Teaching retreats: an older system than we think


Teachers are among the professions peak in the current protest against pension reform. Will the movement gain momentum ? The demonstrations of the coming days will tell. The fact remains that teacher mobilization falls within a specific historical framework. Their pension scheme does not date from the Liberation, like the general scheme, but from the two Empires.

Can such an old system be radically overhauled on any other basis, even in a few years, without great difficulty (for both)? Back on its genesis.

Imperial creation

The principle of a retreat for teachers was considered for the first time after the French Revolution. By creating in 1795 the network of “central” schools – one at the center of each department, the Convention (the constituent assembly which created the first Republic) granted the teachers of these establishments a pension equal to the salary of their last year of teaching after twenty-five years of service.

If this measure did not have time to be really implemented, the “Napoleonic” creation was not ephemeral. In 1800, in place of the central schools, lycées were instituted , and, for their teachers, a pension equal to three-quarters of their last salary after thirty years of service. The Emperor had even thought of creating a retirement home for them on the model of the Hôtel des Invalides…

Under the Second Empire, this system was modified under the law of June 9, 1853, which established a retirement pension for all civil servants in the state. According to the report of the Senate committee responsible for examining the bill, the aim is to remedy the uncontrolled extension of special pension funds which lead to “shocking inequalities in the situation of civil servants”, and the committee is entirely in favor of the bill: “uniformity is substituted for arbitrary rules”.

This law distinguishes between the so-called “active” services (letter carriers, customs agents, foresters, chief stewards of the granting posts) which allow departure at 55 years, and the so-called “sedentary” services where it is necessary to wait 60 years. . Retirement is calculated on the basis of the average salary for the last six years of exercise, at a rate of 1/50 per year of service for so-called “active” services, and 1/60 for so-called “sedentary” services. The teachers are classified among the “sedentary”.

Seven years after the major Ferryst laws of 1881 and 1882 instituting the obligation of primary education as well as the gratuitousness and secularity of municipal schools, the teachers teaching in the municipal schools became state officials in 1889. For retirement , they are classified among the so-called “active” services and can therefore benefit from 55 years of age.

Wage inequality

The law of June 9, 1853 is modified by that of April 14, 1924 essentially on one point: the calculation of the retirement is not established any more from the average of the salaries of the last six years of service, but of the last three years.

All this is not of the order of the detail, because, like today, the salaries of the professors and the teachers vary much from the beginnings of career to the end of career.

In 1910, as recalled the history of education in France Antoine Prost, the annual salaries range from:

  • 1,100 gold francs at the start of their careers to 2,200 at the end of their careers for teachers;
  • 2,900 gold francs to 4,900 for teachers of licensed colleges;
  • from 3,700 gold francs to 5,700 for high school lecturers
  • from 4,200 gold francs to 6,700 for aggregates of provincial establishments;
  • from 6,000 gold francs to 9,500 for aggregates from Paris.

We have noticed that the differences are very noticeable for all teachers between the start and the end of their careers (like today), but also between the different categories of teachers. At the end of their career, an associate from Paris earns 4.3 times more than a teacher.

The teachers could certainly retire from the age of 55 (unlike secondary school teachers who could not retire until the age of 60), but it was much lower given their salaries (even at the end of their careers) much lower.

In The Notebooks of the Fortnight of February 16, 1913, Charles Péguy was then able to promote “the black hussars of the Republic”, it appears that recognition and dedication do not pay “ipso facto”. The expression has been used indefinitely since to exalt school teachers – wrongly, moreover, because it was for Péguy to distinguish only normaliens from normal schools of teachers and their uniforms.

Finally, as the English historian Théodore Zeldin has clearly highlighted in his Histoire des passions Françaises  :

“In 1914, teachers from Alsace-Lorraine (then under German sovereignty) received a salary twice as high as that of their French colleagues and, in an international survey, primary school teachers in France were classified as the lowest paid from Europe, coming in twenty-fifth place, on par with those of Montenegro. “

Today, primary school teachers, who have become school teachers, can no longer retire at 55 and are aligned with the retirement system devolved to all teachers. They have the same salary scale as non-aggregated secondary teachers, without benefiting from the type of bonuses existing in secondary education.

We see here that the reform of teachers’ pensions cannot be envisaged without a global reflection on careers and their developments. While the government has promised a revaluation equivalent to 500 million per year, the unions point to the vagueness that hides behind the general declarations. Negotiations are expected to take place until June 2020. But there is also the question of end of career and possible accommodation in the face of longer working hours. Large site.

Author Bio: Claude Lelièvre is a Lecturer-researcher in the history of education, honorary professor at Paris-Descartes at Paris Descartes University