Three Richmond mothers are calling for 90 minutes of break time throughout the day to be made mandatory for schoolchildren to improve their mental health.

Christina Perez, Tanya Hatton and Marina Garcia believe legally guaranteeing a set amount of time outside the classroom would ensure children have adequate access to the “basic human needs” of play, social interaction and fresh air.

Currently, schools are free to schedule the day as they see fit, meaning the amount of break time children at different schools are given can vary significantly.

Mrs Perez, who has a 14-year-old son with special educational needs (SENS), said: “Schools are always telling us how to have ‘healthy children’, whether it’s through healthy packed lunches, walking to school for exercise, or mental health workshops.

“Many children do not have an adult able or willing to take them to a park or on play dates. For some kids school is the only place they get to socialise and play safely.

“Some schools are already doing an excellent job in this area, while others are barely allowing children 20 minutes to arrange themselves for lunch, eat and take a break, and that assumes they don’t get penalised and lose that break.

“A very vocal part of the teaching community seems against lunch breaks being discussed, let alone protected for children, deeming them a luxury not a basic human right.

“We can surely do better by our children. It could positively impact the teachers’ lives too; kids learn better when they are fed and given a chance to exercise and socialise.”

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Christina Perez

Mrs Perez’s son Xavier struggled with the break-time schedule at his primary school, particularly with how it was used to reward or penalise pupils.

The best performing class in the year over the week would be awarded 15 extra minutes of lunch break, known as ‘golden time.’

Mrs Perez says this caused problems for children considered a “burden” and encouraged shaming on those that hadn’t “won.”

“My child definitely suffered, both before his SENS diagnosis and after,” she added.

“Just this week he missed most of his lunchbreak because a teacher wanted to talk to him about not doing his best in PE and the importance of exercise.”

The parents were inspired to start a petition after reading the results of a Nuffield Foundation survey into school break times, which found that they had been steadily reduced since 1995.

The educational research body's report expresses concern at the trend, particularly when “there is much Government attention on providing opportunities for play, socialisation and for overcoming sedentary lifestyles.”

To read and sign the petition visit: