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Satchels blamed for back injuries

Heavy school satchels have been blamed for giving French schoolchildren back trouble in a report now being studied by Francois Bayrou, the education minister, writes Jane Marshall.

The sight of small children toiling to school doubled under the weight of satchels crammed with textbooks, exercise books, folders and other equipment has led MP Jean-Yves Haby to write a 77-page report on the problem of overloaded schoolbags.

The problem is especially serious for children aged between eight and 14 who, research shows, often carry loads of up to 10 kilos, equal to a quarter of their body weight.

Reasons for the problem include lack of school lockers, children's worries that they risk punishment if they leave a book at home, substantial homework which requires books to be carried back and forth between school and home and the books themselves which are increasingly thick and more robust to last several years.

M. Haby proposes more school lockers, better co-ordination between teachers and parents, creation of a single reference book combining all the facts a pupil should know, textbooks which could be split into detachable sections and lighter books. He also observes that the books so laboriously hauled to and fro every day spend 90 per cent of their time in the satchel.

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