The cross : What conclusions do you draw from this return to school, six weeks after the resumption of classes?
Christophe Kerrero: Our goal was to make the return to school as normal as possible, in sanitary conditions that allow everyone’s safety. This dual objective has been achieved. The students returned, the teachers too. We don’t have more teachers on sick leave than in previous years – perhaps because wearing a mask also slows down the spread of ordinary diseases.
→ READ. National assessments, an x-ray of the post-confinement school
Children and adults are happy to meet again. All prefer to play the game, to respect the protocol, rather than take the risk of a re-containment. As of Wednesday, October 7, there were only seven closed classes in Paris, including five in high school.
The rules were relaxed in schools, in September, and we are now waiting for three proven cases before closing a class. After a cold, parents should only report that a doctor has been consulted and has not ordered a test. Hasn’t that led to an explosion of cases?
CK: No, the change in rules has not resulted in an increase in the number of cases. Since the start of the school year, there have been 889 cases in Paris out of 320,000 students and 220 among our 27,000 staff. The number of new infections among students even fell by 33% last week. This tends to prove that the mask – compulsory for all adults and for students from middle school – has a real protective effect. And that children, especially small children, are not very contagious.
Do you see the effects of confinement on the level of the students?
CK: We do not yet have the final results of the national assessments of CP, CE1, 6e and second. But, judging by the first ascents, inevitably, we will be in the presence of a certain number of gaps, in particular in reading at the entry in 6e, with terrible situations here and there. Globally, 20% of the pupils show fluency difficulties, in other words do not manage to read fluently, and this proportion is sometimes much higher in some places. The difficulties are marked in certain colleges outside priority education, where we see a real dropout in reading.
On the other hand, we observe fewer breaks in certain priority education networks, where we sometimes even notice an improvement, a sign of quality support despite the confinement. In any case, at the start of the new school year, we have released 80,000 additional hours to allow college principals to start the “Homework” accompanied studies system earlier and to strengthen personalized support. In the first stage, we are also betting on a reduction in the number of students per class, which, with the help of demographics, has fallen on average from 23.4 in 2017 to 21.2 this year.
As rector, you are also in charge of universities. In Paris, we saw images of crowded amphitheatres, before the gauge was limited to 50% in early October. Does the proliferation of clusters in academia mean that we have lacked caution?
CK: I do not believe that. Because everywhere in the establishments, the wearing of the mask is very well respected. We cannot speak of laxity. Some universities have from the start of the academic year, and going beyond the protocol then in force, provided for a hybrid education, with part of the distance courses. Others, while respecting the protocol, wanted to place all the students in good working conditions, face-to-face, to allow them to get back up to speed, after six months without face-to-face lessons. We can’t blame them.
→ LARGE FORMAT. “The enthusiasm of the reunion suffocated by the mask”: story of a month in college
Moreover, we know that contaminations occur mainly outside establishments, in the private sphere, at parties or in cafes, where masks are removed. There were also at the very beginning of the year a few integration weekends or evenings. But it’s all behind us. The students, who may have been very isolated for months, need to find themselves. But I don’t believe at all that young people are irresponsible.