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Schools should never threaten to take away break times from schoolchildren as a punishment

14 June 2019

Schools should never use the threat of taking away break or lunch time from schoolchildren as a punishment, or when they are forced to catch up on unfinished work, says a new position paper from the DECP.

Our Division of Educational and Child Psychology says in the position paper that unstructured play, led by children themselves, is critical to encouraging wellbeing and development.

Dr Gavin Morgan, Chair of the DECP, said:

“The benefits of play for children, including older children, have been well documented by educational psychologists, and it is crucial that this part of their development isn’t taken away as a punishment for misbehaviour or to complete unfinished work.

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

The DECP strongly advocates for children’s fundamental right to play, both during their school day and in their lives. We encourage all educational psychologists to use the influence they have to challenge practices which restrict or reduce access to play, and advocate initiatives which promote it.”

A recent study of schools across England found an average reduction in break times of 45 minutes for those aged 5-7 and 65 minutes for those aged 11-16 since 1995, and 60 per cent of schools which 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.

Other factors including the closure of play facilities, increasing use of technology and social media, and worries about safety are limiting children’s access to play.

The DECP calls for all children and young people to have access to free, high quality opportunities for play in their local area, particularly for groups who may experience exclusion from play such as disabled children, those from minority communities and those living in poverty.

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