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Record 6,000 drop in Paris pupil numbers amid COVID and remote working

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By AFP
A child raises his finger to speak at the Bouge primary school in Malpasse district of Marseille, southern France, Sept. 2, 2021.
A child raises his finger to speak at the Bouge primary school in Malpasse district of Marseille, southern France, Sept. 2, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Daniel Cole
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Paris had 6,000 fewer primary and nursery school pupils this year than 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and remote reworking, the mayor's office said.

The number of primary school pupils in the French capital has been falling steadily for a decade, but this year-on-year decrease of 5% — from 119,000 to 113,000 pupils — is two to three times greater than in previous years.

The acceleration of this trend was already noticeable in 2020, after the first lockdown, with 3,700 fewer pupils.

Patrick Bloche, deputy mayor in charge of education and families, attributed the fall to "the structural phenomenon of a drop in the birth rate", combined with "the COVID effect and the telecommuting effect" which allows Parisians "to keep their jobs without being forced to come to work every morning."

The fact that the 5% drop concerns both nursery and elementary schools shows that this exodus affects "many families that are already established," Bloche added, in contrast to a more significant decrease in nursery schools, a precursor to a decline in the birth rate.

The 9th and 10th arrondissements, which are denser and lack green spaces, are the most affected by the acceleration of the phenomenon. Conversely, those benefiting from recent development projects, such as the 13th and 17th arrondissements, are experiencing a limited drop in enrollment, between 2 and 3%.

Out of about 5,500 classes, 63 were closed and 43 opened at the start of the school year, Bloche said, stressing the "extremely limited number of classes closed compared to the fall in numbers".

The average number of pupils per class has risen to 21 in kindergarten and 20 in elementary school, "figures that other municipalities can only dream of," he also said.