In France, Guizot law, passed on 28 June 1833, made it compulsory for each local authority to found a primary school in every civil parish: the school was called state primary school. The law also made it legal to open a Catholic or private school. Whether the school was astate school or a pdvate orie, the teachers were supposed to have a teaching certificate, and the syllabus, which included Religious Education, was the same. All schools came under the authority and supervision of a local committee and the parish priest was a member by right. The town councils were allowed to staff schools for boys with members of Congregations – mainly Brothers – or with laymen Many civil parishes with a mainly Catholic population chose to have their schools staffed by members of Congregations. Out of a hundred or so schools run by the Brothers of Saint Gabriel at the end of Br. Simeon’s leadership in 1862, more than 60 were state schools.

The teaching certificate made compulsory by Guizot Law meant an important change for the Brothers. Up till then, a letter of obedience from their Superiors was sufficient qualification. At first they were concerned, then relieved, when they heard that letters of obedience were still valid for some time to come; besides, the teaching certificate could be gained. The Guizot Law had a good effect on Fr. Deshayes, who had never promoted the Brothers’ studies. He began to urge the Brothers to face boards of examiners. One day be even said to them, “I no longer say: Do not worry about your qualifications. Far from it, study, Brothers, study.”

On 15 March 1850 another law, the Falloux Law, was passed. It sanctioned freedom of secondary education but it was not of concern to Brothers, except in one respect: the law allowed primary teachers to replace the teaching certificate with a certificate of teaching practice. Thank God, the Superiors did not exploit this loophole unduly. In 1855 Br. Simeon was writing: “My dear Brothers, we must at all costs try to be up to our beautiful mission, not only with regard to religion but also with regard to secular knowledge.” His successor, Br. Eugene-Marie, wrote a whole circular ·on “the necessity of studying” (See 2 July); he drew up a syllabus and urged all the Brothers to take the teaching certificate.