How To Improve Lunchtime Behaviour

How To Improve Lunchtime Behaviour

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Summary

Are you searching for ways to improve lunchtime experiences for pupils and staff in your school?

Join us in this week√Ę€ s episode of School Behaviour Secrets as we uncover essential strategies for transforming lunchtime behaviour so that you can make lunchtimes enjoyable for all.

Important links:

Get our new FREE download - 6 Immediate Lunchtime Behaviour Fixes

To access our free trial to the Successful Supervisors online programme

Get our FREE SEND Behaviour Handbook: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/send-handbook

Download other FREE behaviour resources for use in school: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/resources.php

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan

Seeing lots of escalated incidents during lunchtime in your school with social disputes and arguments spilling over into teaching time in the afternoon, or maybe you just want your lunchtime practice to be as good as it can be, then keep listening because we're going to reveal the secrets of amazing lunchtime behaviour so that your pupils and your staff enjoy a positive midday experience. Welcome to the School Behaviour Secrets podcast.

I'm your host, Simon Corrigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton, and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and, of course, students when classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're gonna share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural special needs, whole school strategy, and more, all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world, so you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the School Behaviour secrets podcast. Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan, and welcome to a freshly boiled and drained episode of school behaviour secrets.

And for your information, this episode's not undercooked. It's al dente. It's supposed to be like that. I'm joined today by my cohost, Hi, Emma.

Emma Shackleton

Hi, Simon. I thought your introduction was more half baked than al dente this week.

Simon Currigan

Rude. Time for a question?

Emma Shackleton

Of course.

Simon Currigan

According to a 2017 YouGov survey, what was the nation's favourite sandwich filling?

Emma Shackleton

Cheese. That's my answer. Cheese.

Simon Currigan

That's very reflexive. Sponsored by a mouse? You're right. Top of the tree was cheese at 36%. And then, right, second was mayonnaise. Now is mayonnaise a filling or doesn't mayo come with something else? Don't people use mayo instead of butter?

Anyway, mayonnaise is 20%, whatever you think about mayonnaise. And ham was 3rd at 16%. Only, and this makes me really sad. Right? Only 1% of respondents said a jam sandwich. And for me, there's a lot of joy in a jam sandwich.

Emma Shackleton

Can't beat a jam sandwich. Anyway, what's this waffle got to do with today's show?

Simon Currigan

There's a clear through line today because we're going to be exploring lunch time behaviour and what a school needs to have in place to ensure successful lunch time behaviour for all.

Emma Shackleton

Perfect.

Simon Currigan

Time for one last quick question?

Emma Shackleton

Oh, go on quickly, though. We've got a podcast to record.

Simon Currigan

So I'm from the Midlands, and you're from the North. Out of curiosity, what do you call the meal in the middle of the day and the meal at the end of the day?

Emma Shackleton

Okay. Well, up north in Lancashire, where I'm from, we would say dinner time for the middle of the day and tea time at 5 PM sharp. What about you?

Simon Currigan

Exactly the same. I I call the meal in the middle of the day dinner time and the meal at the end of the day tea time.

Again, 5 PM, There's just difference. People use different language. Like, my wife's from the Midlands as well, and she does the same. She tells me a story about when she was at university and, you know, freshman year, everyone was just coming together for the first time. She was meeting some new people on the halls, and she arranged to meet them at dinner time, and they both turned up completely at different ends of the day. It's it's funny how we got such a small country, have so many different, like, bits of language and dialects and so on. Anyway I

Emma Shackleton

I see what you mean. Some people call their evening meal dinner, don't they? I see what you mean.

Simon Currigan

Completely off task. Completely off task.

Emma Shackleton

Anyway, whatever you call it, we've got a brand new free download that goes along with this episode to help you make lunch times, dinner times, or whatever you call it in your school run more smoothly.

Simon Currigan

It's called 6 immediate lunchtime behaviour fixes. That's the meal in the middle of the day, and it does just what the title says. It gives you 6 problem areas that are common in primary school lunchtimes and then gives you a 3O second assessment for each of them to see if they apply to your school. And then if they do, it explains how to put a fix in place quickly.

Emma Shackleton

So this is a completely free download, and you can get it directly from our website, beaconschoolsupport.co.uk, and we'll put a direct link in the show notes.

