School break times in England have got shorter over the last two decades, with older pupils losing more than an hour a week as lessons increasingly eat into lunch and play time, research has found.

Afternoon break times, once enjoyed by nearly all primary school children, have been “virtually eliminated”, the report found, while a quarter of secondary schools now have lunch breaks of 35 minutes or less.

The UCL Institute of Education study found the youngest primary children, aged five to seven, have 45 minutes less break time per week than children of the same age did in 1995, while secondary pupils aged 11-16 have lost 65 minutes.

Just 15% of children aged seven to 11 and just over half of five to seven-year-olds now have an afternoon break. Back in 1995, 13% of secondary school pupils were still enjoying an afternoon break period but by 2017 that figure had shrunk to 1%.

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