France deploys reserve force, ramps anti-terror drills in new school year

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PARIS (Reuters) - France will deploy about 3,000 reserve troops, train school authorities and ramp up school anti-terror drills in case of attacks, its education and security ministers announced on Wednesday, a week before the start of a new academic year.

The French government has heightened security across the country following a series on Islamist militant attacks since January last year that has left people on the edge, with schools a feared target.

About 12 million students are expected to head back to school across France from on Sept. 1.

“The threat is high, it is real,” Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, said during a joint news conference in Paris with security minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

“This is not about ceding to panic or paranoia,” she added.

The ministers said most security measures put in place after the Nov. 13 attack in Paris such as carrying out anti-terror drills in schools will be ramped up to three from two during the school year.

Around 500 school administrators will be trained every year at the national gendarme training center to manage crisis centers and act as liaisons with security officials, while some 1.2 million students in the fourth year of secondary school are expected to be trained in first aid.

Cazeneuve said security forces will be focusing on school surroundings and that 3,000 gendarme reservists will be deployed to reinforce other forces including the police.

“Throughout the year, particular attention will be put around schools. Active surveillance around schools, high-schools and universities will be reinforced by roving patrols,” Cazeneuve said.

Reporting by Gerard Bon and Bate Felix; editing by Richard Lough and Toby Chopra