School breaks are too short and could 'harm' students according to new study

School breaks short
(Image credit: Graham Oliver)

School break times and lunch times have shortened over the past 20 years giving pupils less time to socialise, make friends and exercise, experts reveal.

At school pupils count down their lesson time until it’s time for a break, to grab some food and get out into the playground with their pals.

But students between the ages of five and seven are getting 45 minutes less break time a week, compared to 1995.

And, those aged 11-16 are getting 65 minutes less break time a week compared to 1995.

With eight in ten secondary schools having under 55 minute lunch breaks, and one in four less than 35 minutes lunch breaks, experts have warned of the serious effects this could have on students.

A new study from University College London’s Dr Ed Baines has warned of the implications shorter breaks are having on children’s wellbeing and development.

The study observed 1,133 schools, and found that only one per cent of secondary schools offer an afternoon break, compared to the 13 per cent in 1995.

Dr Baines 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.’

He continued: ‘Not only are breaks an opportunity for exercise, they provide time to make friends and develop social skills not necessarily taught in lessons. But children barely have time to queue up and eat lunch.’

School breaks short

Credit: Getty

The study also revealed that only 54 per cent of students ages between five and seven get an afternoon break, while only 15 per cent aged seven to 11 get one.

READ MORE: 15 great first-day-of-school traditions to do with your kids

Additionally, three in five schools - nearly 60 per cent - admitted to cutting breaks if a pupil had misbehaved or had not finished their work.

Following the study, a Department for Education spokesman said the government recognises the importance of physical exercise in schools ‘to improve both physical and mental wellbeing’.

He added: ‘We are clear that pupils should be given an appropriate break and we expect school leaders to make sure this happens.’

Sibelle Mehmet
Junior Digital Writer

Sibelle Mehmet is a Junior Digital Writer at She joined the team in April 2019 and was her first job since completing a MA in Magazine Journalism at City, the University of London in the summer of 2019. Sibelle previously interned at a number of national titles including OK!, Heat, Closer, Mother & Baby, and The Times Newspaper magazine. She's written extensively about the latest celebrity, showbiz, and royal news.