Does France have too many school holidays?

Hoping there are some parents out there who might have a view on this.

Is it time France cut back on the amount of school holidays?

There's the problem working parents have in covering all the leave. How do you manage?

Then the fact that the length of a school year is shorter for French pupils than their European counterparts, which may impact on their results...

Any views gratefully received.

Ben McPartland

The Local France (

Nick said -

"I'm going to have to cut the grass and trim the hedge."

That should be fun to watch Nico !!!!!!

Have you managed straight lines yet ?

When I get home I deal with supper discuss things with the girls, have a bit of input into devoirs, deal with their school & activity related admin, THEN do my own work. So I go to bed around 2 most nights after putting marks etc into the rectorat servers (more like 3 at this time of year) and am up again at 6. There's no way to deal with the admin otherwise. I have 35 pupils in eg my Terminale L class - that means a lot of heavy-duty exam-type essay correcting which takes a lot of time, and I try to get work back to my pupils asap ie by the next time I see them. Things like listening to oral work eg 10-minute presentations on 35 sets of memory sticks takes a massive amount of time as well... and that's just for one class. & don't get me started on the dossier-filling-in, reports etc etc

I agree on the unfair stick absolutely.

Too hot to cut the grass here without burning it in the hot sun here! Our hay was cut and rolled before it got this hot (38 on Thursday) but the stubble has gone blonde. Which has nothing to do with education, but it is Sunday and all that. Have a nice one...

It’s ok Brian. She does have they kids 5 days out of 7 too, although they are on the point of leaving home now and she will be coming to live in Paris with me.
The point I was making though is that they take a load of stick re holidays, being fonctionnaires, etc, but when you look closely, they are really hardworking and committed.
Have a good Sunday.
Now if she doesn’t get her marking finished soon, I’m going to have to cut the grass and trim the hedge.

Nick, perhaps I should have said 'less of much of that' instead of 'little'. We have friends teaching at both levels. For example, A, the primary school teacher, has plenty whereas C, his ex teaching in a college, has lots more. They 'juggle' having their three kids between them. OK Nick, that is your OH's miserable lot, then think about those who have more! I would never have been a teacher for that reason above all others, especially the number of postgrads I used to have who had quit and gone back to study to escape that life.

My mrs is a primary school teacher in France and, given that we only see each other at weekends, I am getting severely hacked off at the number of weekends when she has worked on class admin for most of the weekend.
In fact she has been up and at it since 7.30 this morning again.
Next week during her teaching week she has four additional meetings, all after her working day finishes. So please don’t believe the old adage that primary school teachers do little admin.
She does far more hours than me per week and I’m in a private industry.

Both of my sons were a product of German education. Yes, even then school days were short but they had after school facilities for the convenience of working parents more than the young people. It is a system that takes in loco parentis seriously though as I know from people with teenagers in school still, including my son's two still at school. His wife and he have 'executive' jobs that mean long hours in their offices, therefore they take turns to collect them at about 1800. The day spent on school premises is 0800 to 1800 normally, 10 hours, although school itself is 0900 to 1500. Many, many parents there in Hanover take advantage of the offer so that homework, tutorial sessions and extracurricular activities are included in the longer day. In effect, swings and roundabouts when compared with British public schools because it comes out similar. Both of the kids can leave the school at any time but then they lose the hour or so spent on homework and other 'projects' and some of the other things. They would also have to give up part of the short lunch break for tutorial sessions too, so that they are actually happy with the arrangement. That is the difference here. One lot are outside hanging around and others are not allowed out until transport or adult carers collect them. As for a top school doing away with prep, then they undoubtedly have something instead since that would be retrograde as far as getting people prepared for essays and project work at uni. Yet another ploy to appear more humane I expect.

If Primary teachers in France do less admin and marking than their secondary colleagues then they are a world away from the situation in the UK! There was a BBC news article this week about a top public school that is doing away with prep to improve their pupils’ ‘wellbeing’. British Universities are particularly keen to take on students who have been in the German education system. They have very short days but are very self disciplined with regards to individual, unsupervised study, quite the opposite of the British public schools.
To go back to the OP, in my opinion working parents need a good choice of organised activities to occupy their children while they are working, not shorter school holidays. France has a good infrastructure of activities in place.

If the extra time is structured and used well then it would enhance and the benefits show.

I am a grammar school lad myself but looking at it from the point of view of teaching at university, the ones who are natural students are those who were in private education as boarders where the school day was long what with prep, sport and so on. Young people who came straight out of state schools struggle and get tired for at least the first year. The other students who do well are those who are going (back) into study after working for a few years. By saying 'natural' students I mean that they are able to fit into the schedule of learning and working. Yes, there can be lots of spare time, but during the first year rarely so and for those who are also able to reap the benefits of extracurricular learning and activities. It can be long, tough days unlike lazy, good for nothing students the press often describes. Straight from school to work is comparable and there one certainly cannot make their own hours as a rule. Long holidays are one thing that is hard to resolve, but then teaching professions tend to need them. Give a teacher of any kind a couple of months off then look at that vacation closely. It probably includes some paperwork, certainly preparation for the incoming year's courses and usually a couple of other small things. The point is that two months whittle down to one very often. The couple of weeks a time the rest of the year in the French system is filled with marking and admin, so perhaps a few days off. Yes, primary teachers do little of much of that, but then they are not generally as thoroughly trained here. However, education consists of pupils, about whom we are thinking here, and teachers whose role is central to it happening at all. Both need to be seen in perspective.