Simon Currigan

All you have to do to access that link is open up your podcast app, tap on the episode that you're listening to right now, and your podcast app will give you detail about the episode. And inside that description, you will find a link that will take you directly to the website. And while you've got your podcast app open, please remember to subscribe. When people subscribe to the show, it makes it more likely that it will be recommended to other school leaders, teachers, and parents. So with the first course taken care of, it's time to lean over our plate, open our mouth nice and wide, and sink our teeth into the delicious chip butty we call behaviour. So we're gonna go through several points here about how to make your lunchtime provision as good as it can be, and we're gonna start with offering SEND provision. And when I talk about SEND here or Emma talks about SEND, we're talking about children who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Children with SEND needs, particularly kids with social, emotional, mental health needs often find lunch times really, really difficult. There's a lot of social complexity. They have to interact with their friends. They have to join in with games. They have to cope with losing. There's lots of sensory overload, whether they're in the dining room, and we all know the acoustics in dining rooms tend to amplify sound and noise rather than decrease it. There's lots of movement on the playground.

If you've got SEMH needs, actually, lunch times can be a time of the day that are actually really difficult to cope with. They can be really anxiety provoking. You might actually dread lunchtime. You might enjoy going out on the field at lunchtime to play football, but you might actually find that situation really difficult to cope with, especially when your team loses. So what more and more schools are doing now is providing some quiet SEND provision for those children that struggle being in those situations. Now I wanna be absolutely clear here. When I'm thinking of SEND provision for kids at lunchtime, I am not thinking of a sin bin, a place where kids are sent as a punishment.

I'm imagining here what we've got is a quiet room with maybe 5, 6, 7 kids with an adult, and there'll be a range of pleasant games available. There might be card games. There might be craft activities. There might be some colouring in to do. I've even sent provision where they have, like, an old console or something with a game to play. This is provision that looks quiet and focused. It's a shelter from the storm that's raging outside, and it's provision that kids are sent to proactively in a positive way.

So let's imagine what that might look like for a minute. Often their lunchtimes are divided up into 20-20-20, and that means they might spend 20 minutes of their lunch hour outside joining in with a social time with the other children. It might be they spend 20 minutes having their lunch in the dining room or their lunch somewhere quiet and 20 minutes inside the SEND provision. So we're not taking away their opportunity to go outside and meet with their friends and join in with the games. But often, children who have SEMH needs, if they're in that kind of busy social environment for too long, then they become heightened, then they can't cope, and then there are arguments and disputes, and that becomes heightened behaviour, and then you have incidents to clear up. So they are given that time to mix because that's really, really important that we don't wanna take it away from them. But if we know from history, if we know from looking over the records that they are consistently having difficulties with lunch times, then the fair thing to do is offer them an alternative so they then wrote it into some quiet time.

They can still meet with other friends, but they can still be engaged in positive activities. So this isn't negative provision. This isn't somewhere you sent when you've hit someone or you've done something in inverted commas naughty or you've been rude or something like that. And if you have a room in school, that kind of time out provision, that should be in a completely separate room so it doesn't get confused with this room for which the child should only have sort of positive associations. So by breaking that lunchtime up so the children are being successful, we are structuring lunchtime in a way that meets and responds to their needs and enables them to be successful. We are setting them up for a positive lunchtime experience rather than a negative one.

Emma Shackleton

Yeah. I really like that idea, and I've seen that work well in lots of different schools. Sometimes it is about providing a different area for eating or different areas in the playground. So maybe having a reading area or a craft area or a quieter zone that the children who don't enjoy that noise and busyness and the children who don't want to run around or maybe aren't sporty, that there's something else for them to do, is trying to provide a diverse range of experiences so that you're meeting everybody's needs and preferences.

Simon Currigan

And this is what we do in the classroom, isn't it? We wouldn't just give everyone all day long the same set of activities. If we knew they were going to struggle and fail at them, we would set up structure and frameworks and scaffolding so they could be successful.

Emma Shackleton

Absolutely. And what we will say throughout this episode is anything that you can do to improve lunch times is a lot less time wasted by dealing with post incident fallout.

Simon Currigan

Can I add one more thing about that actually as well? I wanna emphasise that this is about being inclusionary, not about being exclusionary. It's not about getting rid of kids off the playground. It's about giving the children what they need to be successful.

