They are concerned that suddenly introducing a four and a half day week in September 2014 at the start of the new school year will be too stressful for many children, especially the youngest.
Placard bearing parents have been on the streets across the region in recent days with the biggest protests in Rouen and Cherbourg. Teachers have been on strike and unions representing school staff said they are also against the changes being introduced without more discussions.
Currently French primary school children in nursery and primary go to school four days a week and have Wednesdays off. From next September they will be required to attend classes on Wednesday mornings.
They are particularly motivated in Rouen where municipal elections are taking place soon. The green party, EELV, is backing the parents and teachers. â€˜These reforms have been rushed through without proper consideration. A renegotiation of the situation is urgent,â€™ said a party spokesman in the city.
A group representing several political parties, Rouen Perspectives, said that they are not against the reform but believe that more attention needs to be paid to the needs of everyone involved and that younger children may need time to adapt to the change.
Parents blocked the entrance to several schools in Seine-Maritime including Barentin, Fontaine- le-Bourg, Grand Quevilly, Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville and Le Petit-Quevilly. Others organised marches to town halls and made their feelings known by keeping their children off school for the day. In some schools less than half the pupils turned up for classes.
In Manche there is a lot of opposition from local councillors too and only 6% of municipal councils have so far passed the reforms. Many Mayors have stated that they are going to refuse to ratify the reforms. In Cherbourg demonstrators demanded a complete re-write of the reforms and 80% of nursery pupils didnâ€™t attend school.
Jean Lhussier, education director for national school services in the Manche, met with a delegation of parents and teachers. â€˜We had an interesting exchange of views. I listened to their concerns but each council will have to apply the new reforms from September 2014, it is a question of how they introduce them,â€™ he said afterwards.
â€˜Mayors will have to submit the new timetables by the end of 2013. Not everything will work perfectly at the start of September 2014, that is for sure. Change takes time and goodwill. We are happy to have a dialogue with parents, teachers and councillors,â€™ he explained.
The public appear to back the parents and teachers. A nationwide poll published earlier this week showed that 54% of respondents agree that the reform should be scrapped. More action is planned in December.