PARENTS in France were barred from entering schools yesterday (Thursday) as 12 million children returned to class amid heightened security in the wake of deadly Islamist terror attacks.
Armed police mounted patrols outside schools around the country as children, parents and teachers arrived en masse at entrance gates and a government spokesman advised "total and extreme vigilance".
Under normal circumstances, parents are allowed to accompany their children into classes in many elementary schools around the country.
However, with France under a state of emergency and Isil having specifically singled out secular French schools as potential targets for attacks, many have now banned the practice.
At the Bernard Palissy primary school in Joinville-le-Pont east of Paris, Reuters reported extra security measures including a blanket ban on parents entering school buildings and the presence of local police at opening time.
"The difference is we can unfortunately no longer access the school," said Faiza Teaboui, whose young son was going to school for the first time. "But I tell myself that it is a very positive thing because it means no unknown adult can get in. You never know, security is very important for the town and our children above all. It's important to feel reassured."
Eight months ahead of presidential elections in France, the government is under pressure to reassure a country traumatised by the July truck attack in Nice that killed 86 as well as the killing of a priest.
Paying a surprise visit to a secondary school in Orleans, Francois Hollande remarked that "this return to classes is not like the others", referring to the 3,000 gendarme reservists protecting pupils.
In Nice, scene of the July 14 terror attack, parents had to remain at the gates but in Bordeaux parents were still allowed to go in.