The Ministry of Social Affairs is planning on removing the cold temperature limit for physical education (PE) classes held outdoors. Instead, a directive on organizing classes outdoors in the cold will be drawn up.
The current regulation states that physical education classes cannot be held outdoors if the temperature is below 10 C for primary education classes (grades 1-4) and below 15 C for general education classes (grades 5-9).
The previous winter was cold and had lots of snow, but since the daily temperatures were just low enough, teachers could not take their students outside to ski or skate. Instead, classes had to be conducted in indoor halls.
The Estonian Physical Education Association turned to the social ministry with a proposal to change the lower temperature limits in a way that would allow children to go outdoors even if temperatures are colder. The teachers said moving around outdoors improves health, especially during flu season.
The ministry took the idea in and is currently drafting a new Public Health Act. Since nothing final has been put down yet, it is also not known if and when the temperature limit removal will enter into force.
Wind speed also an important factor
Since 2007, the regulation also takes into consideration the heat index, or "feels like" weather instead of just the thermometer reading. The regulation reads that since wind significantly strengthens the effects of temperature, it can cause freezing, cold and illness.
For this reason, a requirement was imposed that thermometer readings and the heat index have to be considered along with wind chill, which is published daily by the Estonian Weather Service.
The ministry claimed that if all children have suitable clothing for cold weather and the school finds ways, which are suitable for the children, their parents and the school, to allow them to be outside during the winter, it should be possible to have physical education classes outdoors during the colder months.
But since children need to be protected from the cold while moving and each family's opportunities and needs differ, the ministry intends to drop the temperature limit and instead draw up a directive, which helps schools and teachers determine if classes should be held outdoors.
Ministry of Education and Research communications adviser Aire Koik told ERR that it is still to early to say anything about the directive, since the draft law has not yet even reached the Riigikogu for processing.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste