One in four French primary schools closed for a day last week as nearly a third of teachers went on strike over workload and teaching hours.
The education ministry said 29 per cent of teachers and non-teaching staff heeded the strike call of the five main union federations on Thursday. Primary education was worst hit, with a quarter of France's 57,600 nursery and primary schools closed. Although secondary schools were also affected, the ministry said all stayed open.
The unions claimed that half of all primary teachers were on strike and that in many secondaries more than 50 per cent stayed away. Some private schools also took action.
The unions were demanding "improvements and planning" in the education system, a slogan that covered a wide number of demands including the creation of extra posts and an end to job insecurity for supply teachers and contract staff.
Nicole Geneix, secretary general of the majority primary union, said the movement "is not demanding a personal reduction in working hours but seeks to improve and transform school".
Denis Paget of SNES, the biggest secondary teachers' union, said teachers needed time "to design increasingly complex educational programmes, for in-service training, and for organising work jointly with other colleagues".