Emma Shackleton

Absolutely. And sometimes it's a really small tweak. So I can bring to mind a pupil that I can think of recently in a primary school who he could cope with the noise fine in the dining room, but what really made him feel anxious and stressed was the smells. And the really simple thing that they did for this lad was they just made a table close to a door, and they propped the door open. So his seat was near an open door. It was a bit drafty, but he was in the draft of the fresh air and away from the food smells. And that was a really minor adjustment that just meant that he was able to enter the hall, to sit in there with his friends like everybody else, but not have that stress of sensory overload because of the smells from the kitchen and the cooking.

So small things can really have massive ripple effects, really, really big changes. Okay. So another area that we have to talk about when we're thinking about how to make lunch times better is what training and support do we give to the adults who are controlling the lunch times? So supervisors, my heart goes out to them. The midday supervisors, they really have got the most difficult job. They are trying to manage the most hectic, frantic part of the day where you've got the most pupils in the smallest amount of space at the most unstructured time. And let's face it.

These adults are often the least trained, lowest paid, and sometimes they are only in school for the hour or the hour and 10 minutes that they work. So trying to build up relationships or learn about school routines or have consistency and continuity, all of those key factors that underline positive behavior management are extra hard for them because of the way that their day is structured. So what the supervisors need is a systematic form of continuous professional development. And often, sometimes, supervisors are overlooked. So when schools buy in training for the teachers, they'll often invite the teaching assistants, the learning mentors, pastoral team, maybe the office staff, maybe governors sometimes as well. But often lunchtime supervisors are not included in that whole staff training. So, actually, they  have even less input than everybody else at the time of day when behaviour and SEMH needs are likely to be highest.

So we've got to invest in our supervisors in some sort of systematic CPD that is accessible to them. And you can do that in a couple of ways. You can group your supervisors together and train them all together, but that can be quite tricky because often they have second jobs or childcare issues or there are other reasons why it's too hard to group your supervisors together, or what we found works better is bite sized pieces of training spread out over the year. So rather than all of your supervisors coming together in September on a training day just because they owe you an hour because there are no children in the building that day, instead of trying to download an hour's worth of training and expect that that will do for the year, we find it's much more impactful to do bite sized training, drip fed week on week on week throughout the year. That's what changes practice. And we've got to back this up with a CPD system that really holds them to account. So there needs to be a clear explanation to the supervisors that, look, we are investing in you as a school.

We are buying in training for you, and the expectation is that you will listen and learn from that training, and that will influence your practice in a positive way. So we should be able to see and hear changes in your practice as a result of the training that you're getting. And sometimes we're not clear enough about that, and supervisors might have some training. They might sit and nod in all the right places and say, that was nice.

Thanks very much. And then off they go and carry on just as they did before. So we've got to make the supervisors part of the process. We've got to help them understand that we're investing in them, the reasons why they are having training, hopefully explain that this training is part of also what teachers are getting, what TA's are getting, maybe even what parents are getting too. So everybody is being invested in, and then the training is not done for them. And, of course, here at Beacon, we have got a solution for this, and it's called Successful Supervisors.

Simon Currigan

Successful Supervisors is a simple online program for supporting your supervisor so they become a proactive force on the playground and encourage lots of positive behaviour. Supervisors who are actively monitoring and engaging with the children and building up those positive relationships so that children enjoy, you know, happy lunchtimes, you see more smiling kids. It's all about professionalising and supporting your supervisors to be the best they can possibly be, and we've got a free trial on the website. Again, I'll put a direct link to that free trial in the show notes. The trial's really designed for school leaders and managers to see whether the system would work for their school, whether it's a good fit, and whether it would work with their supervisors or not. You can sign up at the moment. It's a 14 day trial.

We are gonna move it to a 7 day trial. So if you wanna get access to a full 14 day trial, you'll need to act quickly. I'll put a direct link in the show notes. So that is training your supervisors well and systematically. The next area of focus is reducing waiting times or as I like to think about it, reducing as much dead time as possible. So imagine this picture, We've got a group of children who are queuing up for lunch, and the queue is long. And the cook serving the food at the canteen at the, you know, the front of the  dining room can only move so fast.

So the children are waiting, and they're waiting for a very long time. They might be waiting 10 minutes, 15 minutes. And then what do we see when we have kids hanging around with nothing to do? Well, a, that's called dead time, and b, we know that dead time nearly always is the root of avoidable low level behaviour. So you get kids dancing around or pushing each other or shouting or doing dumb stuff. And the thing about dead time is it is mostly completely avoidable. If you've got long wait times in your dining room, it's because too many children are being brought in before the serving staff have the capacity to cope with them.

