French schools give pupils a break with afternoon sports

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The Independent Online

Gallic pride might not normally be expected to volunteer for a lesson in Teutonic efficiency. But in a move that could dramatically alter France's arduous educational culture and bring it into line with Germany's less intense model, a hundred secondary schools across the country have agreed to test a new model that lightens the academic load in favour of afternoons filled with sports.

The scheme is the brainchild of French Education Minister Luc Chatel, who spent six months of his secondary education at a German school. He hopes alternating lessons with sport could help prevent violence and fight truancy. French children have the most school hours in Europe, crammed into one of the shortest periods. An average secondary student attends 1,060 hours of school a year, compared with 925 in Britain and 883 in Germany.

Mr Chatel argues that the new system could bring educational as well as behavioural benefits. "Sport is a means for everyone to accomplish something, especially for students who aren't necessarily top of the class in maths," he said. A dozen secondary schools in France are already testing the "German model". Pupils at the Mirail Catholic College in Bordeaux have lessons from 8am to 2pm, with a one-hour lunch break. The afternoon is split between sports, art, music, IT and individual academic support.

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