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Sustained budgetary effort over time
Educational reforms that are not enough
to improve performance
An education system with overly centralized and supervised
The base school
Secondary school autonomy
Overhauling the framework for the job of teacher
The assessment and performance of the school system
This policy paper is part of a body of work intended to present, on several major public
policies, the main challenges that public decision-makers will face in the coming years and the
levers that could make it possible to meet those challenges. This series of publications, which
runs from October to December 2021, is a follow-up on the June 2021 report submitted to the
President of the Republic, entitled, Exiting from crisis: A public finance strategy. This summary
work aims to develop, concerning a few essential structural issues, diagnostic elements
resulting from previous works by the Court and avenues of action capable of consolidating
long-term growth, while strengthening the equity, effectiveness, and efficiency of public
The Court, in accordance with its constitutional mission of informing citizens, wished to
develop a new approach, which differs from its usual work, and thus make its contribution to
the public debate, through this series of deliberately very synthetic and targeted reports, while
taking care to leave open the various possible avenues for reform.
This report was deliberated by the 3rd chamber and approved by the Court of Accounts'
Publication and Planning Committee.
Court of Accounts publications are accessible online on the Court’
s website and the
websites of the regional and territorial chambers of accounts:
Despite national spending on education above the OECD average, the performance of
the French school system tends to deteriorate, particularly for young people from
disadvantaged backgrounds. Educational reforms, increased resources, the results of
assessments of student achievement have not yet made it possible to sufficiently improve the
quality of the French education system.
However, there are avenues for better adapting school to the needs of students, by
strengthening the mobilization of institutions around their educational programme, by
accentuating the dynamics of institutions and networks, by renovating the framework of the
teaching profession, by relying on assessment to best meet student needs.
Key figures
€110 billion
for education expenditures (primary and secondary schools, central
government, communities, and households)
of GDP
Primary school:
Secondary school:
Annual budgetary expenditure per primary school student:
Annual budgetary expenditure per secondary school student:
Education is the first line item of government expenditure, which in 2021 devotes
for the instruction of 12 million students and apprentices under school status. Staff
expenditures represent 92 % of those allocations, plus pension expenditures, and place this
ministry (public and private education) at the top of public employers with 1.2 million staff
members, including 870,000 teachers and 170,000 educational support staff. Staff
expenditures increased from €62B in 2015 to €69B in 2020. The national e
ffort and, within it,
the budgetary effort of the central government, greater than the European average and that of
the OECD countries, are growing steadily, despite rather stable school demographics. Political
and budgetary trade-offs in this direction may seem legitimate, as education determines the
future of the country: the level of knowledge and skills of future generations dictates their social,
civic and professional integration and their ability to meet the needs of the economy. It is also
necessary that these budgetary efforts be correlated with the performance of the school
As the Court pointed out, in its June 2021 report entitled, Exiting from crisis: A public
finance strategy, despite national spending on education above the OECD average, the
performance of the French school system, whether in terms of its responsiveness to students'
needs or the level of their knowledge, tends to deteriorate, particularly for young people from
disadvantaged backgrounds. Educational reforms, increased resources, the results of
assessments of student achievement have not yet made it possible to sufficiently improve the
quality of the French education system.
Certainly, very general national objectives, such as the access rates of a generation to
the college certificate and to the baccalaureate, have been achieved, but largely without
meaning. In major international surveys of student achievement, the performance of our
education system is deteriorating in many ways. About 40 % of students at the end of primary
school do not have the fundamental knowledge in reading and mathematics that would allow
them to attend middle school under the right conditions, according to a study published in 2016
by the National Centre for Studies in School Systems (CNESCO ) and t
he ‘French Institute of
Education (IFÉ) -ENS of Lyon. In mathematics, the most recent international assessments
(Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study [TIMSS] 2020), such as national
assessments (cycle of disciplinary assessments carried out on samples [CEDRE] 2019) are
not very encouraging: at the end of primary school and middle school, the proportion of
students in the least performing groups rose, according to the Board of assessment, foresight
and performance (DEPP), from 15% in 2008 to 25 % in 2019, while that of the best performing
students went from 29% to 22 %. In addition, in 2018, 12 % of young people left initial training
without an upper secondary education diploma (CAP, BEP, baccalaureate), while the
European objectives established at the Lisbon summit (2000) provide for limiting the proportion
of these young people leaving the education system early and not pursuing studies or training
to less than 10%.
Grap n°1:
France’s position with regard to the objectives of the Education
and training 2020 strategy in 2018
Source: DEPP according to Eurostat
Despite the poor results of national assessments, despite the recommendations resulting
from in-depth, recognized international surveys, when too many educational reforms have
taken place and the allocations, devoted to primary school, middle school, and high school,
are only growing, the school organization has not undergone the transformations which are
nevertheless the condition for improving the performance of the education system in our
country: whether it concerns the institutions’ capacity for initia
tive, the operational use of the
assessment of academic results, or the conditions for exercising the teaching profession, the
attractiveness of which continues to deteriorate, albeit differently from one subject to another,
from one territory to another, particularly because of the low level of wages, training conditions,
methods of working and entry into the profession.
