Quebec puts a time minimum on school recess

The Quebec government is updating rules to require two recess periods of at least 20 minutes starting next fall. Right now, 40 per cent of schools offer less than 30 minutes recess per day.

Education guidelines will require 2 breaks of at least 20 minutes starting next fall

Students play during recess in the schoolyard of Montagnac elementary school, in Lac-Beauport. (Radio-Canada)

In an effort to get kids moving more, Quebec elementary schools will be required to offer two 20-minute recess breaks starting next fall.

"The positive effects of recreation are well documented," Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said at a school in Lac-Beauport, north of Quebec City, where he announced changes to the province's educational guidelines.

"Recess lets students be physically active, spend time outside, clear their heads, and leads to a better, healthier academic environment."

The guidelines currently state that elementary school students should get breaks in the morning and afternoon; the changes will specify the minimum 20-minute length.

"This is a step towards the recommended goal of at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day," said Isabelle Charest, the junior minister for education, noting that one in three children don't currently reach this goal.

The rule update is a response to a 2017 survey by the Quebec Weight Coalition and the Quebec Federation of Parent Committees. The survey found that 40 per cent of Quebec elementary schools offered less than 30 minutes of recess per day and that there was no afternoon outdoor time at all at one in five schools.

Roberge acknowledged that some schools will have to adjust their schedules to accommodate the new rules. But he said the change will impose no additional costs.

"It's part of the teachers' responsibilities," Roberge said. "It's a redistribution of their time with the students. It's done within the context of the union agreements."

Asked about schools that have cancelled recess due to the condition of their schoolyards, which are frequently covered in ice, Roberge noted that the government would soon free up funds for clearing and maintenance.

Based on a report from Radio-Canada