Ruadhri’s final exams for his Baccaluareat begin on Monday.

Well, we hope they do. There’s going to be a strike by the ‘surveillants’ – invigilators. Or at least, by some of them. This being France there are numerous unions of which a surveillant can be a member, and whilst only some of these are committed to taking action on the first day of the exams, it’s enough to possibly cause major disruption. The various Academies (education departments on a region and super-regional basis) have been making plans to ensure there are enough staff to invigilate, so we’ll just have to hope they’ve done an efficient job. It will be demoralising and stressful for the kids to turn up for their four-hour philosophy exam (which begins at 8am) and find it’s not taking place after all. Heaven knows when it would be rescheduled for.

The strike is taking place largely in protest at the reforms which have been made to the Bac (although there are a few other issues thrown in for good measure). From 2020 onwards, this set of exams, roughly equivalent to the UK’s A-levels, will take a new format.

At present, students like Rors doing the Bac Generale et Technologique take three exams in Premier (despite what you might suspect, this is actually the second year at lycée!) and a total of thirteen in Terminale (the last year). These thirteen include seven written papers, with orals and practical work making up the rest, the proportion of each depending on the filière or ‘channel’ pursued. There are currently several such channels for lycéens to chose from: L – languages, S = science, ES = economics and social science. These will be reduced to one in the new Bac, with students selecting specialisms instead. There’ll be a new multidisciplinary subject appearing – humanités scientifique et numérique – and even the Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer is a bit vague about what exactly that will encompass! There will also be only four final exams, with others held earlier in the academic year and more emphasis on continual assessment.

There may be a new name for Terminale too. It seems M Blanquer’s preference is for ‘classe de maturité’, but all will be revealed soon. Frankly, the new Bac appears as complicated and wide-ranging as the present one. My own feeling is that the course should be more focussed. It’s crazy that scientists like Rors are still having to do philosophy, two languages and history, and that artists are still having to do maths and biology. I was on the conseil de classe (class committee) for Rors’ class this year, and it was obvious from the marks that most students have a definite leaning in one or other direction. There were, and always will be, a handful of all-rounders who do well in everything but they’re the exception.

But back to this year’s Bac. It maybe the first time in fourteen years that certain unions are proposing action to disrupt the Bac but I still think it’s spiteful. The kids are stressed out enough and don’t need this extra worry of whether their exam will happen or not, and what the consequences of its being postponed or even cancelled will be. The unions are holding the kids hostage and that’s pretty despicable. Anyway, we’ll turn up on Monday and see what transpires. Fingers crossed things will go smoothly that day, and for the rest of the exam period for all the lycée pupils. It’s what they deserve.

And good luck Rors!