This report, first of all, makes the observation of the insufficient performance of our
school system, despite a sustained budgetary effort over time, and numerous educational
reforms, moreover mainly relating to secondary education.
It then explores the avenues for better adapting school to the needs of students, by
strengthening the mobilization of institutions around their educational programme, by
accentuating the dynamics of institutions and networks, by renovating the framework of the
teaching profession, by relying on assessment to best meet student needs.
From a methodological point of view, these conclusions cannot claim to be exhaustive.
They are based on numerous recent works carried out by the Court, listed in the appendix,
which relate to the analysis of the organization of the school system, both from the standpoint
of its effectiveness and its efficiency; some topics do not fall within the scope of this report,
those which have not been the subject of sufficient investigations during the recent period, or
which fall within areas in which the Court has so far refrained from focusing assessments, such
as the length and distribution of school time, or teaching programs and pedagogy; The same
is true of the question of the fair level, with regard to international comparisons, and all other
things being equal, of the compensation of teachers. Subject to these elements and the
recommendations that the Court might make during future audits, the questions of
performance and organization of the school system, to which this report relates, appear to be
Despite a budgetary effort and numerous educational reforms, the French education
system presents mediocre performance.
A. Sustained budgetary effort over time
The n
ation devoted in 2020 nearly €110B for the education of primary and secondary
school students, shared between the central government budget (64%) and territorial budgets
(26 %), the balance corresponding to the contribution of other general government institutions,
households, and businesses. France, with a share of education expenditures at 5.2 % of GDP,
is above the average for OECD countries (4.9 %); its effort places it above Spain, Germany,
Japan, Italy, or Ireland, which devote less than 4.5 %.
1-A slow rebalancing of resources in favour of primary school education,
a priority in terms of educational success
The expenditure per student rose, in constant euros, by 210 % between 1980 and 2020,
for primary school, in a general context of stagnation in the number of schoolchildren, with a
particularly marked slope since 2015 (+14 %), and 65% for secondary school, in a context of
slight growth in enrolments, with less growth in expenditures since 2015 (nearly 3%). Despite
this rebalancing of the allocation of resources between the two education levels, national
expenditures per primary school student in 2019 r
emained below the OECD average (€7,600,
against €8,300), that per secondary school student being, on the other hand, much higher
(€11,300, compared to €9,700) due to the high cost of general and technological high school
(higher than 17 % compared to the OECD average).
In addition, since 1980, a series of reforms have led to a decrease in the time spent in
elementary school class. If in 1980, the weekly instruction time was 27 hours, today it is only
24 hours for all students. Annually, the total volume of elementary education for all students
was 972 hours in 1980, now it is only 864 hours.
2-An overly slow adaptation of the structure of expenditures
to changing student demographics
The Court observed that the National Education Ministry does not sufficiently use tools
such as overtime to anticipate the effects of declining school demographics and to avoid hiring,
which makes its system rigid, whereas it should be possible to adapt it to more closely meet
the needs of a changing student population. In recent years, overtime has averaged less than
3 % of staff expenditures: 76 % of these allocations are used for annual overtime hours (called
HSA), which are only for display purposes because they are in fact integrated into the teachers’
service, correspond to additional compensation and do not have any flexibility of use. In fact,
they are included in the weekly schedule programmed throughout the school year, two-thirds
of secondary school teachers do at least one as an additional service, and one quarter of
teachers do at least two. Conversely, only 20 % of the related allocations pay for so-called
effective overtime (HSE), that is to say one-off hours, averaging one hour per month, per
Overtime has its place in a range of structural tools for adjusting teaching resources over
the school year; it is also a matter of preserving a sufficient amount in the hands of school
heads, as instruments of flexibility and response to the specific needs of the local public
education institution (EPLE) to carry out its projects.
3-Performance now linked more to the educational organization
than to a level of expenditure
The question is raised of an optimal threshold of expenditure to devote to the education
system, in order to obtain a significant leverage effect on its performance. The OECD observes
that the mere fact of increasing education spending does not lead to a qualitative improvement
in education, nor to an increase in educational results. In countries where education
expenditure exceeds the threshold of 50,000
USD, or €43,300, per student, for the educational
pathway between 6 and 15 years old, the PISA surveys show that the relationship between
expenditures and performance loses its intensity: for many countries, the science score will be
almost the same regardless of the level of spending. It is then the quality of the school
organization and its ability to adapt that are at stake, as well as the educational models of
instruction (programs, methods, exams).
