1,000 signatures reached
To: The Government
Legislate for 90 minutes playtime in a school day and make removal of it illegal
To make legislation, as currently none exists, regarding children’s play time at school. Drawing on the evidence published in May 2019 by the UCL Institute of Education report on School break times and young people’s social lives https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/follow-survey-break-and-lunch-times-schools there is an obvious and urgent need to address this situation.
Why is this important?
As parents we are worried by reporting in the media of children’s mental health problems, obesity, screen time use and them having fewer opportunities to socialise.
Whilst schools teach children academic subjects they are also required to promote opportunities for children to make friends and be inclusive. This is evidenced in many Education Health Care plans.
Many schools are curtailing or removing playtimes as a punishment. Not only is this affecting children’s opportunities to socialise but it also deprives them of time to rejuvenate and compose themselves.
Schools promote children’s health by issuing guidelines on healthy lunch boxes, internet safety and inviting parents to attend workshops on subjects such as anxiety, mental health and Adolescent Brain Development, yet at the same time deny children fresh air and exercise. This seems counterintuitive.
The report highlights that play times have decreased on average by 45 minutes per week over the past 20 years and the majority of schools no longer have afternoon breaks. Children in urban areas are more affected, and those who have free school meals.
Another group of children who may be particularly disadvantaged are those with disabilities. Amongst them, children with ADHD and autism need play time to use up excess energy and socialise.
There are many families who may not be able to access costly after school clubs, who may not have safe areas for their children to play outside and therefore have limited social opportunities for children outside of school. School maybe the only place these children can socialise.
Most importantly the report shows that children valued break times. Secondary school pupils felt that in particular lunchtime was too short. This finding reflects our personal experience from having children in secondary schools where sometimes they don’t have enough time to eat what they have bought in the canteen.
We are aware of the problem of academic pressure on schools, the reported funding crisis and possible staffing issues that may be argued over providing legal play times, however this needs to be weighed up against the potentially enormous health benefits to children and whether these children would be more healthy and better able to attend to academic study.
Teachers are increasingly finding themselves dealing with issues that can be attributed to children’s mental health and behaviour that may be linked to this.
Teacher unions have successfully implemented legal break times for their members but no one has done this for the children.
To that end we are asking that children from infant, primary and secondary schools receive one hour minimum for lunch and at least a morning and afternoon break time of 15 minutes, in total 90 minutes break time each day.
Children’s play time needs to be set in legislation, not determined by individual schools and certainly not removed as punishments.
Every child matters, help children achieve more.