When the lunchtime bell rings...

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I don’t know about you but I have fond memories of my time in both primary and secondary education but this isn’t down to a yearning for a return to lessons about the history of the industrial revolution or learning how to order a ham sandwich and a fizzy orange in German.

Any fuzziness I feel about those largely care-free days some 30 years ago is pretty much solely down to the time I spent a matter of yards away from the classroom and the crumbling modern language studio. Like any other self-respecting schoolboy, I loved break times and lunch hours as they provided me with some of the best moments from my youth.

Where else, other than the playground, can a youngster score the winning goal for their country in a World Cup final with an airflow ball and hand-me-down snorkel parkas for goalposts?

The playing fields were where many of us had our first kiss, forged lasting friendships and, dare I say it, had that first illicit drag on a cigarette. Break times toughened me up, particularly the occasion when a bunch of shaven-headed Year 10 lads stuck me in a shopping trolley and pushed it down a particularly steep hill. With hindsight, I had it coming as I had given them an unspeakable amount of stick over a number of weeks.

But even taking the odd duffing up into account, those hours at school spent away from the classroom really did help shape who I am today, which is why it is perplexing to learn that kids today get far less free time than we ever did.

Over the past two decades, infants have lost an average of 45 minutes a week of break, while kids at high school have seen their free time reduce by well over an hour. While it might not seem a big deal to many, the erosion of time when children can be children should be a concern to us all.

Every evening, when I ask my eldest how her day has gone, I am always genuinely interested in whether or not she had an eventful playtime. Yes, her future development largely depends on her progress in class but, like the majority of parents, I am just as interested in how she develops as a person.