It is not for the Court to assess the latter; on the other hand, it is up to it to examine the
effectiveness and efficiency of the organization of the public education service, and particularly
the conditions for hiring and organizing the work of the teaching and educational communities
which constitute its core. However, one observation is never denied, that of the rigid, uniform
and intangible character of the rules which govern this organization, whether it concerns the
place of schools and institutions in the administration of National Education Ministry or the
context of exercising the teaching profession, or the importance and use of assessments to
steer the education system. In addition, the selectivity of hiring, particularly in scientific
subjects, is increasingly weak, to the point of being problematic.
B. Educational reforms that are not enough
to improve performance
Successive governments have responded to school difficulties with rapid-tempo reforms,
focusing above all on students’ courses, particularly in secondary school education,
rather than
on the organization and functioning of the school system, which are nevertheless decisive to
supporting the students’ pathway.
Over the past fifteen years or so, there has been a reform of the vocational path
(vocational baccalaureate in 3 years), the reform of priority education, the reform of the middle
school, an aborted reform of school paces, the transformation of the vocational route, the
duplication of school classes in priority education, the reform of the high school and the general
and technological baccalaureate, and the introduction of compulsory education from 3 years
of age. The educational community struggles, despite the usefulness they may present, to take
ownership of such reforms, which occur at a sustained pace, without always taking the time
for the assessment, and require support by the National Education Ministry managerial staff
(inspectorate and school heads) which absorbs a great deal of time, energy, and ultimately
resources (especially training).
This piling up of reforms certainly attests to the attention paid to the education system,
but does not resolve the difficulties encountered. However, some progress has been shown,
such as the decline in school drop-outs, reduced from 13 % in 2010 to 8% in 2020, thanks to
the vigorous mobilization of the National Education Ministry and its partners. However, the
overall performance of the French education system, assessed by international assessments,
remains mediocre despite the significance of the resources mobilized.
Comparative analyses of school systems, such as those by the OECD, particularly the
recurrent findings from the PISA survey for twenty years now, emphasize that the best
performing school systems are those which give the most space to each institution, uniting the
educational community at that level around a common project, which encourages teachers to
be innovative and to improve their performance and that of their colleagues.
To produce their effects, for the moment hampered by the intangibility of management
methods and structures, educational reforms need an overhaul of the organizational methods
of the school system, particularly affecting the autonomy of institutions and the prerogatives of
head teachers, allowing the development of large-scale experiments, opening the way, for
example, to much greater margins of flexibility and differentiation according to the local
contexts of school catchment areas or networks, and based on the generalization of the
assessment, not only of student performance, but also of schools and institutions.
C. An education system with overly centralized
and supervised management
The primary school, middle school, and high school do not have sufficient autonomy to
allocate the resources according to a project developed collectively and corresponding to the
needs of the students.
In France, the autonomy of schools is very supervised. Unlike other European countries,
where the education system is organized around institutions, France is characterized by a very
centralized education system: the managerial chain strongly controls the margins of action of
primary schools and even secondary institutions. When it comes to driving reform, adapting
education systems to local realities, and managing a crisis situation, local officials are in a
relatively vulnerable position. Only 10 % of decisions taken in education are taken at the school
level, barely 2 % of which are made in
“total autonomy”.
The OECD thus places France in the category of countries “with minimal decentralization
and deconcentration”,while resear
ch on educational performance highlights not just the
autonomy of schools, but the combination of their autonomy and their accountability (which
thus refers to their degree of assessment) as an important lever of efficiency. Such an
organization also promotes the reduction of social and educational inequalities.
This autonomy is embodied in the first place by the identity and the project of the
institution, then by the collective work of the teaching and educational community, and lastly
by a head teacher with important prerogatives. Concerning the first two factors, positive
developments can be noted, although sometimes they are more formal than real; but the
recognition of a strong autonomy and of a school head endowed with the necessary
prerogatives has hardly progressed. The school particularly, without legal personality,
managed for the most part from the outside (by the inspector of the district rather than by a
director whose availability for supervision is only partial) has little margin decision-making,
even when it reaches the size of a middle school.
Some OECD countries have used the school system to reduce inequalities. However, in
France, such inequalities continue to widen. From this point of view, the public policy does not
achieve its objectives.
As the Court pointed out, in its June 2021 report entitled, Exiting from crisis: A public
finance strategy, various avenues for improving school organization deserve to be explored,
whether it be the base school, to facilitate the stu
dent’s pathway, increasing the margins of
autonomy and initiative of the institutions and their managers, overhauling the context of
exercising the teaching profession, or the use of assessments.
A. The base school
The attempt to bring primary schools and mi
ddle schools together in “the base school”,
in order to facilitate the student’s pathway, has so far failed; it would have made it possible to
give to an entity “local public institution of fundamental knowledge”, an existence and a leader,
bringing together a cluster of schools around its reference middle school and a coordinating
middle school principal.
