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School: how school timetables have varied over the reforms

In an interview at The cross of Thursday March 17, the environmental candidate for the presidential Yannick Jadot did not exclude “reduce vacation time” school, especially for the summer holidays. A shock proposal that revives the still lively debate on school timetables. If the latter have not changed much for almost ten years, they have previously varied a lot over the reforms.

→ MAINTENANCE. Yannick Jadot: “I want to bring the school into the 21st century”

Summer holidays, for example, did not always last two months. In the 18th century, they began on August 15 for a resumption of classes on October 1. These dates were not intended to allow students to help their parents plow the fields, as is a collective belief, but rather to allow them to participate in the hunting season, recalls the education historian Claude Lelièvre, in his book School today in the light of history.

Gradually, the summer holidays began earlier and earlier: August 1 in 1891, July 14 in 1912 to arrive on July 1 in 1959. In 1972, they were institutionalized at two months, from July 1 to September 1. Summer vacation has never really changed since.

“Small vacation”

Small vacations appear later. In 1875, schoolchildren had only six days for Easter. Two weeks were added for the Christmas holidays in 1925. In 1985, the rhythm that we still know today was established, with the alternation of seven weeks of lessons and two weeks of vacation.

At the same time, schoolchildren were divided into three zones, A, B and C. These are still in effect today in order to promote tourism and limit traffic jams. Since then, only the All Saints holidays have undergone multiple changes. Lasting one week in 1960, they were reduced to three days five years later and increased to ten days in 1981. Between 1997 and 1999, pupils could take advantage of two weeks, then only one from 2002. Since 2012, they last a fortnight again.

Free Wednesday has not always existed

Students’ schedules also fluctuated. In 1881, the week lasted thirty hours, spread over five days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Students have lessons every day except Thursday and Sunday.

If the 27-hour week was introduced in 1969, it was not until 1972 that free Thursdays were replaced by Wednesdays in order to balance the week as well as possible. It is this same year that the schedules adapt to those of the work of the parents: the children no longer start at 9 a.m. but at 8:30 a.m., and finish at 4:30 p.m.

→ REREAD. School rhythms: do you need 4 days or 4.5 school days?

In 1990, Lionel Jospin, then Minister of Education, chose to reduce the number of course hours to twenty-six while keeping the week to four and a half days. Saturday morning will no longer include three but only two hours, which allows schools that wish to open only every other Saturday.

In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy introduced a 24-hour, four-day week, completely eliminating lessons on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In 2013, the last major change took place. François Hollande decides to put the lessons back on Wednesday morning so that the rhythm is less tiring for the children, while keeping the objective of twenty-four hours of weekly lessons.


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