It often takes time to sort out problems that have arisen over the lunch break. What measures can we take during this time to make sure that afternoon classroom behaviour is still condicive to work and an effective learning environment?

Training for Midday Supervisors is often the first strategy that we use. But what skills do they need and is it the right place to start?

Perhaps we should first look to the systems we have in place and how they help/hinder the process. Many schools facing poor behaviour and other issues at lunchtime try to solve the problem by cutting down the time slots for lunch and staggering the breaks. If we are trying to create future citizens of the world though, don’t we need to allow them to practise socialising in a safe environment and not just keep them apart? Primary pupils in particular need that opportunity to play, with the attendant exercise and fun factor. With the growing concern about the inactivity and unsociability of pupils today shouldn’t we be creating more not less opportunity to move around and come into contact with peers?

So what systems should we look at? How are the lunches served and what are the flashpoints for ‘trouble’?

Queuing is often a major source of frustration so how can we manage the system? It can be a real eye opener for staff to join the queues (not just nip to the front!) for a few days and observe the tensions and the issues. Analysis of this data can help with solutions. Some of the issues can include:

  • too many pupils attempting to queue
  • restricted space for queuing
  • inefficient payment/ticket/card system
  • tendency for ‘popular’ food to run out, therefore increasing the need to get to the front of the queue at all costs.

Creative thinking can remove many of these triggers for poor behaviour, e.g. rotating the Year groups who go into the dining room early, keeping back some of the popular food items so late entrants still get a choice, numbered tickets to stagger admission to dining area.

In Primary schools the serving of lunches may not be the cause of tensions but the keeping of pupils at the tables after they have finished eating before they can go ‘out’ can be a cause of problems for supervisors. Review of the staffing of play areas will often solve this.

Wet lunchtimes strike fear into the heart of the most seasoned supervisor!

Having plans for activities and the equipment to use are vital. In Primary schools giving each supervisor a box of pens, crayons, comics, puzzle books, scissors, jigsaws etc coupled with the creative use of available space for discos, videos etc can go a long way to keeping pupils happy and occupied – without teachers finding their equipment going missing!

Often the need for supervisors to ‘report back’ to teachers (especially in Primary schools) at the end of the lunchtime causes delay to the start of the afternoon session and results in the pupils not settling quickly. This can be avoided by the simple method of each supervisor having a report book and handing this to the teacher with very brief written comments on any incidents. The teacher can then tackle the issues at a suitable time that will not hinder the learning in class.

Supervisors themselves need training but it should be done in conjunction with a senior manager as often, fresh ideas and insights gained during training cannot be put into practise because the Supervisors have no input into school decision making and need the support from a member of the senior management team.

All members of the supervisory team need quality induction if they are to perform their role well and a sufficiently detailed job description to make their roles and responsibilities clear. The creation of a Handbook detailing procedures and expectations is a good starting point. Performance reviews also add to the supervisors’ sense of self worth and point up the need for development of skills. On page 29 of TEX you will find a checklist to use with Midday Supervisors, which will help identify their training needs.

Checklist for midday supervisors

Do I know the school policy for:

  • anti-bullying
  • restraint
  • confidentiality
  • fire drill
  • staff absence
  • collection of pupils by parents/others
  • approaching visitors.

Do I know the names of the following people?

  • Fire Officer
  • Cook Supervisor
  • Emergency Response SENCO
  • Child Protection Officer
  • First Aider at work
  • Head of Years / Key Stage Coordinators
  • Union Representative
  • Office employee who deals with Midday staff
  • Teacher who liases with Midday staff

What other information do I need?

Are there further training opportunities that I need to explore?

Suggested training areas for supervisors

  • Behaviour Management
  • Child Protection procedures
  • First Aid
  • Fire Alarm procedures
  • Emergency procedures for gaining assistance
  • Dealing with pupils with Special Needs
  • Organising play activities (for Primary teams)
  • Managing a team (for Senior Supervisors)

Suggested lunchtime activities for Primary pupils

  • Comic/book area
  • Dressing up area
  • Races
  • Basketball competitions
  • Penalty shoot-out (Teams / individuals)
  • Skipping challenge
  • Aerobics
  • Disco
  • Daisy chain making competition (if any grass)
  • I-SPY challenge
  • Quiet corner
  • Dance Challenge
  • Play creation and rehearsal
  • Traditional games
  • Daily Challenge
  • Joke telling
  • Story telling
  • Number games
  • Maths Challenge