The Act of April 23, 2005 on guidance and planning for the future of schools, specified
through several later texts, indeed sought to erase the division between primary and secondary
school, by establishing a “common base of knowledge and skills”, that every student is
supposed to master at the end of compulsory education. All the practical consequences have
not been drawn from this common base organized into three cycles: that of fundamental
learning (CP, CE1, and CE2), that of consolidation (CM1, CM2, 6th), finally that of the
deepening (5th, 4th and 3rd). The division remains deep between primary school education,
entrusted to generalist teachers, following the student in all of their learning, and secondary
level, under the responsibility of teachers who are as many specialists in usually a single
subject, and who do not always team up as much as would be necessary to meet the needs
of the student. Joint or crossed interventions that give shape, in CM2 or 6th, at the base school,
are practised on an experimental basis, e.g., the organization of joint training for the teachers
concerned proves to be complex, the compartmentalization of management not offering the
necessary flexibility.
The continuity of the organization of the student’s path is broken quite abruptly between
primary school and middle school, while the logic of the common base would have required
that practical sequences be set up, beneficial for the students in greatest difficulty.
B. Secondary school autonomy
The secondary school remains mainly an execution level and not a design level, its
margins of autonomy are increasing but still limited. Concretely, these are embodied, alongside
the traditional organizational and administrative tasks, in the missions of leading the teaching
teams and in setting up aid and support systems for the students who have in common to
constitute spaces of educational intervention different from the ordinary class.
The school plan, compulsory from 1989, occupies a special place within them. However,
it comes in different forms depending on the context. For some school principals, the plan is
comprehensive and constitutes the heart of school policy. For others, it may remain a
bureaucratic document, drawn up by management alone. In all cases, the principal teacher
can become a privileged stakeholder in the link between the school plan and the student’s
personal plan, while the subject coordinator can tend to fulfil this role within a group of teachers
of the same subject.
However, the high school value added indicators monitored by the Ministry, as well as
the OECD analyses and the inquiries of the Court, bear witness to the reality of
an “institution
effect”, which conc
erns the educational organization and the use of the resources allocated to
the institution, with an internal functioning based on an school plan which brings together the
teaching and educational community. This issue goes hand in hand with that of the
accountability of head teatchers and school principals. However, if the legislative texts have
enshrined the increase in their responsibilities, particularly to implement recent educational
reforms, their effective room for manoeuvre with regard to teachers remains marked by
significant ambiguities, which hamper de facto their action.
1- The function of school principal in question
In the primary school, the school principal must be a school teacher. Most of the time,
they do not occupy this function full time and benefit from a teaching exemption scheme which
varies according to the number of classes in their school. Even if a “job” reference system
concerning school principals was first developed in 2014, the framework for carrying out their
missions remains unchanged, in the absence of recognition of a real status. However, changes
seem to be emerging with the development of experiments consisting in giving school
principals a certain degree of latitude in terms of orientation towards teaching teams, as the
announcement illustrates, in an experimental setting and, for some schools in Marseille, of the
principal’s choice the teachers of the school they direct. However, for the moment, the
hierarchical superior of teachers in primary school is not the school principal, but the National
Education Ministry district inspector.
In secondary school, the school principals constitute a specific corps and exercise their
functions full-time. Unlike the primary school principal, the secondary school principal has
authority over all the staff assigned to the institution, even if, for teachers, their authority is
limited to ensuring their contribution to the continuity of the school. education. In this area, the
pandemic has shown how difficult it is for many of them to maintain this continuity by
reorganizing the work of teachers on their own authority.
This responsibility of school principals is exercised in many forms: at the level of the
institution, particularly through the school plan, the organization of teaching, the allocation of
services; but also at the level of the class, e.g., in staff meetings on student performance, or
by overseeing the assessment of the students. However, although having a more assertive
status, the principal of the secondary school also sees their legitimacy and their authority
shared with those of the regional academic inspectors. These play a dominating role in the
assessment of teachers and have a disciplinary role, which is certainly in keeping with the
educational freedom of teachers in front of their class but also hinders the responsibility of
school principals in the organization of the service. The Court therefore recommended, in the
context of a recent inquiry into the secondary school audits inspectorate, that the principal be
entrusted with the assessment of teachers, provided that a possibility of appeal be granted to
the inspector, and regulating the activity of inspectors to guarantee fair treatment of teachers.
This should make it possible refocus the work of inspectors on educational support for
teachers and teaching teams, but also to strengthen the role of the school principal as pilot of
educational mobilization for student success.
In fact, improving the quality of teaching requires strengthening the educational
supervision function within institutions. From this point of view, French school principals are
less likely than their counterparts in the countries participating in the OECD-TALIS survey to
declare that they attend classes being taught (8%, versus 49 % on average among the
countries of the TALIS survey), take initiatives promoting cooperation between teachers to
develop innovative educational practices (60%, versus 64 % on average), and take concrete
measures to ensure that teachers work on improving their teaching skills (52
%, compared to
69 % on average).
