A Travellerspoint blog

February 2008

Election fever

Just been into town and it has, overnight it seems, been bombarded with posters and boards making it impossible to avoid the approaching municipal elections (which will be held on the 9th and 16th of March).

These elections happen every 6 years and allow the local citizens of a 'commune' to vote for their local government who will, in turn, choose a mayor. "Communes" are the lowest level of administrative division in France; they may have 2 million inhabitants like Paris (although the capital is, in fact, split further into arrondissements for the purpose of the elections), 60 000 like Perigueux or just 2 or 3! As of March 1st, 2007, there were 36,780 communes in France. There are 557 communes in the Dordogne departement, and, for example, Perigueux is one of these but one of my schools (10 minutes away by bus) is in a different commune, Trelissac.

So, through a two-round system of voting, citizens elect the members of the council (le conseil municipal) and, once elected these members then choose the mayor and deputy mayors. The number of councillors depends on the number of inhabitants in a commune. When voting you vote for a "liste" of candidates (usually equal to the number of seats available, and sometimes but not always bearing the name of a political party). Depending on the size etc of a commune you are sometimes able to add/delete names from a "liste" so, for example, you could vote for X list but if you don't like Mr B and think Mr C from Y list would do a good job you could vote for exactly that; X list, minus Mr B, plus Mr C! Only lists which gain 10% of votes in the first round may go forward to the 2nd.

The mayor is both the commune's elected authority and the state's representative in it. He/she deals with the commune's budget, is responsible for security and public health, handles building and heritage issues which may arise, and manages primary school buildings and equipment.

Very interestingly certain government officials are allowed to run for the post of mayor as well, and (on the contrary to Chirac) Sarkozy is fully supporting this as a way to maximise his power. Nearly two-thirds of Sarko's 33 membered cabinet are up for election, includind Darcos, Education Minister, who is looking to be re-elected as mayor of the 'Gueux. This town, the Dordogne, Aquitaine, are all traditionally "left"-thinking (voting Royal in the second round of elections last year for example) however Perigueux has been in the hands of a "right" mayor for 48 years now! It is true that Darcos seems to have succeded in his bid to "redynamiser le coeur de la ville" since 1997; he has installed a multiplex cinema in the centre of town (and redesigned the area around it very nicely I'd say!), funded and backed the gallo-Roman museum, Versunna, restored the catherdral and greatly improved the reputation of the theatre. In 2005, Perigueux spent more on "culture" than any other city. But, this time, will his age and Sarkozy's problems in the polls prevent Darcos from beating socialist Michel Moyrand?

Attendons de voir.

Posted by LHsugarsugar 03:00 Archived in France Comments (0)


...and why I sometimes hate the internet/EDF/France


Living abroad does funny things to you. Well, to me. It makes me want to eat chip buttys and trifle (seriously have had *such* major cravings for these the last few days), and last night it actually made me kinda care about sport. I'm really not a big one for like football, rugby etc; my family aren't into them and I just never have been, maybe something to do with my *total* lack of ability to play them. Who knows. But anyway last night was a big France/England match for the 6 Nations, and, against my better judgement and without any logical reasoning, I found myself (alas in my appartment all alone) actually watching it. Such was my desire that England win. It's totally bizarre because I really have no reason to care; I LOVE France (most of the time) and really have never given a damn about sports but, I dunno, home is where the heart is I guess? Oh and we (that's to say 'England') won! :-0

Ok. Rant time. After my first ridiculous 'estimation' of an EDF bill I signed up for their new "Blue sky" package which is meant to be all nice and easy and 'fit in with your daily lifestyle' whereby they notify you when you are almost due to pay, you do your own reading of your meters, enter them online and they bill you for that. Facile. So, I recieve my first email notification, trottle upstairs and get the numbers and enter my account, only to get some silly message cracking on about how the system is a victim of it's own success and so currently not working. Grr. So this means I'm going to have to keep trying (pain pain pain with going back to Blighty etc) and I suppose if it is still not working by the 3rd March (which is the day I come back and the final date for putting these figures in) I'll have to call them up. *sigh*

Am feeling a lot better and very exicted about going home especially as it's going to be celebration times with Joe now (77% on exams AND an internship sorted for the summer). Going to pop out and treat myself to a pain au raisin for brekkie methinks. Sun is shining.

