The boost in physical activity classes for children aged six to 11 was due to come into effect in 2024, the year Paris hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but has been brought forward after it was adopted as one of Macron’s campaign promises in the Presidential elections in April.
The move comes on the back of a government study that estimates four out of five children and adolescents in France do less than the recommended minimum of an hour’s physical activity every day – increasing their risk of developing chronic illnesses in later life, such as diabetes, cancer or cardiovascular disease, by 30 percent.
The study also claimed that young people in France have lost about a quarter of their cardiovascular capacity over the past 40 years.
Half an hour of planned physical activity a day can limit these risks and improve all-round fitness, it said.
Some schools already offer 30 minutes per day of activity, but this will become the case in all schools from September. In schools where the measure is already in place, it has been found to improve attention and concentration in class.
The periods will be developed and organised by individual schools based on equipment and space at their disposal, but could including activities such as ball games, relay races or skipping. Importantly, for cash-strapped households, sportswear will not be required for these sessions.
Macron also announced that maths would return as an option for all students in Première class when they head back to lycée for the start of the new school year after being removed from the mandatory core curriculum in 2019.
“As I promised during the campaign, we will reintroduce the chance to choose mathematics as an option in the Première year of lycée,” Macron said during a visit to Marseille.
“There will still be the math specialty, but there will be the possibility offered to all students to have an hour and a half of maths that had been taken out of the common core,” he added.
The subject had been removed from the core subjects list for older students in the education reforms of 2019, becoming an option for pupils who chose to specialise in science-based topics. Previously all children took maths as a mandatory subject.
But, in March, an expert report recommended reintroducing mathematics into the core curriculum from Première, at the rate of one and a half to two hours more per week. Macron has stopped short of reintroducing it as a compulsory subject for now.
“I think we must also get out of this dilemma, before it is mandatory. Let’s give freedom to children and families,” he said. “We’re going to offer them this freedom that corresponds to my commitment.”