Their grasp of grammar may be woolly and they may confuse holding a pen with sleeping in one. All the same, some 15 sheep have been enrolled at a primary school as part of an unusual drive to save classes threatened with closure.
Jules-Ferry in the French Alpine town of Crets en Belledonne, population 4,000, had been told that it would have to scale back the number of classes because of dwindling pupil numbers.
Until this week there were only 261 children at the school. But they have now been joined by a small flock of ruminants in a symbolic move to raise awareness over what parents and teachers warn is a threat to pupils’ education.
Parent Gaelle Laval told Le Parisien newspaper: “National education is unfortunately only about numbers. And so now, with this surge in numbers, all is well.”
The school currently has 11 classes and scaling back to 10 would mean the average number of students in each rises from 24 to 26.
That would go above the recommended ceiling that French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to impose as part of his education policy last month.
Local mayor Jean-Louis Maret lent weight to the campaign by officially recognising the sheep as bona fide school goers. The animals were escorted to the school by Michel Girerd, a shepherd, and his dog.
Once inside, they were officially signed up with official “birth certificates” and given their own pen.
Among the names added to the register during a ceremony attended by parents, teachers and children were Baa-bete and Saute-Mouton.