While successive ministerial circulars have endowed schools with greater opportunities
for initiative in defining their strategy, their organizational methods, or adapting their teaching
offering, this room for manoeuvre is not fully exploited. The transition from a culture of
management to a culture of support is taking place very gradually, as the National Education
Ministry has not sufficiently distanced itself from a very restrictive system of management and
national references. A dual constraint still too often weighs on institutions. While the
management teams and all the stakeholders are called upon to mobilize around objectives to
be respected within the framework of an school plan, the resources allocated to them obey a
rather rigid management system based on nationally approved timetables, fixing teaching
schedules and leaving little room for manoeuvre to educational teams, including in terms of
In addition, school principals must ensure the quality of cooperative relationships
between teachers, students, and their families, which can improve performance, especially
with disadvantaged students.
2- The possible increase in the management margins of institutions
Increasing institutions’ margins of initiative supposes supporting school principals in their
professional development and giving them the means to assume their new responsibilities,
such as project management, team management or change management. The growing
responsibility of school principals should lead them to report on the results obtained by their
institution, which depend on the teaching teams that it is their responsibility to mobilize.
However, the Court noted a deficit in the support of the principals in their new responsibilities,
in spite of a real effort in the training for taking up the job, and the organization of regular
training courses relating to the exercise of their missions.
Despite such developments, their role as facilitators and managers of the teaching team
remains little valued in relation to the responsibilities entrusted to them. The ability of school
principals to assert themselves and to lead therefore rests essentially on their natural authority,
the goodwill of their employees, and the possibility of relying on a constructive relationship with
the board of education. They have, in practice, few levers: they do not intervene in the process
of assigning teachers, unlike what happens in private educational institutions under contract
(where the director of education can only appoint a teacher with the approval of the principal
concerned), and they have only a secondary place in the assessment of teachers. Few of them
are granted “
teaching positions
for their institution,i.e., adapted to the needs they have
The educational choices made in the context of autonomy are still very rarely based on
an analysis of the performance of the institution in terms of student results. The indicators
(current school results, exam results, absenteeism, expulsions, third-second / second-terminal
access rate, continuation of training or studies, etc.) are largely under-used by teachers and
management teams alike. The movement, initiated since the start of the 2020 school year, for
the systematic and regular implementation at the national level of a system for evaluating
schools, should help reverse this trend.
All in all, a certain ambiguity in the position of the management staff of educational
institutions persists. The difficulties in implementing certain reforms may have one of their
causes in this situation. For public opinion, and first and foremost for parents of students, a
gap persists between the perception of the central role of school principals and the reality of
their prerogatives.
C. Overhauling the framework for the job of teacher
The work of secondary school teachers (490,000 in number) is structured by “regulatory
service obligations” (ORS). These obligations consist only of the presence of the teacher in
front of the class according to a weekly logic, between fifteen hours for associate teachers and
eighteen hours for certified teachers during the official duration of the school year, i.e., thirty-six
weeks. Thus, despite the legal definition of a teacher’s missions, any work other than that of
“teaching class” is
not quantified in their service time. In the REP+ schools, teaching time is
organized differently, with a weighting of 1.1 of teaching hours in middle schools: outside of
teaching hours, teachers can devote themselves to other aspects of their profession,
particularly working collectively and training together, designing and organizing student
monitoring, or even cooperating with the parents of the students.
1- Better consideration of teachers' assignments outside the classroom
Outside of class time, the teacher has many activities. These concern, particularly, a set
of tasks within the institution which not only contribute to teaching itself but also to giving shape
to school life: student monitoring and personalized support, meetings with parents, teamwork
meetings, participation in the institution's bodies, interest in extracurricular activities. In the
current state of the regulatory framework, their intensity depends on the commitment of each
teacher, while the participation of teachers in school life is an essential issue of support for
students in all aspects of their life at school.
This situation is regrettable in many respects: for the teacher, who does not see their
professional involvement outside the classroom fully recognized, for the National Education
Ministry, which does not have a regulatory service framework that would include working time
in the institution for other educational tasks, but also for the accomplishment of missions
essential to the continuity of public service, such as short-term replacements. In this
perspective, the Ministry would gain by better defining the effective working time of teachers
and by objectifying its breakdown.
An annual overall definition of teacher services would thus make it possible to take into
account not o
nly teaching hours, but also ancillary assignments, which may require teachers’
availability time in institutions, and thus enhance actions today which are insufficiently
recognized and measured, as well as the dedication of the most committed teachers to support
their students.
