Punishing children with break time detentions is a violation of their rights, psychologists have said.
Schools should not force pupils to work through their free time as play is critical for their wellbeing and development, according to the British Psychological Society.
The society’s educational and child psychology division said it was “concerned” by the diminishing opportunities for play within the lives of children, adding that it is a “fundamental right”.
It comes after a study earlier this year revealed that school break times have been cut by as much as an hour over the past two decades amid funding cuts and a drive to tackle bad behaviour.
“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,” said Dr Gavin Morgan, chair of the society’s division.
“Play improves physical and emotional wellbeing, and creates stronger relationships between peers, within families and across wider communities.”
He added that the society “strongly advocates for children’s fundamental right to play” during the school day.
“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,” he said.
The warning came amid concerns about the mental health of young people and childhood obesity.
It also follows research from the University College London’s Institute of Education which revealed that one in four secondary schools now leave only 35 minutes or less for lunch.
The study warned of a near “virtual elimination” of afternoon breaks and shorter lunch breaks.
At key stage 1 in primary school, where children are aged five to seven, pupils now have 45 minutes less break time per week than children of the same age in 1995.
Meanwhile, pupils at key stage 3 and 4 (aged 11 to 16) have 65 minutes less than two decades ago.