Time for a break

Anthony D. Pellegrini and Peter Blatchford discuss the developmental and educational significance of break time in school.
CHILDREN’S break time in Britain and the USA has been relegated by current educational policy to a place of unimportance in the school curriculum. Allotting less time for break, or even eliminating it completely, is common practice. The popular press in both the UK and the US have highlighted the problem. Academic research has provided some indication of the low regard schools seem to have for break; a national survey conducted in 1995–1996 (Pellegrini & Blatchford, 2000) showed that in England lunchtime break has been reduced, relative to 1990–1995, in 38 per cent of the junior and secondary schools and 26 per cent in infant schools. Further, afternoon breaks had been eliminated altogether in 27 per cent of junior, 12 per cent of infant, and 14 per cent of secondary schools. Reasons given for this stance typically relate to issues of academic achievement and negative peer relations and aggression – educators think that break time detracts from an already limited instructional time budget and provides opportunities for children to exhibit antisocial behaviour. But are they missing the point?

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