Recruitment, precariousness… Are contract workers the solution to the crisis in the school?

Do not talk about the human resources policy of National Education to Laurent Zameczkowski, vice-president of the Federation of parents of students in public education. This could irritate him: “Today, the question is no longer to place a teacher in front of the students. We are reduced to calling on any adult. Regardless of his background!” The current shortage of teachers, more or less pronounced depending on the territory and the discipline, is not a new phenomenon. But, since the start of the health crisis, the situation has worsened considerably. The tension went up a notch again on the return from the Christmas holidays with the circulation of the Omicron variant which never ceased to wreak havoc in schools. The 20 January evening, after the very popular strike of teachers took to the streets to demonstrate their fed up,Jean-Michel Blanquer announced several measures, including the recruitment of 3 300 contract workers… knowing that they already represent % of enrollment in secondary (the figure goes up to 20% in some academies). “Ten years ago, we could count on brigades of replacements called TZR (holders of replacement zones), recalls Sophie Vénétitay, secretary general of Snes-FSU. Over the course of job cuts, this breeding ground tends to dry up, which explains the increasingly massive use of contract workers.”

The latter therefore constitute an essential cog in the wheel of the immense National Education machine. Problem: in some places, it is very difficult to recruit, as evidenced by the many job offers posted not only on the sites of the academies or in the Pôle emploi agencies, but also on the social networks, in the pages of classified ads in the local press… or on Le Bon Coin! In this context, the requirements of recruiters inevitably tend to be revised downwards. Officially, you must hold a bac+3 to practice in the first or second degree. But, in crisis situations, like the one we are currently experiencing, a bac+2 may be enough. After his interview with a National Education inspector, the candidate often finds himself parachuted, almost overnight, in front of a class of 30 students. “Sometimes it goes well… sometimes it’s more complicated,” admits Sophie Vénétitay.

Words riddled with spelling mistakes

Especially since the profiles of these Aspiring teachers vary enormously. What do this private sector employee in search of retraining, this young graduate who sees the function as a simple food job, or even this passionate woman whose vocation was to become a teacher but who failed in the competition? Séverine*, professor of history-geography in the academy of Versailles, belongs to this last case of figure. It’s been more than twenty years since this contractual employee of 51 years chained the missions in different establishments. “Changing jobs each year means changing textbooks, class level each time, rebuilding a network within the teaching team”, lists the one who, last year, worked in a high school in the south of Hauts-de-Seine and who, since the start of the last school year, has been working in a college classified REP (priority education network) in Sarcelles (Val-d’Oise) an hour and a half by transport from her home. So many experiences that have made her a seasoned professional. Which is far from being the case for his young colleagues who are starting out.

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Contrary to what one might think, the situation is not necessarily easier to live in the most favored neighborhoods. “A few years ago, we experienced a very tense situation between parents and a new maths teacher who had no sense of pedagogy and who had a terrible time getting respect. A disaster!”, recalls Sandrine Marquis, representative of the Peep at the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly (Hauts-de-Seine). After investigation, the parents realized that this person had spent his entire career in marketing and had never taught before. Thomas*, who works in an elementary school in another affluent city in the Paris region, has seen during his career “a lawyer, a cashier, an advertiser, but also a former employee who worked in the world of wine in Bordeaux…” The latter arrives one day in the teachers’ room to ask her new colleagues the meaning of the word “code”. “Intrigued, we take a look at the page of the manual that she hands us to discover with amazement that it is a chapter devoted to COD, the direct object complement!” exclaims Thomas. The words left in the liaison books, riddled with spelling mistakes, put the flea in the ear of the parents who led a sling against her. The young woman will be transferred elsewhere.

“No guarantee or prospect of evolution”It also happens that the transplant takes , after an inevitable break-in period. Alexandre*, who had started teaching while waiting to break into music, ended up taking a liking to this profession. In 2014, he made his debut at the Republic College of Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis). “At first I was a little apprehensive but I quickly adapted”, explains this French teacher from 31 years who plans to pass the Capes to join the camp of tenured. “After having wandered around quite a bit in the Créteil academy, I need stability and financial security,” he admits. For her part, Séverine admits to being tired of being considered a “stopgap”. “The rectorates often call on us at the last moment, we have neither guarantee nor prospect of evolution”, she denounces. With a lower salary of 20 % on average to that of holders , many admit to having a hard time getting out of it. “It is urgent to look into the question of their training during their first months, insists Sophie Vénétitay. But also to accompany those who wish until the competition.”

This is not in the plans of Jacques Dhaese, carpentry teacher in a vocational high school in the Orléans Academy. “If I passed the national competition, I would risk being sent far from home. No question of finding myself in the Paris region”, he explains, before unfolding his journey. In the early 2000, this carpenter by training is laid off from his factory and applies to a nearby college in search of a professor specializing in his field. “I managed on my own by going back to my old CAP student workbooks,” he recalls. After six years of continuous exercise, Jacques Dhaese obtains a CDI, as provided for by law. But he retains his contractual status, which suits him perfectly. In some academies, a parallel path is beginning to take shape. This can lead to tensions within teaching teams. “The holders who, like me, went through an IUFM, the former University Institute for Teacher Training, who obtained their diploma at the cost of great sacrifices and who have chained internships in order to prove themselves, have a little it’s hard to see these new “colleagues” arrive, Olivier gets annoyed.

But, yes National Education is forced to call on untrained staff, it is because the competitions sometimes have difficulty filling up. What links this phenomenon to the feeling of downgrading which the teaching world suffers. But for Bruno Bobkiewicz, president of SNPDEN, the union of school heads, it would be unfair and dangerous to stigmatize contract workers. “The quality of a teacher is not necessarily linked to his status. You have more or less efficient or invested staff among the holders as well as the contract workers”, he warns, without denying the need to better train and support them. A project on which the institution will inevitably have to look. less, once the Omicron wave has passed.

*The first name has been changed


Christophe Donner


Christophe Donner


By Sylvain Fort


Nicolas Bouzou