Education – What groups of needs are set in the colleges of the Clermont-Ferrand academy at the beginning of the 2024 school year?

At the beginning of the school year in September, at the Clermont-Ferrand Academy, as elsewhere in France, faculties will have to set up groups as needed to teach French and mathematics in the 6th and 5th grades. A “knowledge shock” measure designed to raise the level of all students but criticized by teachers and school leaders.

Level or needs? If Gabriel Attal, the then minister of national education, announced the groups of levels in the secondary school in December 2023, it is indeed the group of needs contained in the circular of March 15 addressed to school principals. Without, however, mitigating the opposition of teachers and school leaders to this measure in the center of the “shock of knowledge”.

What does the new system consist of? Elements of the answer with Tanguy Cavé, Secretary General of the Clermont-Ferrand Academy.

Who do the students care about?

All 6th and 5th grade students of public and private secondary schools will be integrated into groups that will be formed according to the results of the assessment at the beginning of the year.

A student can be in a group with high needs, the number of which will be limited to 15, or in a group with fewer needs (numbers limited to 30). These groups will work on specific skills. Once these skills are acquired, students can be divided into new groups that meet other needs.

With which organization?

Students will be in groups for the entire weekly schedule in French (4:30 hours in 6th and 5th grade) and Math (4:30 hours in 6th grade, 3:30 hours in 5th grade). They will be able to return as a whole class for up to ten weeks a year.

It is up to each university to adapt its organization to its premises and its staff. Among the possible scenarios: “striping several classes” (matching French and math class schedules), to divide students into two or three groups. Or even co-teaching.

Has this organization been tested?

“In practice, it already exists in high school with special courses,” observes Tanguy Cavé. And in college, for language teaching, students from several classes can be grouped together in the same term.

“If we’re talking about pedagogy, teaching with smaller numbers, that’s what we did in elementary school, with the limit of the number of students per grade in CP and GO1 to 24, and that’s what the teachers are asking for,” continues the general secretary of the academies.

“Identifying needs and creating groups is also what is being implemented for personalized support.”

What are the ways of implementing the reform?

The grants were awarded based on the results of the 2023 assessments, which identified students with the greatest need.

At each faculty, the rector’s office relied on the number of these students with difficulties in order to calculate the funds that needed to be provided. That is, for each group of fifteen students, two hours of French and two hours of mathematics for the 6th grade, two hours of French and one hour of mathematics for the 5th grade.

The supplement (2 hours and 30 minutes of French language, 2 hours and 30 minutes of mathematics for the 6th grade, 2 hours and 30 minutes of the French language and 1 hour and 30 minutes of mathematics for the 5th grade) must be drawn from the margin of autonomy faculty.

Not all institutions received additional funds.

“Those who do not have a special allocation are faculties that already have funds to implement groups with needs without additional funding.”

tanguy cave

For example ? “In a college with 45 students in the 6th form, two departments are funded, if we divide it into groups according to needs, we can have a group of 15 and one of 30, so always two departments.” And without additional funds.

Will colleges reduce their training offerings using their margin of autonomy?

Since 2016, three hours of autonomy have been allocated to each 6th and 5th grade department. Hours that the faculty is free to use as they see fit. Some already give them personalized support in French and maths, others choose to share classes in natural sciences or languages, offer classes in Greek and Latin, etc.

“Each institution will decide on the total hourly rate”, says Tanguy Cavé, aware that “it is possible that this will affect the training menu”.

Can all faculties apply this reform?

“Not everything will be done overnight”, admits Tanguy Cavé, who does not deny the “complexity of the system”. To overcome this, “we have to move away from the organizational and resource logic to enter the educational dimension”, recommends the Secretary General. We have to reinvent the way of teaching, as was done when we divided the CP and CE1 classes in Rep. and Rep+.”

Smartphone in college: “We spend our time sorting through the stories that happen outside the walls”

The Puy-de-Dôme Inter-Union Snes-FSU, Snep-FSU, SNUipp-FSU, CGT Educ’action, Sud Education, SE-Unsa, Sgen-CFDT, FNECFPFO is organizing a protest on Saturday 4 May at 2pm, place de Jaude , in Clermont-Ferrand, to demand the withdrawal of the “shock of knowledge”.

Why are school leaders opposed to needs groups?

Teachers are not the only ones who condemn groups with special needs in high school. School principals, through their main union (SNPDEN-Unsa), are criticizing the measure against which Unsa Education has filed a complaint with the Council of State.

“Firstly there is the problem of resources,” notes Richard Commeau, academic secretary of SNPDEN.

“The funds allocated by the Academy are clearly insufficient to do something for the benefit of students. We can always find solutions, but it will be at the expense of students and what makes our system rich.”

Examples? In order to free up hours, “institutions will have to reduce the offer of modern languages, fears Richard Commeau. German with six students per class will be eliminated. We will no longer do science in groups, but in classes of 30.”

Equally weakened, the optional offer is “taken only at the margin of autonomy”. Hence the concern for Greek and Latin.

Another reason for tension is human resources.

“When you’re in a college with two or three classes per level, which is the case with most colleges in the academy, and two French professors, how do you want to make three groups?”

The third difficulty, institutions could lack available rooms, since “sharing classes means we put them in different rooms”.

“Conflict of Values”

Apart from practical and organizational pitfalls, the “worst”, in the eyes of trade unionists, is the “problem of values”.

By contacting the State Council, Unsa Education intends to “ensure compliance, in accordance with the Law on Education, with the educational and pedagogical autonomy of faculties and their management boards, while these new provisions limit, in a systematic way and throughout the national territory, the establishment of groups for the needs in all grades, for teaching French and mathematics”.

“We have a vision of the school that forgets the whole educational aspect, insists that we should better isolate students with difficulties from others who will answer their problem.”

If needs groups aim to “individualise the institution’s response to the needs of pupils”, they may well highlight the difficulties of the most disadvantaged pupils according to the National Education Executive Staff Union.

“Those who do well will be faster and very quickly there will be a gap with those who understand less or who have difficulties. Saying that these students can later join another group doesn’t work if it was counterproductive except for the good ones. (empty)

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