Schools slashing lunch and break times

Written by: Emma Lee-Potter | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Children aged 11 to 16 now have 65 minutes less break time per week than pupils of the same age had in 1995, research has found.

Break time is an integral part of the school day – the chance to make friends, develop social skills and get fresh air and exercise.

But a new study by academics at the UCL Institute of Education has found that children aged 11 to 16 now have 65 minutes less break time per week than pupils of the same age had in 1995.

The researchers also discovered that only one per cent of today’s secondary schools have an afternoon break, compared to 13 per cent in 1995.

Lunch breaks have been cut down too. In 1995 only a third of secondary schools had lunch breaks of less than 55 minutes. Today that figure has risen to 82 per cent. A quarter of today’s secondary schools reported that they have lunch breaks of 35 minutes or less.

As well as having less time for break, nearly 60 per cent of the 1,000 secondary and primary schools that took part in the study withheld breaks when pupils had been poorly behaved or needed to complete work.

Dr Ed Baines, the report’s lead author, 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 – an issue of particular concern given the rise in obesity – but they provide valuable time to make friends and to develop important skills, experiences that are not necessarily learned or taught in formal lessons.”

The report was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

  • School break and lunch times and young people’s social lives, Baines & Blatchford, UCL Institute of Education, May 2019:


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up SecEd Bulletin