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Break time cuts could be harming children’s development

School break times are as much as an hour shorter than they were two decades ago meaning children are missing out on valuable opportunities to make friends, develop social skills and exercise, according to new University College London Institute of Education research.

The study showed that children at Key Stage 1 (five to seven years of age) now have 45 minutes less break time per week than children of the same age in 1995 and pupils at Key Stage 3 and 4 (11 to 16 years) have 65 minutes less. The researchers also found that outside school children are half as likely to meet up with friends in person, with 31% of children reporting that they seldom get to meet peers and friends compared to 15% in 2006.

The researchers found that there has been an almost ‘virtual elimination’ of afternoon breaks, with only 15% of children in Key Stage 2 and just over half of Key Stage 1 children having an afternoon break. In 1995, 13% of secondary schools reported an afternoon break period. Now only 1% of secondary schools report having one.

Lunch breaks have also been cut down. In 1995, just a third of secondary schools (30%) reported lunch breaks of less than 55 minutes. Now, that figure has risen to 82%. Furthermore, a quarter of secondary schools reported lunchtimes of 35 minutes or less.