Research undertaken by University College in London has found that school break times in England have shortened, with infants receiving 45 minutes less per week, with their secondary peers losing 65 minutes over the same period.
Researchers analysed questionnaires completed at 993 primaries and 199 secondaries in 2017 along with separate pupil surveys at 37 schools. These were compared with surveys in similar schools in 2006 and 1995.
The report claims their results gave the impression that breaks were being kept as “tightly managed and as short as possible” and this meant pupils could be missing out on social development and highlighted how “school is increasingly the main, and in some cases the only, context where young people get to socialise”.
The report from the UCL Institute of Education, warns of a near “virtual elimination” of afternoon breaks, especially in secondary schools, and shorter lunch breaks.
One in four secondary schools now leave only 35 minutes or less for lunch, the research reveals.
Lead author Dr Ed Baines said: “Despite the length of the school day remaining much the same, break times are being squeezed even further, with potential serious implications for children’s well-being and development.
“Not only are break times an opportunity for children to get physical exercise – an issue of particular concern given the rise in obesity, but they provide valuable time to make friends and to develop important social skills – experiences that are not necessarily learned or taught in formal lessons.”