Good point Brian, I was thinking from a Primary School point of view. I’m sure that, in the modern world, there is a greater need for organised activities for the children of working parents outside school hours. I’m sure however that these activities should not the responsibility of schools. Schools are for education, both formal and informal and this needs to be kept separate from out of school activities; different people and different places. Children like to know the boundaries and can find it difficult when at the end of the school day their teacher takes on a different personality and a learning environment, even if it is the school hall, suddenly has a new set of rules. Extending school hours and cutting down on holidays might suit working mums and dads but would it enhance their children’s education?

I'd love quality time in the week with my children but as we all have to get to school/work for 8 and come home at 7/730 at the earliest quality time eg time for talking happens in the car. No school bus here. Prep supper & bed after that. We catch up at the weekend or rather on Sunday, since Saturday is for doing all the utilitarian stuff I can't do during the week - so that is yet another reason I appreciate the school holidays.

I very much agree. However, I wonder about the reality of quality time and how it is defined and practised?

Both with my boys in the 1970s, not in France either, and again with our girls, when they were at primary school they were collected. Parents got there up to half an hour before school ended, formed huddles who huddled every day and sometimes the gossiping went on after school was out. That was not necessarily because of distance. Several girls from one daughter's class walked to nearby villages, up to around half an hour on foot, whereas others could have walked home faster than parents could have driven round the one way system. One even jumped in her 4x4 to drive seven or eight hundred metres, not combining it with any other activity such as shopping. We had no choice because we live 12km from the school of which 11km is a departmental road with fast stretches, trucks and loonies galore using it. We had no choice.

Then comes college/secondary school and the vast majority of young people appear to be abandoned to their own devises. As probably in my own time, leaving school we formed in groups of rabble, but seeing them just hanging around with their music blasting out (often several competing), trying to scrounge cigarettes from people and generally not really being a nuisance but an irritation. We occasionally collect because otherwise they will be over an hour getting home with their respective buses.

How does one school year to the next define they are like precious, delicate porcelain and the next year fending for themselves. I have been studying children for four decades but parents never. I always look at the scenario with the eyes of the anthropologist but it is a bit of human behaviour that I can't crack. I have asked a few people, but none of them really knows. It is just something that is done, therefore...

Well said John. Great post.

Schools are about educating children not childminding. Many schools in the UK now run breakfast clubs and extended daycare but a daily routine of childminders, the regular school timetable and out of hours supervision often does the children no favours at all. Quality time with their parents cannot be given a value.

The days are long but the longer holidays fairly regularly spaced compensate by giving them time to unwind and get ready for the next six weeks. Short school days and then short breaks, except the summer, did not have the same effect. Both of our daughter are up at six and out half an hour later for a long journey to school and back, so about a 12 hour day four days and the first half of another. We have explained that later on in life work often means that for years on end, usually with far less holidays that school years, so adapt and then relax when you can but also really appreciate it. They do the latter and understand the former. As long ago as they were, my days were long because I arrived at the newsagent to sort out the papers for all rounds then did my own in all weathers, seven days a week. That got me up at five. School was on six days because we had Wednesday and Saturday morning only BUT since I was in sports teams both afternoons were taken, until Saturday was dropped so I got a Saturday job. Now jobs for school children are rare, so their days are in that sense easier.

I am not saying that that was good but it did most of us no harm. We worked during summer holidays from when we were 12, so the holidays were not wasted and we had out own money, a big difference because it was part of greater independence in the western world. Now, sure long holidays are hard for working parents but people manage however shorter school days and less holidays may not work for many people so the balance here is probably right.

As a divorced parent, my ex-h gets to spend a whole month in the summer with his children as well as a good chunk of the other holidays. He does not live nearby so counts on this time to spend time with them.

The good thing about France is that the centre aerés are so useful. They are good value for money working out at less than 20 Eur per day including lunch, and provide lots of activities for the children. They are available after school and during the holidays so working parents have it really easy here compared to the UK. I think they cost even less if you are on a low income.

I don't think the longer day impacts that negatively. The kids have half of Wednesday off to recover from the first part of the week once they get to Collège and only two days after that before the weekend. Mine don't seem to be particularly tired, and my youngest seems to get so much spare time during the day he does all of his homework at school!

So, no, I don't think France should cut back on the school holidays, and my kids certainly wouldn't disagree. :)

I have no problems with school holidays (I have a 6 year old and a 15 year old in the system and I also am a freelance teacher to the local centre PeP for primary school children to come on immersion breaks). Personally I have found the local centre de loisirs during holiday time to be reasonably priced and good value for money as well as a great way for them to stay in contact with their friends during the longer summer break

Oh and if you are collecting information for an article, kindly DO NOT identify me, as a civil servant I have a devoir de réserve.

I teach in lycée and have lots of children who have been/are still going through the system, so I have two hats on when answering this question.

I think the system isn't perfect but it is a lot better than in for example Germany when they stop at 1.30 or the UK where state schools stop at 3.30. What are children with working parents supposed to do, by themselves until past 7 o'clock?

In Germany there is a deliberate assumption that women won't have a job (because if they 'choose' to stay at home they aren't looking for work, are they) and school is cheaper to run without a canteen. In the UK I have no idea what the rationale may be.

My own school hours in GB were 8.30 to 6.30 (plus prep time later) I boarded but the day girls had the same timetable - we had longer holidays as a result and I don't remember anyone questioning it.Mind you this was back in the middle ages but I doubt it has changed much.

Here at least there are centres aérés for the holidays not to mention grandparents, if they are willing, for those who have them to hand.

Teachers who are in school from 8 am until 6pm need the holidays to plan lessons, research materials etc etc AND have some time off. Teaching is tiring if you do it well and exhausting if you do it badly. Pupils have a long day which reflects what their timetable is likely to be in the 'real world' and need the holidays to recover.