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02 December 2021
With more than one million employees - i.e., almost half of all civil servants - including
900,000 teachers, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport devotes a large part of its work
to managing its human resources, and in this context, must manage teacher absences. The
report published today emphasises that these absences, far from being a global
phenomenon, actually cover two very distinct categories: absences for personal reasons
(linked in particular to health), and those related to the running of the school itself (on-going
training, examinations, school trips, etc.). While the health crisis has highlighted the
importance of the continuity of face-to-face learning, the Court of Accounts makes six
recommendations aimed at better understanding the phenomenon, improving preventive
healthcare initiatives, and limiting and covering short-term absences.
Absence from work and absence from school: two distinct realities
The specific features of the teaching profession, in particular, the weekly service obligations
and the school calendar, make it difficult to measure their absences, and distort comparisons
with other categories of employees. For example, a teacher who is unable to teach a lesson
because they are called on by their superiors to carry out another task - such as sitting on an
examination board -
is considered absent by their pupils’ families. However, through this
activity, they are contributing to the running of the school. The Court notes that in primary
education, teaching cover is arranged for school teachers in almost 80% of cases, from the
first day of absence. This is not the case in secondary education: in 2018-2019, almost 10% of
teaching hours were “lost” in secondary school, i.e., a loss that was up 24% compared to the
ious year. What are known as “short
term” absences, i.e., of less than two weeks, account
for almost 2.5 million hours, of which only just over 500,000 were covered. While parents and
pupils themselves have less and less tolerance for this, this lost teaching time is not well
identified by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MENJS).
Measuring and comparing the phenomenon: an essential preliminary step
To date, the Ministry still lacks robust and remotely accessible tools to measure these
absences and relate them to service obligations. Although the majority of secondary schools
are now equipped with school life software that can be used to provide families with
information, the lack of an interface between this software and the Ministry’s national
applications means the institution does not have the necessary information. Due to a lack of
tools, the Ministry is conducting a survey of lost teaching hours in secondary schools, which
provides only approximate data.
Consolidating the Ministry’s preventive
healthcare policy
Furthermore, the Court points out that the Ministry does not have a structured preventive
healthcare policy, even though health reasons are the main cause of absence. As guarantor of
the national vision, the Ministry must rediscover its functions as strategist and regulator, and
not confine its action to preventive initiatives rolled out in some regional education
authorities, such as, for example, in the context of the fight against the flu epidemic.
Drastically reduce and cover institutional absences
Each year, the cost of teacher absences amounts to nearly €4 billion, more than a third of
which is due to the functioning of the education system itself, the main cause of short-term
absences, which are poorly covered in secondary education. The Court considers that, in
general, the difference between regulatory service obligations (RSO) and annual working
hours expected from teachers as public sector employees (1,607 hours), leaves sufficient time
slots for absences due to the institution not to be attributed to teaching time. The introduction
of an annual fixed number of hours of teaching cover and the enhanced remit of the head
teacher, together with the inclusion of teaching cover in teachers’ tasks (a recommendation
made by the Court in 2017), would provide a solid basis for short-term cover. The health crisis
has also reminded the Ministry of the need to provide all levels of the educational institution
with a general framework for the development of administrative continuity plans in order to
improve the monitoring of teachers’ activities
Read the report
Emmanuel Kessler
Communication Director
01 42 98 55 62
Julie Poissier
Head of Press Relations
01 42 98 97 43
Cour des comptes
Cour des comptes