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Teachers, Parents Protest Scheme to Make Schools More ‘Diverse’

Teachers went on strike Tuesday to protest plans which will see their school merged with another in Paris’s 18th arrondissement in order to make them more ‘socially diverse’.

Parents and reportedly 80 per cent of Marie Curie college’s teachers took part in a demonstration outside the town hall in the afternoon, demanding the “suspension, abandonment or redesign” of a move which will see the school merge with another in the district.

Gilles Pécout, who took over as head of Paris’s education system in October, last week announced the scheme to pilot “multicolleges” in three of the city’s districts.

This will see schools be paired and their students, and geographical recruitment pools, mixed so as to balance their demographics. The goal of the project is to encourage “social diversity” and to prevent schools in less homogenous areas from becoming “ghettos”.

Striking teachers say they’re in favour of diversity, but argue that the plan to merge Marie Curie with Gérard-Philipe college, “goes against this declared ambition” as parents will respond by moving house or taking their children out of the public education system. Already in Paris, 34 per cent of pupils are schooled privately.

Fearing that the project will undo all the work Marie Curie has done in convincing local parents to entrust their children to the public school system, a geography teacher told Libération: “Our diversity is fragile, it was built over the years.”

Another member of staff said parents “already try to avoid” the school, where 27 per cent of students come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Gérard-Philipe has a significantly worse reputation, with more than half of its pupils from economically deprived families.

Earlier in the month, parents of pupils at Antoine Coysevox college, also in the 18th arrondissement, blockaded its entrances in protest at a school pairing similar to the one planned for Marie Curie. Concerned mothers and fathers said, with 26 per cent of its pupils already from disadvantaged backgrounds, Antoine Coysevox will be destroyed if merged with Berlioz, one of the worst schools in the city.

At Roland-Dorgelès college, where only 12 per cent of pupils are from the poorest backgrounds, teachers slammed the project as politically motivated. A technology teacher at the school echoed concerns that the plans will only make social segregation worse. In terms of social diversity, he said: “Success depends precisely on whether parents stay or pull their children out.”

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