The main goal of this study is the development of comprehensive strategies aimed at improving break time practices in Israeli schools. The issue of school break time as an integral part of the school day has not yet been addressed in educational research in Israel. This qualitative case study involved more than 200 participants from 2
Israeli primary schools, representing 3 groups – principals, break time supervising teachers, and pupils. The study examines the perspectives of the research stakeholders on the purpose and implementation of break time. The recruitment of
participants was carried out using purposive and convenience sampling methods. Five data collection tools were employed: documentary analysis, individual semistructured interviews with the three groups of stakeholders, focus group with
teachers, observation of school yards and lobbies, and a questionnaire for pupils. Data were analyzed through thematic analysis, in which inductive coding was used.Study findings reveal that break time is perceived by teachers and principals as an energy-consuming, ill-planned part of the school day. Their main concerns are safety and disciplinary matters. A sense of frustration caused by break time duty problems, deteriorating discipline in schools, and lack of hope for improvement in teacher authority, was dominant in teacher responses. Little consensus was found on whether
or not break time should be structured. Both principals and teachers underestimate the role of pupil-initiated free play. Most teachers underestimate the meaningful educational opportunities present during break time. Pupils perceive break time as a time for rest, game playing, and freedom from teacher control. Findings suggest that the preferred way of spending break time and the role of a duty teacher are perceived differently by pupils of different ages and gender groups. This study identifies a number of break time issues that have not yet received attention, such as enjoying a
meal as a part of peer socialization, and ethical problems related to free play or involving playthings brought from home. Compared to previous research, this study suggests that feelings of loneliness experienced by pupils during break time increase as they grow older, reinforcing the idea of using break time as a platform for practice and improvement of social skills. The study concludes with recommendations for making social education a significant and planned part of the school curriculum, using the break time environment as a natural setting, integrated with the classroom. In addition, break time should be dealt with as part of the teacher-training process.