2- Consultation and teamwork, practices to be generalized
The pandemic was an opportunity for the Court to observe the development of
collaborative practices making it possible to better meet the needs of students. Teamwork has
particularly benefited from the exchange of practices within the framework of video-
conferences or professional social networks. This notably made it possible to ensure
pedagogical continuity favourable to student success, but also contributed to the support of
teachers in difficulty by avoiding situations of professional isolation.
However, consultation and teamwork are struggling to take hold in practice. There are
multiple reasons: initial training, as part of the teaching, education and training professions
master’s degree (MEEF), does not give sufficient space to collaborative work; management is
poorly equipped to promote such practices, especially since the teachers’ schedules, defined
on the basis of regulatory service obligations focused on teaching hours in front of students,
are very rigid and do not include time dedicated to consultation and collective work, except in
priority education. However, the Decree of 20 August 2014 relating to regulatory service
obligations and the missions of secondary public teaching staff clearly provides, among their
missions related to the teaching service, “work within teaching teams made up of teachers in
charge of the same classes or groups of students or working in the same subject field”.
Whether they are working meetings of teachers from the same class, or teachers from
the same subject teaching in different classes, these consultations and joint work are not
facilitated by the organization of teachers' services. The weekly nature of the regulatory service
obligations (ORS) prevents an annualized organization of service time which would make it
possible to modulate the implementation of programs according to the school’s plans and to
adapt more easily to educational reforms, especially when they include multi-subject or joint
On average, across OECD countries, cooperation between teachers within a school
shows a notable positive correlation with student performance. The TALIS survey thus notes
that collaborative practices of teachers are less frequent in France than in other countries.
Graph n°2: cooperation between teachers
Percentage of lower secondary school teachers who report never engaging in the following activities
Countries are ranked in descending order according to the percentage of teachers who report never observing the work of
other teachers in class and never commenting on it.
Source: OECD, TALIS 2013 Databases, Table 6.15.
However, forms of collective teaching work in everyday school do exist, as can
particularly be the case in physical education and sports or in physics-chemistry, where the
collaborative work by teachers allows for greater continuity and progressiveness of teaching.
It would appear natural to extend, the methods of consultation and collective work between
teachers and to include these activities in their service obligations, beyond just priority
education institutions.
The Court has already insisted on the need to embrace the collective dimension of the
teaching profession and to recognize the individual and collective missions which are not
identified in the service time. In its recent work on pedagogical continuity during the pandemic,
the Court noted how powerless the school principals were, during the first lockdown, despite
the obvious goodwill of most of them and of the school life staff. Organizing this continuity
required abandoning the pre-established schedule to organize a specific student schedule in
distance school: the priority given to the usual organization resulted in strong disparities, some
classes being offered online courses, while others had few or were deprived of them altogether.
In addition, some teachers, trying to meet all the needs of their students on their own, have
become exhausted while taking charge within the framework of a common organization would
have made it possible to better respond to them by pooling the work. Only a minority of school
principals broke away from the usual framework. These findings show how much the initiative
of teachers and management staff is constrained by a system that is far too rigid.
3- Continuing education for teachers methods to be adapted
If continuing education is integrated into the services of primary school teachers, it is
only mentioned in the legislative texts concerning secondary school teachers, with the
exception of those working in enhanced priority education.
In general, continuing education still takes place too often during class time to the
detriment of students, even though the 2019 Act for a School of Confidence affirms its
compulsory nature for all teachers, which should lead to providing it outside teaching hours. In
practice, this is still often perceived as a top-down prescription little connected to actual needs.
However, the complexity of teachers taking charge of students with very diverse needs,
the contributions of research, and finally the increasingly unavoidable uses of digital
technology in teaching, make an ambitious continuing education policy essential within the
National Education Ministry. However, the allocations opened for continuing education are
never used up in full. They were only 70 % used in 2019.
At present, the Ministry grants a bonus to encourage teachers to train during school
holidays. Other solutions are implemented in certain academies, however, such as the Créteil
academy: within the framework of thematic training courses benefiting teachers, the list of
whom is drawn up before the start of the school year, one day a week is reserved for training,
and the schedules take that into account, which avoids postponing or organize replacements.
Likewise, the appropriation of digital technologies in the face of the pandemic can constitute a
lever to increase the organization of such training.
4- Short-term replacement solutions to be found
The cost of replacing all teachers absent from secondary school would amount,
according to the Court, to nearly €1.9B. This replacement is today of very limited effectiveness:
on the one hand, absences of less than fifteen days, a significant part of which is explained by
the very functioning of the education system, are not taken into account, without school
principals being able to mobilize existing teachers to provide short-term replacements; on the
other hand, substitute teachers are themselves managed under the same regime as other
teachers, while their mission would require greater flexibility.
