Newly appointed French education minister under fire for taking her children to private school

Can you be a good education minister and send your children to private schools at the same time?

This is the question facing France’s newly appointed French Minister of Education, Amélie Oudea-Castera, who, just three days after taking office, is already facing her first controversy.

Pressure over her decision to send her children to a private school has overshadowed President Emmanuel Macron‘s attempt to kick off his second term with a cabinet reshuffle.

It all began last Friday when, when asked by the press about her children’s schooling, she justified the decision by saying that it was “frustrating” how many hours her son’s public school had not replaced when one of his teachers was on leave.

The newly appointed minister explained that she and her husband were “fed up, like thousands of families” and had decided to “look for another solution”.

The rest of their children attended the prestigious Stanislas school, a Catholic institution near their home in Paris.

Last year, the Ministry of Education carried out an investigation at the school after it was accused of homophobia and sexism when the press highlighted its anti-abortion stance and sexist teachings.

New French prime minister Gabriel Attal, center, and Amelie Oudea-Castera, right.

Calls for her resignation

What has infuriated the French and prompted calls for the minister’s resignation is a report in Sunday’s Libération newspaper claiming that Oudea-Castera’s son only spent one term at the public nursery school Littré.

The newspaper revealed that his class had not been affected by staff shortages at the public school, quoting the teacher who had his class in 2009.

It also claims that the decision to transfer him to another school was motivated by the school’s refusal to promote her son.

Oudéa-Castéra “categorically denies the allegations reported by Libération”, her office told Agence France-Presse.

“We must close this chapter of personal attacks and personal life,” the minister herself pleaded during an official visit in Paris on Monday morning.

French government spokesperson Prisca Thévenot tried to play down her colleague’s controversy in a radio interview, saying the minister was simply explaining why she chose private education for her son.

“I believe in public education and I think we all have to have a great ambition for it,” she added.

However, both the opposition and the unions have been highly critical of the education minister.

“The days go by and the lies pile up,” wrote Fabien Roussel, general secretary of the French Communist Party, on the social network X, formerly Twitter. Similar comments followed from the left and the far right.

The truth is that the minister has been mired in controversy since her appointment, and just before this information was published, Oudéa-Castéra was already in the crosshairs of the unions.

The former Minister of Sport and the Olympic Games – who has been in charge of this ministry since May 2022 – has now been given a super-portfolio that includes this ministry as well as the Ministry of Education, thus increasing her power.

Many question whether she will be able to handle two such sensitive portfolios in a crucial year.

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