School Break Times Are Getting Shorter And Shorter To Pack More Lessons In

Primary school kids now have 45 minutes less break time a week.

Kids as young as four are now getting even shorter break times at school, because of a drive to cram more lessons in.

A long-term study revealed primary school pupils today have 45 minutes less break time a week than they did in 1995, while secondary school students have lost 65 minutes over the same period.

Researchers found time out of class for children to play and chat to their friends has been getting gradually shorter over the past 20 years.

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The study looked at 993 primaries and 199 secondaries in 2017, along with separate pupil surveys at 37 schools. Researchers compared the results to surveys in similar schools in 2006 and 1995.

Overall, pupils think time away from lessons should be longer – of course they would – and their sentiment is echoed by the researchers, who said breaks provide a “unique context for social development”.

Yet, the findings showed the “virtual abolition” of afternoon break for Key Stage 2 kids, aged seven to 11, as teachers are under pressure to get results.

The researchers also found fewer young people were visiting each other after school to ‘play’ – the most common after-school activity, they said, was now watching TV or playing video games.

Lead author Ed Baines, from UCL’s Institute of Education, 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 wellbeing and development.

“Not only are break times an opportunity for children to get physical exercise, 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.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, blamed the “regrettable” decision by successive governments to “expect more of schools”. He told the BBC that timetables were “bursting at the seams” because of the pressure to prepare children for high-stakes tests and exams.

The researchers said this highlighted how school had increasingly become “the main” (and in some cases “the only”) place where children got to socialise.