The significance of school breaktimes

Researchers: Professor Peter Blatchford | Dr Ed Baines

Project overview


School breaktimes are getting shorter despite pupils and teachers recognising them as an important opportunity for physical exercise and socialising.

The vast majority of both primary and secondary pupils view lunchbreaks as a positive part of the school day, yet over half of secondary schools now have a lunch break of 54 minutes or less, compared to under a third in 1995.

Furthermore, the number of schools providing an afternoon break has continued to decline, with 96% of secondary schools now having no afternoon break at all.

A postal survey, developed in consultation with an advisory group and headteachers, was completed by 1,566 schools in England and Wales, giving a sample of 7% of all primary schools and 6% of all secondary schools. In addition, 1,344 questionnaires were completed by students in years 5, 8 and 10 from a nationally representative sub-sample of these schools.

Key findings include:

  • Primary school teachers and pupils were more likely to value break time as an opportunity for exercise, socialising and having a break, whereas secondary schools expressed a more functional view and valued the free time, relaxation in between lessons and the chance to eat and drink offered by breaktimes.
  • The poor behaviour of some pupils was identified by both schools and pupils as the main problem with breaktime. Pupils’ other concerns were not having enough to do at breaktime and ball games getting in the way, as well as not having enough space.
  • Almost half of primary schools said that breaktime behaviour had improved in the last five years, although this was reduced to a quarter for secondary schools. Both primary and secondary schools believed that behaviour outside school had declined since 2001.
  • Levels of supervision at breaktime have not increased since 1995 despite expansion of the number of support staff in schools. The ratio of teachers and support staff to pupils was three times higher in primary schools than secondary. Primary school support staff were more likely to receive formal training and support.
  • Nearly all schools reported that they organise clubs and activities for pupils during breaktimes and before and after school.
  • The majority of schools thought their school grounds were adequate for breaktime activities and supervision, although secondary schools and pupils were more likely to express dissatisfaction.

In 2016 we funded the same researchers to conduct a follow-up survey of school breaktimes.

Team


  • Professor Peter Blatchford
    Institute of Education
  • Dr Ed Baines
    Institute of Education

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Competitive effects of free schools on student outcomes in neighbouring schools

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Comparisons of cognitive skills and educational attainment across the UK

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
Early years worker sitting at table with children
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

The ‘common elements’ approach: improving outcomes in early childhood education

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Comparisons of cognitive skills and educational attainment across the UK

View project
Young-boy-uses-tablet-with-mother-for-maths-learning-Can-maths-apps-add-value-to-learning-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Can maths apps add value to learning?

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Evaluating the short- and medium-term impacts of Sure Start

View project
Male-teacher-teaches-teenagers-in-secondary-school-lesson-Autonomous-schools-and-the-teacher-labour-market-Evidence-from-academies-PROJ
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Autonomous schools and the teacher labour market: Evidence from academies

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2021

Ethical principles underpinning co-production with young people

View project
New

Education | 2020 - 2020

COVID-19 mitigation measures: education provision and access to special schools

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on mainstream schools in England

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2021

Post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement

View project
Young-boy-wearing-glasses-watches-laptop-school-lesson-with-notepad-The-effects-COVID-19-on-families-time-use-child-development-PROJ
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

The effects of COVID-19 on families’ time-use and child development

View project
Teenage-girl-looks-at-smartphone-next-to-laptop-Growing-up-under-COVID-19-PROJ
In progress

Education | Welfare | 2020 - 2021

Growing up under COVID-19

View project
Teacher in classroom with laughing primary school students, reading a story to them.
New

Education | 2020 - 2022

Gene-environment interplay in early life cognitive development

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Comparisons of cognitive skills and educational attainment across the UK

View project
In progress

Education | 2020 - 2022

Competitive effects of free schools on student outcomes in neighbouring schools

View project
Maths resit students taking exam
Reported

Education | 2019 - 2020

A new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 resit students

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2018

GCSE and A-level results day project

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2020

Teaching reading: an integrated programme for deaf & hearing children

View project
Reported

Education | 2018 - 2019

Developing a sustainable intervention for disadvantaged children

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

Growing up digital

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Educational attainment of children in need & children in care

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Mathematics in Further Education Colleges (MiFEC)

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2020

Economy, Society, and Public Policy: An introduction to economics and quantitative social science

View project
Teacher and young schoolgirl in classroom look at building blocks brain training game together
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2019

Trialling an executive function training intervention for preschoolers

View project
Reported

Education | Welfare | 2017 - 2019

Undermatch in higher education: prevalence, drivers and outcomes

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2018

The effect of retention and turnover on the teaching workforce

View project
Reported

Education | 2017 - 2019

Secondary school choice and academic attainment

View project
Search projects

We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

Profile