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Stop punishing pupils by cutting playtime, experts tell schools

Giving pupils detentions during ‘vital’ playtime is damaging for their well-being and development, experts tell schools after break times fall by more than an hour a week in two decades

  •  Schools told stop taking break and lunchtimes away from pupils as punishment
  • Membership body for UK psychologists said unstructured activities are ‘critical’ 
  • It follows research from University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Education

Schools must stop giving children detentions during their break and lunchtimes  as a punishment, experts warned yesterday.

The membership body for UK psychologists said unstructured activities are ‘critical’ for children’s wellbeing and development, and that teachers should not take away their pupils break times.

The British Psychological Society issued the warning, saying that youngsters have a ‘right to play’.

It follows research from University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Education, which revealed that school break times have been slashed by more than an hour a week over two decades.

Psychologists yesterday issued a ‘position statement’, demanding that all children have access to free, high quality opportunities for play (stock)

Pupils’ bad behaviour and teachers’ desire for students to catch up on unfinished work were among reasons cited for the cuts.

But psychologists yesterday issued a ‘position statement’, demanding that all children have access to free, high quality opportunities for play.

The society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) called on educational psychologists to challenge practice that ‘restricts or reduces access’ to this vital activity.

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.

Nearly 60 per cent of schools withheld breaks from children when they or their classmates had been poorly behaved or needed to finish off work (stock)

‘The DECP strongly advocate for children’s fundamental right to play, both during the 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.’

The UCL’s Institute of Education study last month found an average reduction in break times of 45 minutes for pupils aged five to seven in England and 65 minutes for those aged 11-16 since 1995.

Nearly 60 per cent of schools withheld breaks from children when they or their classmates had been poorly behaved or needed to finish off work.

The research also found that the closure of play facilities, increasing use of technology and social media, and worries about safety are limiting children’s access to play.

 

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