With primary school children in Normandy back in the classroom this week some areas have introduced lessons on Wednesdays as part of the new â€˜rythmes scolairesâ€™ that must be introduced by September 2014.
Local authorities have been given a choice as to when they want to implement the new school hours which sees a return to a four and half day week which was the norm up until 2008. Some have chosen to start this September while others will introduce the changes next year.
The number of hours hasnâ€™t changed but the school day will be shorter, finishing at 15.45 instead of 16.15 or 16.30. Children will have shorter hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and make the hours up with lessons on a Wednesday morning although there is also the possibility of lessons on a Saturday morning but this is universally unpopular.
In Seine-Maritime in Upper Normandy some 77 communes, including Rouen, have implemented the changes and primary children are at school on Wednesday mornings. The change affects 33,129 pupils of which 7,300 are in Rouen.
The school day now finishes half an hour earlier and for parents whose children go to the after school clubs until they are collected after work it means an extra cost. At the school in Criquetot Lâ€™Esneval near Etretat, for example, they face paying an extra â‚¬1.45 a day.
The mayoral offices, which provide after school hours care, say that they are having to pass the cost onto parents as the French government is not providing money to cover the longer period that children are looked after. Parents have also voiced concern about the effect on the youngest children aged three and four who no longer get a dayâ€™s rest in the middle of the week and its effect on their life.
Some communes and schools have also had the extra expense of opening the school canteens on Wednesdays for children and providing extra staff for care on a Wednesday afternoon. Schools in Rouen, for example, asked parents during the last school year if they wanted lunch provided and the majority said yes. It has set aside â‚¬750,000 for the changes, most of which will go on providing lunches as 80% of pupils eat at school.
In Lower Normandy some 74 communes, including Caen, have introduced the new hours. These include 14 in Manche, 38 in Calvados and 22 in Orne.
But not everyone wants the change. In Aube in the Orne parents, teachers and the mayor are against the new hours and describe its implementation as a nightmare. According to the mayor Jean-Marie Vercruysse neither a Wednesday nor a Saturday morning are ideal for introducing the new half day of schooling. People are concerned about the cost of Wednesday morning schooling and while Saturday would be cheaper as most parents do not work that day the Orne general council is not prepared to provide transport.
â€˜The reform of school timetables has two objectives: to provide better learning and promote academic success for all. The success of children in primary school depends to a large degree of the conditions in which their learning takes place. The change is to ensure a greater respect for natural learning and a childâ€™s need to rest,â€™ said a spokesman for the Caen Academie that is responsible for education.
The school holiday dates for 2013/2014 have also been fixed. Schools in Lower Normandy will close for the autumn holidays on 19 October and return on 04 November. The Christmas holidays are from 21 December to 06 January. The winter holidays start on 01 March until the 17 of March and the spring holiday is from 26 April to 12 May with the year ending on 05 July, 2014.
In Upper Normandy the autumn and Christmas holidays are the same but the winter holidays are from 22 February to 10 March and the spring holidays from 19 April to 05 May.