Recess periods

What is recess?

  • In the Basic school regulation Cet hyperlien s'ouvrira dans une nouvelle fenêtre., the term “recess” is used to indicate the planned breaks that students are given so that they can play freely, be physically active and relax between two teaching periods. This term is also commonly used both in and outside schools to refer to these recreational periods. 
  • To maximize the benefits for students, it is strongly recommended that recess take place outdoors.

What does the amended Regulation say?

  • The amended Basic school regulation Cet hyperlien s'ouvrira dans une nouvelle fenêtre. expressly stipulates that, from now on, the morning and afternoon recess periods for elementary school students will each be at least 20 minutes long. 
  • Previously, the Basic school regulation stipulated that students would have one recess period in the morning and one in the afternoon but did not indicate their duration.

When does the amended Regulation come into effect?

  • July 1, 2019

Does this measure apply to kindergarten students?

  • No, the provisions pertaining to recess periods apply only to elementary school students.

Will this change affect the time devoted to instruction?

  • Elementary school students will still receive a minimum of 25 hours of educational services per week.

Why prescribe a minimum duration for recess periods?

  • The government wishes to provide clear indications with respect to the length of the two recess periods and to highlight their positive effects on children. The benefits of recess have been clearly shown. It plays a decisive role in students’ motivation and educational success by enabling them to play freely outdoors, be physically active, get fresh air, and improve their health, concentration and receptivity to learning. 
  • This government initiative helps achieve the recommended objective of a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • The amendment to the Basic school regulation is therefore intended to support the overall development, health and educational success of elementary school students.

Why set a minimum of 20 minutes? And why have two recess periods per day?

  • Sufficiently long recess between two teaching periods enables students to play freely outdoors, be physically active and get fresh air, thereby improving their health, concentration and receptivity to learning. 
  • With longer recess periods, students will have more opportunities to engage in medium-to-high-intensity physical activities and to enjoy the added benefits these bring. 
  • Setting a 20-minute minimum for each recess period guarantees the amount of time that students have for outdoor play. When they play outdoors, young people are on average twice as physically active as they are when they play inside.
  • The benefits of recess on student’s attention are limited in time. This is why it is important to provide for multiple opportunities each day. Prescribing two periods of substantial duration increases the number of times when the desired effects (improvements in behaviour, cognitive performance, memory and concentration) are felt.

Do the amendments to the Basic school regulation also apply to students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties?

  • The amendments to the regulation foster respect for the right of all students to benefit from recess, especially students with disabilities, social maladjustments or learning difficulties, for whom recess represents an especially important time for socializing and developing autonomy. This is particularly crucial when seen from the vantage point of participation in society, which involves interactions between individuals and the community. For real participation to occur, individuals must be part of a social network and contribute to society.

Is it fair to deprive a child of recess?

  • Like all students, those who experience learning and behavioural difficulties have a right to recess and its benefits.

Can a school offer more than two recess periods per day?

  • Yes. However, two of these periods, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, must each be at least 20 minutes long.

Is the time required to go to and from the schoolyard included in the recess time?

  • The Regulation is intended to preserve the amount of recess time prescribed between two teaching periods, so that students can play and relax outdoors long enough to be more focused and receptive when they return to the classroom. With longer recess periods, students will have more opportunities to engage in medium-to-high-intensity physical activities and to enjoy the added benefits these bring. In principle, the time spent going to and from the schoolyard should preserve the recess period.

How will the amended Regulation affect the length of the school day?

  • It will not add 40 minutes to the school day. It will simply set a minimum duration for the two recess periods already prescribed by the Regulation. 
  • However, the length of the school day may be modified in some schools, such as those that offered shorter recess periods before the new regulation came into effect and that do not want to alter the lunch schedule.

Is the Ministère offering financial support for implementing the changes?

  • A new measure, 6042 – Soutien à la mise en place d’une durée minimale de 20 minutes pour les deux périodes de détente prévues au Régime pédagogique au primaire (support for the establishment of a 20-minute minimum for the two recess periods provided for in the Basic school regulation for elementary school), which is part of the school boards’ operating budget rules for the 2018-2019 to 2020-2021 school years, stipulates that school boards may request a grant to cover certain costs incurred in organizing services connected with the coming into effect of the Regulation for the 2019-2020 school year, but only for that year. This financial support is intended to cover certain costs associated with the support and supervision of students in school buildings housing fewer than 100 students.

Is the Ministère offering financial support for improvements to schoolyards?

  • Measure 50530 – Embellissement des cours d’école (schoolyard improvements), which is part of the school board’s investment budget rules for the 2018-2019 to 2020-2021 school years, is intended to provide financial support for school boards that have embarked on schoolyard enhancement projects in order to encourage young people to engage in physical activities and to make these activities safer.

Is the Ministère offering financial support to promote students’ involvement in physical activities at school?

  • Measure 15023 – À l’école, on bouge! (physical activities in school) which is part of the school boards’ operating budget rules for the 2018-2019 to 2020-2021 school years, is intended to support preschool and elementary school educational institutions, so that all their students are physically active for at least 60 minutes of every school day (this includes the physical education and health courses listed in the course schedule).

How does the Ministère intend on handling non-compliance with the new Regulation?

  • Should you have problems with the implementation of the new regulation, we ask that you contact the Ministère so that it can guide and support you in this process. 
  • If the Ministère learns that a school board or private educational institution is not complying with the regulation, it can generally call upon them to clarify the situation. This is usually sufficient to resolve the issue.

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