In a few years, they have become an essential cog in the government’s policy on secularism in schools. These “ValRep”, or “academic values teams of the Republic”, have nearly six hundred national education staff, including one hundred for primary schools. They are academy inspectors in history-geography, philosophy or school life, heads of establishments or teachers, and most perform these functions in addition to their usual missions. Half of them can intervene directly in the establishments, the other half are called upon more for advice and training.
After the attacks of 2015, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, then Minister of National Education, began to structure secularism cells with referents in each department. From 2018, Jean-Michel Blanquer devotes their rise to power, expands their number and their missions and renames them “values of the Republic”. They then embody the strategy of listing attacks on secularism in order to “no more putting dust under the rug”. The assassination of Samuel Paty by an Islamist terrorist reinforces this political will. It is no longer possible for the ministry not to be able to react quickly.
Pap Ndiaye is part of this line. The Minister of National Education does not want to open a new legal front. “The 2004 law is perfectly clear”, he keeps hammering. But with the increase in reports of attacks on secularism – 800 in 2018-2019, 2,100 in 2021-2022, 1,386 for the first quarter of this school year – the complexity of the situations to be managed, as shown by the wearing of abayas, a religious sign “by intention” and not by nature, or even the growing variety of disputes – refusal to participate in taste week or to read Harry Potter –, the Minister decided to highlight the support work carried out by these personnel.
The circular of November 9, 2022, known as “support” because it does not propose any new standard or regulation, thus reinforces their role: school heads are invited to “drawing more systematically on their expertise”. “Heads of institutions need to be supported and equipped. This type of difficulty does not happen to them every day. It is also a question of ensuring that each fact is treated in its fair proportion. In one school, an educational team can overreact and, in another, tend to minimize”let us know Rue de Grenelle.
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