To overcome the rigidity of these rules, institution protocols, based on the voluntary
service of teachers, have been put in place, but their number remains very limited and the
simple re-launch of replacement protocols would not be enough to facilitate a replacement of
short duration. Likewise, the announcement of secondary educational reception plans at the
start of the 2021 school year assumes the allocation of additional leeway given to management
teams to successfully implement them. The Court already recommended in 2017 to include
replacement in the missions of teachers: the integration of an annual flat rate of possible
replacement hours in the obligations of teachers and the strengthening of the prerogatives of
the principal, in addition to this measure, would provide a solid basis for replacement,
particularly of short duration, thus very appreciably improving educational continuity for
the students.
Adapting the conditions for exercising the profession, in order to better meet the
needs of students and schools
The provision of workspaces dedicated to teachers
Traditionally, the teacher’s workplace is as much their home as the school where they
teach. The few spaces available in the school are not really suitable, with a few exceptions, for
individual work, nor equipped with the tools everyone needs to prepare for lessons, assess
student work and obtain documentation.
Habits, especially in secondary school, have made the home office an essential space
for such work. If they do not benefit from workspaces, such as transit offices, equipped with
docking stations for nomadic work, or rooms for subject work (e.g., office of language teachers,
etc.) or multi-subject, teachers cannot perform their tasks between their courses, and are by
necessity little available within the institution. The necessary changes in facilities presuppose
close collaboration between management teams and teachers to define needs, and between
the decentralized services of the National Education Ministry and the community that owns the
facilities, to carry out these arrangements.
Taking into account the involvement of teachers in the implementation
of school plans
Teaching staff are the main educational players in an institution. Individually or in teams,
they contribute to the implementation of the school plan. However, apart from the assessment,
the school principal has few effective means to express the recognition by the school institution
on how they serve as a teacher. There are mainly two possibilities: overtime and, since 2014,
the allowance for special missions (IMP). However, the terms of allocation of the latter appear
to be highly constrained, both by the amount of the annual allocation and by the number of
missions defined as national priorities, depriving the principal of any discretion.
This system of compensating teachers for specific missions which are not considered as
teaching activities clearly shows that it is essential that this service be extended to activities
other than only classroom hours. In addition, for school principals to have a real management
tool, the budgets made available to them should be more flexible and more linked to
educational objectives.
The development of a basic digital platform to promote its educational uses
If some teachers are very comfortable with digital technology, there are many who, little
trained to make professional use of it, have converted during the pandemic. Mastering the
current and educational uses of digital technology now appears to be an essential professional
skill for all teachers. All must contribute to the acquisition by the students of a digital culture
within the school setting and in their education in the good uses of the digital one.
The gradual appropriation of digital uses by the educational community, in the light of
the pandemic, should encourage our country to catch up in the digital field for education.
Providing all primary schools, high schools and middle schools with a basic digital base
appears all the more necessary and urgent as the entire educational community, educated by
the pandemic, is now ready to seize it. During the pandemic, teachers made extensive use of
peer training for their most immediate needs, and to go further, turned to the m@gistère online
training system offered by the Ministry. It is now a matter of resolutely increasing the digital
training effort to integrate it into the culture of teachers and their ordinary practice: it is an
essential working tool today for both teachers and students.
D. The assessment and performance of the school system
Improving the performance and equity of the school system requires a stronger ability to
adapt to local contexts and student profiles. The challenge is to curb a tradition of uniformity in
the modes of organization of teaching and management of teachers, which in reality only
formally guarantees equal treatment of students. But once the conditions of school
organization have been relaxed and the autonomy of schools is better recognized, this
transformation should be supplemented by an ambitious assessment policy. It is important to
do this, not only to better measure the performance of our education system, but also because
enhanced autonomy and accountability necessarily entail increased and renewed
It is thanks to this effort of assessment that the system will find a new equilibrium;
however, it is only halfway through its transformation. In its report on the assessment function
within th
e National Education Ministry, the Court concluded that “the assessment was not
designed within the National Education Ministry so that it may become, thanks to it, a “learner”
organization, learning from both its successes and failures ”.
1-The purposes of the assessment of student achievement
The school system is subject to estimates of student levels according to multi-year cycles
by subject and based on samples (the national system known as CEDRE), data which does
not provide a complete view of school levels each year. We must wait for consolidation at the
end of the survey cycle (three or six years) to have an overall assessment of school levels. In
addition, this method by sample, although it produces national ranking assessments, does not
allow the results to be broken down by academy and even less by institution.
From the start of the 2017 school year, the National Education Ministry has implemented
standardized national assessments of student achievement (like those practised by PISA) in
French and mathematics, at the start and end of primary school, and then in sixth.
It remains to extend these assessments to other levels and subjects, and especially to
give them their full operational effect, by breaking down the results by institution as for the high
school added value indicators (IVAL) measuring the ability of institutions to support their
students until they obtain the baccalaureate, disseminated since 1993 by the Department of
Assessment, Forecasting and Performance (DEPP) of the National Education Ministry. It is at
this price that teachers will be able to appropriate the results of the assessment of their
students, measuring and interpreting the effects of school plans and, if necessary, influencing
These results should also enrich the management dialogue between the institutions and
the academies so that their management is more adapted to the needs of the students.
