Don’t deny breaks to punish pupils, say psychologists

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Psychologists have warned schools that they should “never” punish pupils by taking away their break or lunch times.

Research published last month shows that now, at key stage 1, children have 45 minutes less break time a week than those of the same age did in 1995, while the time for children aged 11 to 16 had fallen by 65 minutes a week over the same period. 

Also, 60 per cent of schools that responded to the survey reported that children might be forced to miss an entire break or lunch period due to misbehaviour or to catch up with work.

Now, the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) has stressed that unstructured play, led by children themselves, is critical to encouraging wellbeing and development.

And it says opportunities to play at school are “particularly important” for children who may otherwise have their play restricted by poverty.

“Withdrawing break time opportunities for play in school should never be used as a punishment (e.g., for misbehaviour or completing unfinished work), nor the threat of withdrawal be used to control children’s behaviour.”

“Play improves physical and emotional wellbeing, and creates stronger relationships between peers, within families and across wider communities.

This article has been adapted from the TES, 14th June 2019.

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