One French primary school has started feeling a bit sheepish, but it isn’t because of “shear” embarrassment: in an effort to prevent classes from being canceled, a farmer has enrolled 15 sheep from his herd to boost class numbers.
This comes after concerned parents in the French Alps feared that falling student numbers would cause some classes to close. Upon hearing that the student numbers had fallen from 266 to 261 at the Crêts en Belledonne, herder Michel Girerd brought his flock to the school.
He then enrolled 15 sheep out of his 50-strong flock as symbolic pupils to prevent one class from closing. The farmer even brought the sheep’s birth certificates to ensure they were enrolled properly. It was thanks to Girerd and his collaboration with concerned parents that the classes were able to stay open.
“Now we won’t have to close any classes,” noted Gaelle Laval, one parent behind the initiative.
Laval was one of the parents who accused the national education authority of caring more about the numbers behind the school than the actual students. The comic ceremony amused staff and children alike. The students were more than happy to pet the sheep whose skin and wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture.
“Now we won’t have to close any classes,” Laval continued. “And so now, with this surge in numbers, we are good.”
If the school had chosen to close one of its 11 classes, the average class size would have increased from 24 to 26. This is more than the recommended number of students supported by French President Macron who hopes to make 24 students the upper limit in his education proposal. It’s estimated that 5% of children entering first grade will already suffer from a noticeable speech disorder, making smaller classrooms essential in the learning process.
Smaller classes enable teachers to give the necessary one-on-one time each student needs to succeed. Because every child learns differently, it’s thanks to smaller classes that each student is given the time, effort, and recognition they deserve in an educational setting.
The decision to enroll the sheep was approved by Mayor Jean-Louis Maret, who had officially recognized the schooling of sheep as an additional boost to the parents’ campaign.
Among the symbolic sheep pupils include Baa-bete, Dolly, and Saute-Mouton, the last translating roughly to “leapfrog.”
And leapfrog the education system, they did.