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Tuesday, October 20, 1998 Published at 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK

World: Europe

French students take to streets again

Students march through the streets of Paris

Stephen Jessel in Paris: Students were not involved in the trouble
Tens of thousands of French high-school students have been holding demonstrations in major cities to demand improved conditions in schools and colleges.

In Paris, which witnessed violent incidents during similar protests last week, there have again been clashes between riot police and demonstrators, who threw stones and set cars on fire.

Stephen Jessel in Paris: "The police took no chances"
BBC Correspondent Stephen Jessel put the number of marchers in the French capital at about 50,000.

Security in the city had been tightened with more than 4,000 police, many in riot gear, being mobilized.

During the march every cross street along the route of the march was guarded by police. In an effort to reduce the scope for violence, police also worked through the night clearing streets of cars and urging shops to close.

At least 50 youths are reported to have been arrested by the Paris police before the march got under way.

Roads blocked

Another report said students blocked main roads near the southern city of Aix-en-Provence and near Metz in eastern France.

[ image: Students in Bordeaux take to the streets]
Students in Bordeaux take to the streets
The government of Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, has expressed sympathy with some of the students' demands including a reduction in class sizes, the provision of more teaching staff and an overhaul of the national curriculum.

Education Minister Claude Allegre is due to present new school spending plans in parliament on Wednesday. he has promised action to hire more teachers and modernise schools.

"We must satisfy the students' demands and I believe we will," the minister said.

For the first time, the student demonstrators have been accompanied by teaching staff.

End to inequality

Last Thursday an estimated 400,000 students in nearly 350 cities took part in demonstrations.

A spokeswoman from France's National Union of Secondary School Teachers agrees with the students' demands
"We don't simply want more funding and more facilities," said Olivia Jean, head of the independent FIDL students' association which called Tuesday's national day of action.

"The protest goes deeper than that. We want all pupils to be able to graduate, we want an end to inequality in schools, to a two-speed education system."

With French unemployment at more than 11% many high school students say they have little chance of finding jobs if they graduate which students say is difficult enough when classrooms are overcrowded and have outdated learning facilities.

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