With a tradition of lockerless schools, it is usual for pupils to haul on their backs between a quarter and a half of their own weight in books and equipment. Presenting his proposed legislation, Jean-Yves Haby said the volume and weight of items that pupils had to transport daily continued to grow. Exercise books and binders were heavier, textbooks had become thicker as pupils had more to learn and they were accumulating extra papers such as extracts from works, statistical tables and reproductions of historical documents.
The burden was worst at lower secondary level, with more and heavier books than those at primary and when pupils' bodies were still developing. They risked deforming their skeletons, developing an uneven gait and respiratory problems, said M Haby.
Possible solutions include splitting textbooks into several volumes and using loose-leaf ring-binders. M Haby's bill, due to go before the National Assembly this autumn, would make headteachers responsible for enforcing the 10 per cent limit.