Posted by LHsugarsugar 00:29 Archived in France Comments (0)

End of term


So last day of term today which means START OF HOLIDAYS! YAY! And after a few days of cloud the sun is back today, really really warm so lets hope its gonna stay like that for a week at home and then a week of adventures down South. Really looking forward to both.

Tuesday night we did a suprise little soiree for Louise's birthday which was really fun. Went to a cocktail bar, Zanzibar, Lynn made a maxi-pain-au-chocolat cake and we had good times. Happy Birthday Lou!

Wednesday was chilled out; looooongggg lie-in, washing and afternoon tea with Cecile and co.

Annoyingly I'm ill now. Didn't go to work yesterday and on top of sore throat etc am just feeling totally "out of it"....grrr. But have a nice quiet weekend to get well, clean my flat, plan for next term and packkkk!

Posted by LHsugarsugar 04:59 Archived in France Comments (0)

More musings on the French education system

I made my own little contribution to the education of the nation's mini-frenchies today doing some recorings for JP (our responsable) to go on the web. Was luckily not songs (which I thought it was going to be) but just things like "Exercise number seven. I live in a house in the country" for French teachers to listen to to get my wonderful English pronounciation.

Anyway, after that I wandered into the library and set myself down and read through some of the Le Monde Education magazine editions they had there. The latest one got me thinking...

The article began with a graph which actually surprised me; turns out more money per person is put into education in France than in England. Based on the evidence of still having blackboards, every child supplying ALL of his own equipment and the serious lack of supply teachers I was baffled. However on closer inspection it seems this money all goes right into secondary education (colleges and lycees) with primary education not really being seen as that important (it's only in very recent years that Primary school teachers have had to have a degree). However Sarko and Darcos (dream-team) have announced that this is going to change, their new focus being primary education. (Although it is not entirely easy to believe that when, in the same breath, they are announcing serious jobcuts; as I said staff seem to be already very stretched and every year 1000s of wanabee teachers don't even get a place on the highly competitive training course).

Furthermore, Sarkozy is, for the first time really, talking about introducing a sort of performance related pay similiar to that which was brought into England in 2000. The idea of teachers/schools being evaluated according to the progress/results of their pupils is completly alien here where national inspections (of the Ofsted-style) don't exist at all and children's success (or otherwise) is generally seen to be their own responsibility or that of their parents, which kind of explains the "tant pis"/laissez-faire attitude of several of the teachers I've been in touch with who seem to have "given up" on children as young as seven or eight. For example yesterday we were writing penfriend letters and even though I explained exactly what had to be done very very clearly some of the nine/ten year olds in my CM1 class really struggled, in fact did worse than almost every one of my bright (but oh-so-chatty) CE2 class of eight/nine year olds; the teacher's response? "Oh don't go taking it personally or anything Lucy some of these children can't even write one sentence in French. When I started teaching I thought all children have an equal chance of succes, but they don't the pre-school teachers can see who's going to succeed". But, does that mean we should just give up on them? I'm not sure. Like, surely there has to be some exception to the rule, some kid who's life really can be changed by a teacher?

So, although I believe many teachers do an amazingly good job and are under far too much stress already, part of me is entirely behind performance related pay if it makes us really think about how we can help each and every child in the class do the best he possibly can (of course it needs to work on the idea of "improvement"/"progression" not the number of children getting 100% or something!).

The other thing is that teachers would be paid more according to their contrinution to the "vie scolaire" (school-life) another Anglo-saxon idea it seems to me and one which I guess is also taking the emphasis slightly off of parents (to give their children a good-life/provide extra-curricular activities etc) and onto teachers. On that one I'm not so sure...good thing/bad thing? Swings and roundabouts I think.

Hmm. Ok. Musing over.

Posted by LHsugarsugar 07:27 Archived in France Comments (0)

Feeling old

Quote of the morning:

"Maitresse! 'Ello! Tu sais quelque'chose?...tu as exactement les memes chausseures que ma mere!"

("Miiiisssss! Ello! Do you know what?....you've got exactly the same shoes as my mum!")

L, aged 8

Posted by LHsugarsugar 03:29 Archived in France Comments (0)

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