It is a kind of paradox: Jean-Michel Blanquer broke the record for longevity in the post of Minister of National Education, while alienating a good part of the teachers, at a level rarely equaled by his predecessors. The school environment will remember his passage and his many reforms. Too many moreover, even, regret the unions.
One of the priorities of this ministry has been primary school, with, in particular, the duplication of CP and CE1 classes, in priority education, launched in 2017, then large sections of kindergarten from 2019. For the latter level, it should be completed at the earliest at the start of the 2023 school year, says the ministry. But the results are mixed, according to a report from the Senate published in February 2022: this sharp reduction in the number of students did not allow a frank reversal of the academic difficulties encountered by these students.
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The first primary union also points to the lack of staff needed to carry out this sharp reduction in the number of students per class. If 3,800 positions have been created in the first degree, it is not enough, regrets the SNUipp: the positions which are useful for duplication are taken elsewhere, he denounces, with the famous phenomenon of “rob Peter to pay Paul“. Jean-Michel Blanquer has also set up national evaluations in CP, CE1, sixth and second, fought by the unions. The status of the school principal has finally been reinforced, giving him more authority, which does not Didn’t please some of the teachers, attached to strict equality between teachers.
We also remember the transformation of the general high school, with the disappearance of the S, ES and L sectors, in favor of the specialties, which each student must choose (three in first, two in final), at the risk of seeing the timetables turn to the headache, say some principals. A reform that will already be… reformed since Emmanuel Macron has undertaken to add mathematics to the common core from the start of the 2022 school year, in first class. The discipline has not been part of it since 2019 and the number of hours of this material has melted, by 18%. Four out of ten final year students do not do any more at all, according to figures from the statistical services of the Ministry of Education.
The bac, too, has evolved a lot: with fewer final tests to pass, more continuous assessment, which now accounts for 40% of the final grade. Finally, the vocational route has been reformed. Thus, second year students do not immediately specialize in a trade, but in a family of trades. The “masterpiece”, a multidisciplinary achievement, has also been set up.
What Jean-Michel Blanquer failed to change was the resentment of some of the teachers. They regret that their profession and the school in general are regularly singled out. According to a survey carried out by SNUipp in March 2022 among 25,000 primary school teachers, nearly three quarters (73%) of the teachers questioned said they were not satisfied with their current professional situation.
They also express a very strong dissatisfaction with the Ministry of National Education (95%, including 72% not at all satisfied). Some say they feel despised, pushed around, not listened to enough. If Jean-Michel Blanquer has started, through the Grenelle de l’éducation, an increase in the salaries of teachers, starting with those at the start of their career, the road is still long, hammer the unions, who point to this subject as the priority. priorities for this new five-year term. The Snes-FSU recalls that a teacher begins by earning just over 10% above the minimum wage, for recruitment at bac +5.
Impossible to take stock of Jean-Michel Blanquer by forgetting the period of Covid and confinement, with the exceptional closure of schools, in the spring of 2020, for seven weeks for everyone, five additional depending on the levels. Teachers and parents of students will also remember for a long time the health protocols with multiple versions, modifications, reversals.
These changes, sometimes at the last minute, have also weighed heavily on the resentment vis-à-vis the minister, whom some blame for a disconnection from the field.
And then the other event independent of the reforms is the assassination of Samuel Paty, this history and geography teacher who was beheaded in October 2020. The tragedy traumatized the world of education and led to increased surveillance of respect for principles of secularism in schools.
But what we also remember from Jean-Michel Blanquer is his sometimes risky communication, summed up by his detractors in one destination: Ibiza, a Spanish seaside resort from where the minister conducted an interview at Parisian to explain yet another Covid protocol, on Sunday January 2, 2022 in the evening, the day before the start of the school year. What had ulcerated, once again, the teachers. The unions also regretted a new communication via the media, before the official channels of National Education.
But the discovery of the place where the interview was carried out added fuel to the fire, some seeing a discrepancy between the minister’s life and the difficulties on the ground, in schools. It is in fact the whole period of the Covid which has gradually deteriorated the image of Jean-Michel Blanquer. First faithful to the president, strongman of the government, he gradually became the bad student, seeming outside decision-making circles and chaining approximate, even false announcements, reframed by the Elysée or Matignon. Perhaps the most obvious example is this statement, on franceinfo, on March 12, 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic: “We have never considered the total closure of schools because it seems counterproductive to us.“
A few hours later, Emmanuel Macron effectively announced the closure of schools. Follow, a few weeks later, hiccups on the presentation, too fast, of what was then only tracks of reopening of the schools… or even confusions of the minister, according to several interviews in March 2021, between the virus positivity rate (the number of people infected in relation to the number of tests carried out) and incidence rate (which makes it possible to know the circulation of Covid-19 in relation to the entire population). Overall, some scientists have criticized Jean-Michel Blanquer for having minimized the Covid epidemic in schools.
The teachers regularly criticize him for reserving his announcements to the press before the first concerned, as well as too many, too rapid and announced changes in protocol at the last moment. The return to school in January 2022 is decidedly difficult for the minister, with three protocol changes in one week. In point of fall: the strike of January 13, very followed by the teachers. From there, Jean Castex takes over control of the health file. In February, a government official referred to him as a “weight for the government, which has made mistakes“Since winter, Minister Blanquer has been more discreet. He is now devoting himself to his candidacy for the legislative elections, in Loiret, in the 4th district, in Montargis.