“I’m currently doing an extra hour of math on Tuesdays just before lunch. Another high school teacher takes care of us, not our usual math teacher. The goal is to help us deepen our knowledge. » Like just over 800,000 sixth-grade secondary school students, Pauline has been invited since the start of the school year to receive one hour of weekly support or improvement in mathematics or French.
This additional and mandatory hour, which replaces technology (abandoned in the 6th grade), is added to the timetable to the 4.5 hours already allocated to each of these two fundamental subjects. It is one of two flagship measures, with the ‘Homework Done’ system, of ‘the new sixth form’, somewhat pompously named as such by the Ministry of National Education.
A lesson in sixth grade with a reinforcement of French and mathematics skills should therefore make it possible to help the students who are most struggling and thus close the gaps found upon entering college. Two and a half months into the school year, what is the value of this ‘new sixth grade’, conceived under Pap Ndiaye and implemented by his successor, Gabriel Attal?
One starts at the end of September
When you say new device, you often say ignition delay. In secondary schools, principals and their deputies often pulled out their hair to coordinate teacher schedules, which resulted in numerous complaints from management staff.
It was also necessary to find willing teachers or schools to oversee these new systems, with varying degrees of success. As a result, the system did not see the light of day until late September. “During the All Saints holidays I only had 3 lessons,” says Pauline, our schoolgirl from Paris.
Poorly sized groups
The extra hour of maths and French is designed to help the most vulnerable students progress and increase the knowledge of everyone else. However, in certain institutions, the composition of the working groups and their size do not currently make it possible to achieve the first objective.
“This system is profitable for the best students, but there is no homogeneity among the most vulnerable groups. You will find secondary school students with diverse profiles: students whose mother tongue is not French, young people with disorders dysothers in social difficulties… Bringing them all together is not the right solution, as shown by several studies on this subject,” confirms Maud Valegeas, French professor at the Elsa-Triolet college in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) and member of SUD Education.
In many institutions, the lack of teachers involved in the system means that French or mathematics teachers supervise groups of around twenty students. “As support, I try to work on language and reading skills in workshops, separate from the classroom course, but that doesn’t work,” sighs this French teacher from the Paris region.
Successes, but ‘Homework Ready’ lags behind
In the system devised by the ministry, teachers can participate in “Homework done” or in support/in-depth study at university. In this case, volunteer teachers receive additional compensation of up to 69 euros gross for the weekly hour.
“In areas where teachers have mobilized, we have received fairly positive feedback on support and development,” notes Laurent Kaufmann, director of the university for fourteen years and now federal secretary of Sgen-CFDT. This is the case in Brittany, Lorraine and Picardy, where it is possible to form groups of different sizes depending on the number of adults and the level of the children. In these cases, teachers can support 8 to 10 children in difficulty and carry out co-intervention. For Huiswerk Done, on the other hand, it works less well.
And not without reason: so far only 16% of school teachers are involved in the system. “In my daughter’s class, the students are looked after by a French teacher who offers them help if they need it and who especially recommends that they bring work with them. It’s more like studying for an hour,” explains Julia, whose daughter Telma attends a REP (priority education network) university in Paris.
More hours of guidance for students in difficulties?
The Minister of Education is aware of the difficulties in implementing the “new sixth grade”. » “It is new and the system is being introduced gradually,” argues Gabriel Attal. I am convinced that the return of the September evaluations (published next Monday) will be useful to better organize the groups. I think this is going in the right direction. When I go into the field, the teachers see the usefulness of it. »
The tenant of rue de Grenelle would like to go even further because, according to him, “the students who are having the most difficulty probably need much more than an hour of support. » This is one of the questions he posed to the ‘Knowledge Requirements’ mission, which will soon make proposals to reform university learning.