Why schools should prioritise recess

Why schools should prioritise recess

A newly formed international coalition of academics and health experts has urged schools worldwide to prioritise recess time as they reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Global Recess Alliance, comprised of education leaders and health professionals from USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, has released a statement outlining strategies on how schools should approach recess after months of sheltering and restrictions brought about the coronavirus crisis.

The statement also explained how providing a supportive recess time in school can help both teachers and students “heal from collective trauma” caused by “months of interrupted routines, boredom, loneliness, family stress, anxiety, and often a lack of physically active and social play.”

Crucial stage

The Australian representative of the Global Recess Alliance, Senior Lecturer and Course Director in Charles Sturt University’s School of Education Dr Brendon Hyndman, said he hoped the statement will highlight the benefits of recess, particularly during these uncertain times.

“This is a crucial stage with schools reopening to promote inclusive and enjoyable play opportunities to enhance mental, social and physical wellbeing,” he said.

“Seeing friends, playing, and being outside can add normality to the school day.”

Dr Hyndman said the statement was created to push schools to include “multiple and sustained” recess periods in their reopening schedules and help guide education professionals in doing so.

“This important statement created by the Global Recess Alliance aims to help teachers and provide insights into what should be considered by schools around timing, classes, locations, planning and resources during school recess,” he said.

“Recess is often the only chance for students to freely engage in personal, social and physical exploration via outdoor recreation throughout a school day, and to experience their universal right to play.”

Dr Hyndman said giving students positive recess opportunities is critical in breaking up the strict routines “associated with a loaded curriculum, timetabling, instructions, confined spaces and even play restrictions at home.”

He added that one of the studies the alliance conducted found out that “some of the most powerful play for students’ development is self-directed, without teacher reliance.”

Teachers also reap the benefits

The alliance said that it is important to recognize that recess was not only beneficial for students.

“Right now, it is important for both teachers and students to use recess as a time to reconnect in activities that will allow for meaningful and playful engagement,” Dr Hyndman said.

He said that the global health crisis has burdened teachers with many shifts to their roles as students’ and parents’ expectations also evolved.

“Recess can be a valuable time for teachers to get outdoors for some air during their busy schedules and help them to heal after so many COVID-19 restrictions,” he said.

The statement by the Global Recess Alliance titled “School Reopening? Make sure children have daily time for recess” can be accessed on the alliance's website.