A book by the Paris-based British academic Peter Gumbel published last year titled On achève bien les écoliers? (They shoot schoolchildren, don’t they?) sharpened attention further. In it he argued that the education system was systematically undermining children’s confidence. “By every international comparison kids here have a low level of self-confidence and lack of self-esteem and fear of failure and no fun at school,” he says. “Even people who have done well have a nasty butterfly feeling in their stomach when they think of school.” A disconnect between the traditional academic education system and the diverse needs of the pupils it caters for is increasingly recognised. The grading system has been reformed in primary schools to make it more diagnostic than a simple mark out of 20, although many teachers have continued the old system anyway. The government is experimenting with introducing more arts and cultural activities in schools. There are moves to give headteachers more freedom over the curriculum.
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