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Macron Replaces Education Minister Who Sparked Teacher Anger

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron replaced Education Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera only a month into the role, seeking to end a controversy that has marred his efforts to inject new impetus to his administration.

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He appointed Nicole Belloubet, a former Socialist who served as justice minister for three years during his first term. Macron made the change in the second round of a cabinet reshuffle that began four weeks ago.

Oudea-Castera, whose statements put her at odds with teachers’ unions, will remain sports minister, a role she’s held since 2022, as the president opted to keep her in charge of the Paris 2024 Olympics that start in just a few months.

“There was trouble, a malaise” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said on France 2 TV on Thursday, adding that he wants to make progress in schools.

The president reappointed as deputy ministers Roland Lescure for industry and energy and Thomas Cazenave for the budget. Frederic Valletoux was named deputy health minister. Jean-Noel Barrot becomes deputy minister for European affairs.

Macron unveiled the first round of a new cabinet in January and picked 34-year-old Attal as premier as he tries to move on from a bruising 2023 marked by protests against his pension reform, riots over a police shooting of a teenager, and a struggle to push through key legislation. He changed his foreign and education ministers, while Bruno Le Maire remained at the helm of the Finance Ministry.

Other senior figures were also kept in place, with Gerald Darmanin holding onto his job as interior minister, Sebastien Lecornu remaining defense minister and Eric Dupond-Moretti continuing at the Justice Ministry.

While Macron has more than three years of his mandate left, he is looking toward his legacy and concerned he may be succeeded by far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whom he beat in the two previous presidential votes. European elections, to be held in June, are a test case for the growing popularity of her National Rally party.

Attal, who preceded Oudea-Castera at the Education Ministry, had found success in his short time there, his popularity with the French surging as he reinforced a ban on long, flowing dresses known as abayas in schools, announced an experiment on the use of uniforms and changed the dates for France’s baccalaureate exams to later in the academic year.

Oudea-Castera, a former classmate of Macron, quickly undid much of that goodwill. On her first visit to a school as minister, she said teacher absences at a public school where one of her children had gone had prompted her and her husband, who was formerly Societe Generale’s chief executive, to put their sons in a private school. She later retracted and apologized for the comment, but that failed to repair relations with teachers’ unions.

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