France: the death of a principal raises the alarm over working conditions in schools

published 3 October 2019 updated 7 October 2019

The suicide letter of a pre-school principal in Saint-Denis blames her working conditions and the status of the profession for her mental and physical exhaustion. The tragic death has triggered a nation-wide awareness campaign.

Christine Renon was 58 years old and the principal of the nursery Méhul in Saint-Denis, a neighbourhoodon the outskirts of Paris. She committed suicide on the 21st of September in the school where she was employed. Before her death she wrote to all the principals in the area and to her trade union (SNUIpp, affiliated to Education International), to explain her decision. She framed it in the context of the ever-growing workload and pressure on school principals and the “loneliness” that they were subjected to.

Unions demand review of working conditions

The French education unions UNSA-Education, SNES-FSU, CGT Education, SGEN CFDT and SNUIpp have reacted unanimously in condemning the situation that has contributed to this tragic outcome. In several public declarations they have voiced their support for educators, teachers and school principals wholack the necessary tools, support and training to face an ever-growing workload and constantly changing education legislation.

In order for the death of their colleague to “not be in vain”, her union declared it would hand in a ‘social alert’ call to the education authorities – a first step towards what could become the call for a strike. It demands that the ministry and the chancellor come up with concrete measures to guarantee “the health, moral and physical integrity of education personnel”.