An Analysis of Break Time Active Play in Irish Primary Schools

Susan Marron

    Research output: Types of ThesisMaster's Thesis


    School break time is one of the few times of the day for children to engage in selfdirected play with peers. The primary school curriculum recommends breaks of 10 minutes duration per day and a daily recreation period of 30 minutes. A survey questionnaire examined the policies and practices that influence the physical activity (PA) break time habits of children in 391 Irish primary schools. The response rate was 54.5%. Children’s PA levels were observed in three Irish primary schools at break time using the SOPLAY system of observation (McKenzie, 2002). The study found that boys were more active than girls at break time. The highest proportion of children was sedentary (39.3%) with the lowest proportion in the vigorous activity category (26.4%). Small schools (<101 pupils) were more likely to have adequate playground space (p=0.045). Analysis indicate that medium and large size schools (> 100 pupils) were less likely to provide school equipment to children to play with at all break times (p<0.05). Small schools (<101 pupils) experience fewer barriers than larger schools specifically with respect to storage space, equipment cost or risk of equipment loss/damage and provision of loose equipment (p<0.05). Boys schools were more likely than girls schools to provide loose equipment at all break times (p<0.05). Given the 40% PA break time threshold proposed by Ridgers and Stratton (2005), Irish primary schools should recognise the value of break time in providing 16 minutes of PA. This study suggests that safety is a barrier to PA promotion in relation to restrictive playground size and equipment. Schools promote certain practices at break time that influence children’s PA behaviour from implicit and or explicit policies. While the school is not solely responsible for children’s PA levels, simple strategic changes in practices may encourage and stimulate more children to be active.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Murphy, Niamh, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


    • Physical activity, children


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