an idea, there are between 14,000 and 15,000 IE and only 1,100 replacement positions from which we have to subtract 114 intended for the replacement of REP+ weightings (specific consultation and training time) and 29 permanent training brigades (for any – and very rare – departure into continuing education). We also have 154 vacancies on which replacement teachers have been posted… So there is little staff left to cover all absences in the department”. A finding that admits that the administration that recognizes 438 absences per day is not replacing, “500 discount” adds the union official. “Today, of the 200,000 primary school pupils in the Nord department, about 10,000 do not benefit from their primary right: that of learning. A disgrace “.

More REP+ trainings

The same observation in Marseille where there are between 570 and 760 classes per day where teachers are not replaced. “The situation is grotesque. The administration even moves already placed replacements, depending on the intensity of the mobilization of the parents of pupils. We are no longer teachers, we are firefighters, we are there to put out the fire,” explains Virginie Akliouat, departmental co-secretary of SNUipp-FSU 13. But in Marseille, the situation is exacerbated by the advancement of fifteen positions every quarter of landfills promised to school leaders of experiments… Priority: here again political show. As for the weighing hours for consultations and training in REP+, these have simply been canceled in all departments surveyed.

For SE-UNSA Secretary General Sébastien Crochet, the situation is tense, but not as catastrophic as it was in January and February. “It is still very complicated in some departments, such as in Strasbourg where we had to intervene. It happened to us too, when colleagues asked us to intervene so that school administrators could still benefit from their dismissal”.

Is it quite reasonable that these students lose thousands of hours of lessons while the school is in crisis with worrying student outcomes, exacerbating initial inequalities that undermine the success of working class students? Accused of absenteeism, the teachers in the field keep the school at bay….

Lilia Ben Hamouda

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