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Schools break times cut by an hour over two decades, study finds | UK News



School break times have been slashed by more than an hour a week over two decades, new research suggests.

Pupils’ bad behaviour and teachers’ desire for students to complete work were cited among the reasons for the cut, according to a study by University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Education.

It warned that children are missing out on opportunities to make friends, socialise and exercise as they are now half as likely to meet up with friends in person as in 2006.

Researchers looked at how school breaks and young people’s social lives have changed in 2017 compared with 2006 and 1995 across more than 1,100 primary and secondary schools.

They found children aged five to seven now have 45 minutes less break time per week than youngsters of the same age in 1995, while students aged 11 to 16 have 65 minutes less, according to the study.

School break times are shorter than two decades ago, research suggests
Researchers looked at how school breaks in 2017 compared with 2006 and 1995

Lead author Dr Ed Baines said there were potential “serious implications for children’s well-being and development” by break times being “squeezed”.

“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,” he said.

“Children barely have enough time to queue up and to eat their lunch, let alone have time for other things like socialising, physical exercise, or exploring self-chosen activities.”

Researchers found an almost “virtual elimination” of afternoon breaks, with only 15% of children aged seven to 11 now getting them.

In 1995, 13% of secondary schools reported having an afternoon break period, compared with 1% of secondary schools in 2017.

Three-fifths of the schools that responded to the survey withheld breaks from children when they or their classmates had been poorly behaved or needed to complete work.

Meanwhile, lunch breaks have also reduced, with 82% of secondary schools reporting lunch breaks of less than 55 minutes in 2017, compared with 30% in 1995.

A quarter of secondary schools in 2017 reported lunch breaks of 35 minutes or less, according to the study.

Dr Baines added: “Whereas, at one time, afternoon breaks were a daily experience for nearly all primary school children, now they are increasingly a thing of the past.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The government has given all schools the autonomy to make decisions about the structure and duration of their school day.

“However, we are clear that pupils should be given an appropriate break and we expect school leaders to make sure this happens.”

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