The Minister of National Education, Gabriel Attal, affirmed on Wednesday November 22 that we “must review” the “question of the taboo of repeating a year” and promised to “take decisions” on this subject, which he will announce at the beginning of December.

“A student who enters 6th grade without knowing how to read or count is almost abuse,” declared the minister during a workshop on school at the congress of the Association of Mayors of France. Gabriel Attal plans to make a series of announcements on December 5 “to raise the general level” of students, particularly in middle school – his proposal to set up “level groups” in maths and French is the subject of debate.

“How do you expect to learn history-geography if you can’t read? Physics-chemistry without knowing how to count? », insisted Mr. Attal. “You have to make decisions. » “I will take responsibility for them,” he added, giving “an appointment at the beginning of December” to deliver the details.

Repeating a year, of which France has long been the champion, has never been banned in the country, but simply made exceptional in 2014 by a decree from Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Then Jean-Michel Blanquer decided, upon his arrival at the Ministry of National Education in 2017, to modify the rules so that “repetition remains possible when it is in the interest of the student, and in cases which must remain rare”.

“A form of sorting students”

For Guislaine David, general secretary and spokesperson for Snuipp-FSU, the majority primary school union, “thinking that repeating a year can be beneficial for a child is a belief, because no study demonstrates it. We must therefore stop making counter declarations,” she asserted.

“Talking about level groups and repeating a year is a conservative way of seeing school, and it is not ours, because all of this is based on a form of sorting of students,” regrets Jérôme Fournier, national secretary of the SE- UNSA.

Sophie Vénétitay, general secretary of SNES-FSU, the main secondary education union (middle and high schools), also believes that this can create a “two-speed school” with “the good ones on one side and the less good ones on the other “. But, she concedes, repeating a year “can be a solution in certain cases” in middle and high school.

The minister also recalled that he would announce on this same occasion “the possibility for [his] ministry to label school textbooks”, the content and method of which will have demonstrated their “effectiveness”.

He also took the date in January to unveil “a profound reform of training for the teaching profession”, in order to be able to “pre-recruit at baccalaureate level” those who have “the vocation” of teacher, and to reestablish a “competition for the bac 3 level” followed by “progressive entry into the profession over two years”. “I think it will solve part of the problem” of the profession’s attractiveness, he explained, while many positions remain vacant each year, due to a lack of candidates.