Schoolzone | Break and lunch times in schools

Break and lunch times in schools

Date: 24.04.2020

Most primary and secondary schools have a recreational break and these lunch and break times are a significant part of the school day. Two previous surveys conducted by Professor Peter Blatchford and Dr Ed Baines found that school break-times had reduced since 1990. Since then, there are signs of further changes to the nature and length of break times, as well as to school systems and children’s lives outside school. However, there is little up-to-date and systematic information about the nature and organisation of break times and children’s social lives.

An important finding is that there has been a reduction in the length of breaktimes since 2006 and a really marked decline since 1995. Since 1995 breaktimes have been reduced by an average of 45 minutes per week for the youngest children in school (at KS1) and by 65 minutes per week for students in secondary school (at KS3 and 4). These reductions are caused by the cutting out of afternoon breaks and, increasingly, the shortening of the lunch break.

The main reasons given by schools for the reduction in break times are to create more time for teaching and learning, specifically to cover the curriculum and to manage or limit perceived poor behaviour of students that school staff say occurs during lunchtimes. These are the same reasons for reductions in breaks identified in previous surveys.

Primary schools with a higher proportion of pupils in receipt of free school meals and/or in urban areas tended to have less total time for breaks even when controlling for the length of the school day.


Read more about the impact of these changes