2-Assessing schools and institutions to ensure success for all students
The assessment of institutions has gradually become widespread in Europe. This
approach has led several countries, under the impetus of the “Lisbon process”, to decide that
the school inspectorate would no longer assess, on an individual basis, the teaching staff but
the institutions.
European recommendations encourage school self-
assessment such as “method for
making schools places of learning and development [by] combining self-assessment and
external assessment in a balanced manner”. Likewise, the participation of all the stakeholders
of the education system (students, parents of students, elected officials) in the process of
external assessment and self-assessment of institutions is encouraged and promoted.
However, the assessment of the institution as such, from a broader perspective than
academic results (school climate, relations with families, guidance, etc.), has long remained a
blind spot in the French system. The Ministry announced that from the start of the 2020 school
year, each secondary school would be assessed every five years, according to a method that
would combine self-assessment and external assessment in two stages. This assessment
should then form the basis of a new process of contracting and updating the school plan.
Such a process should be extended to primary schools and districts.
However, such assessments will only be meaningful if schools can implement
educational programmes with a certain degree of differentiation in their approach. This is
particularly true for priority education, where efforts to respond as closely as possible to the
profiles of the educated public should be stepped up.
In this regard, it is regrettable that France rarely practices assessment protocols based
on experiments, carried out on a large scale in voluntary institutions and over sufficient time
periods to be reproducible. Reluctance to differentiate educational policies for groups of
students based on prior experience, on the occasion of experimental arrangements, has not
been overcome. In addition, assessment processes, even when they are initiated, are rarely
respected: for example, the “more teachers than classes” programme was interrupted before
the end of the experiment; Conversely, the experimental practices of co-teaching were not
evaluated before being generalized in vocational training.
In a context characterized by increasingly varied educational demands, experimentation
is capable of constituting an instrument for public action making it possible to build education
policies based on research work, feedback, and taking into account, more generally, the
contribution of the stakeholders of the education system to the success of education policies.
Even if it is not recent in the education sector, its practice can be taken further, given the
potential it represents from the standpoint of the evolution of practices, of systemic changes,
of its capacity to provide information on how to implement education policies or even contribute
to improving results.
Assessment is a necessary process, although it is complex and should always be
detailed. Its acceptability will be all the greater when each of the stakeholders concerned
clearly knows why and how the information drawn from the assessment feeds their work and
allows it to build systems that meet the objective of each student's success.
The Court has carried out a great deal of work in recent years on which it has drawn,
particularly the following publications:
Managing teacher absences, guaranteeing educational continuity (La gestion des
absences des enseignants, garantir la continuité pédagogique),
public thematic report,
November 2021;
Exiting from Crisis: A public finance strategy (Une stratégie de finances publiques pour
la sortie de crise),
June 2021;
The central government budget in 2020 (results and management), interministerial
mission “school education” (Le budget de l’État en 2020 (résultats et gestion), mission
interministérielle “enseignement scolaire”)
, April 2021;
The contribution of the digital educational public service to school continuity during the
pandemic (La contribution du service public du numérique éducatif à la continuité
scolaire pendant la crise sanitaire)
, annual public report, March 2021;
An initial assessment of access to higher education within the framework of the law on
the guidance and success of students (Un premier bilan de l’accès à l’enseignement
supérieur dans le cadre de la loi orientation et réussite des étudiants)
, communication to
the National Assembly's Public Policy Assessment and Monitoring Committee, February
School and sport, an ambition to be realized (L’école et le sport, une ambition à
, public thematic report, September 2019;
The digital public service for education, a concept without a strategy, an unfinished
deployment (
Le service public numérique pour l’éducation, un concept sans stratégie,
un déploiement inachevé)
, public thematic report, July 2019;
Priority education (L’éducation prioritaire)
, public thematic report, October 2018:
The establishment of higher schools for teaching and education (La mise en place des
écoles supérieures du professorat et de l’éducation)
, observations to the government,
June 2018;
The growing use of contract staff, now a significant issue for the National Education
Ministry (Le recours croissant aux personnels contractuels, un enjeu désormais
significatif pour l’éducation nationale)
, communication to the Senate Finance Committee,
March 2018;
National Education Ministry: organizing your assessment to improve your performance
(L’éducation nationale : organiser son évaluation pour améliorer sa performance)
communication to the National Assembly’s public policy assessment and control
committee, December 2017;
Managing teachers differently, a reform that remains to be done (Gérer les enseignants
autrement, une réforme qui reste à faire),
public thematic report, October 2017;
Replacing absent teachers (Le remplacement des enseignants absents)
, observations
to the government, March 2017.