'Carrots' to stop staff leaving

18th May 2001 at 01:00

Ministers offer new teachers greater job choice and housing help to avoid a staff shortage.

THE French education ministry is launching an incentive scheme in 101 lower secondary schools to halt mass teacher resignations from schools in deprived areas.

New teachers will be given 450 or 600 seniority points , the equivalent of nine to 12 years' service, if they stay in post four or five years. They could also negotiate individual contracts. And they will get extra training and help from town halls in their search for housing. Groups of friends graduating from the same teacher training schools will be able to apply together to work at the same school.

The seniority points do not increase pay, but the more points a teacher gets, the more choice they are given in their next post. Teachers starting out on their career can be sent anywhere in France and have no right of appeal. This is why they often end up living at the other end of the country from their partners.

The scheme, which aims to foster teacher loyalty, will begin in educational priority zones (ZEPs) in the Ile-de-France region in September.

Most of the lower secondaries (coll ges) - 52 in Versailles, 45 in Creteil and four in Paris - are in ZEPs, according to a first draft of plans obtained by the secondary teachers' union Syndicat National des Enseignements de Second Degre (SNES). The 45 Creteil coll ges have been losing an estimated 1,000 teachers a year through resignations.

The ZEPs, which comprie primary schools and coll ges and a few lycees in deprived areas, are allocated 10 per cent more teaching hours than other establishments. There are about 1,000 such zones, which were created shortly after socialist president Francois Mitterrand was elected 20 years ago.

A ministry spokesperson confirmed that an incentive scheme is being prepared for next September.

The SNES endorses the aims of the Posts with Particular Requirements (PEP) plan, but says "it is being launched in a great hurry".

The union acknowledges the need to reduce the high turnover of teachers. "All studies show that if we don't stabilise the teaching staff, we will not achieve (positive) results with the pupils," said SNES joint-general secretary Bernard Boisseau.

But he objects to the fact that only new teachers will benefit from the scheme and not existing teachers who represent the majority. "We think measures should be adopted for all members of staff," he said.

The idea of cutting teaching hours to 16 a week for newcomers, leaving two hours for continuous training, means that colleagues would have to work overtime. Also, the proposals would give coll ge principals the right of veto over the choice of PEP teachers, whereas they normally play only an advisory role in recruitment.

Mr Boisseau noted that a similar scheme for deprived zones was launched in the mid-1990s, with the result that teachers stayed as long as the benefits lasted, but left "as soon as the carrot was removed".

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