Primary school break times have often been seen as a distraction from formal lessons in literacy and numeracy.

They might even be viewed as a disruptive influence if the rough and tumble of the playground went too far.

But the latest report on education systems across the world from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) paints a different picture.

Its Education at a Glance 2018 report suggests breaks in formal instruction play a vital role in allowing pupils to play, rest and

interact with their peers.

The benefits are not just a refreshed pupil, but the ability of play to further develop cognitive, emotional and social skills means these attributes can be used in the classroom to improve learning.

The OECD report comes at a time when the early years of primary school in Scotland are under intense scrutiny.

The catalyst has been the Scottish Government’s introduction of standardised assessments in P1 to help close the attainment gap.

A range of charities and other interested parties such as teaching unions have spoken out against the move, partly on the basis that assessment of five-year-old runs counter to the increasing realisation that play rather than formal learning is the key to raising standards.

Another section of the OECD which touches on this point is an analysis of the age at which pupils start school.

In around three out of four countries pupils start primary education aged six, while in most others the required starting age is seven.

Only in a handful of countries, including Australia, England, New Zealand and Scotland, does primary education start around the age of five.

That means pupils in Scotland are some of the youngest in the developed world to begin formal schooling at a time when the majority of their international peers are still being allowed to play.

There is still a significant debate to be had over the calls for a new kindergarten stage in Scotland along the lines of the model in Finland.

However, the OECD report highlights the progress individual schools could make simply by viewing break times in a different light.