So what we need to be doing is thinking about the flow of traffic into the dining room. When are we bringing children in? Are we bringing them in when there's just a few people? Are we bringing in a whole class, say, when there's just a few people ahead of them in the queue, or I'll be bringing them in when there's when there's 5 classes ahead of them in the queue. How do we do that successfully? Well, it's all about communication. And there are a couple of really simple ideas here.

What we need to make sure is that the supervisors inside the dining room are communicating effectively with the supervisors outside because the supervisors outside can't see into the dining room. So what we need is something like a walkie talkie system where when the queue has died down, the supervisors inside the dining room send a message to the supervisors on the outside and say, right. We're ready for the next class. Get them queued up and bring them in. It could be that you have children who are dedicated a special job as runners backwards and forwards. I say runner. Obviously, they're not gonna run down the corridor.

It's a runner in terms of going between 2 separate people, but you might have children that go backwards and forwards. You might have a system of signs. If you can have a sign up against the window pane in the dining room, if the supervisors outside the dining room are able to see that. But that is essential to avoiding dead time. And we want to time the queue to assess our average wait time for a class. So as a senior leader, you might go into the dining room to see whether this affects you or not. You might look at the queue about half the way through lunchtime because that's usually when the dining room is under the most pressure.

And you look at a child a third of the way down, 2 thirds of the way down at the back of the queue, and you just sit there with your phone or a stopwatch, and you just time how long it takes those 3 children to be served. You add those times together, divide by 3 to get the average wait time. And what we found is in general, you're aiming for a wait time of less than 5 minutes. Now that's based on our practical experience doing over a 100 behaviour audits in real schools. If you can get that wait time below 5 minutes, kids are usually quite happy to wait. They're usually quite calm and placid. When you start moving beyond that 5 minutes, you start to get those bored low level behaviours that then someone in the dining room has to deal with.

And it's not just waiting times in the dining room. Also, think about waiting times at the end and beginning of lunchtime. Are kids being lined up at the start of lunchtime to be taken somewhere by a supervisor who might not turn up for 5 minutes or who might be late? Or are we getting kids lining up on the playground at the end of lunchtime, but hanging around for 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 minutes before their class teachers come to collect them and bring them into school. We're looking at avoiding any dead time, any queuing as much as possible because when we do that, it's gonna have a positive impact on behaviour.

Emma Shackleton

Absolutely. And linking into what you've said there about dead time, Simon, is make sure the children have got something to do. They need to be occupied. Yes. This is their downtime. Yes. This is their social time.

But for many children now, having nothing to do is just going to provide the perfect window of dead time for them to invent something to do, which might be disruptive or dangerous even. So, yeah, hanging around and talking to your friends is okay, and it is social time, so we do want children to have choices over what they do. But there is that old saying, the devil makes work for idle hands. Lots of children need a little bit of structure or at least some structured choices to be able to make rather than just completely free time, which can be misinterpreted as free for all time, which means you can just do whatever you want. What we're looking for here is to try and get the kids engaged in productive social play to have options that will help them to build social connections, to practice their social interaction skills in a positive and successful way. And one way that we've seen this done really, really well in schools, which have got really different physical environments. You know, I've got a really strong memory of one school that we went to that literally had a rectangle of, well, tarmac.

It was literally a barren space. But within that space, they've been really ingenious and inventive with the sorts of activities that they'd offered to the children. So they've done things like having a little boom box out there, so they've got music going in one corner. They've got a box of craft activities like pom pom making. They've got ball games such as football games, but they've clearly zoned the playground to keep the balls in one area rather than letting the children just career across the whole playground chasing a football, boshing through the middle of everybody else's games. So whatever your outdoor space is like, even if it's not that imaginative, you can be really creative with what you do with that space, and zoning is the way forward. Keeping games in contained spaces clearly marked out, whether that's playground markings on the floor, whether it's really cheap, simple, movable barriers, or cones like you'd use in PE or any other outdoor sports.

Find a way to mark out different areas in your playground and then provide a diverse range of activities. They don't have to cost a lot of money. Some schools have a little stage area, which is brilliant. All those kids who like imaginative play, who like performance play, they've actually got a stage to work from. That's free. Taking out some kind of music center is very low cost. Make sure you've got children who are trained into getting the equipment out, putting it away.

Give the children responsibility and ownership over your equipment. And that's the way to provide lots of different activities so that if a child gets fed up with playing football, then they've got something else to capture their imagination and something else to do. So just like we said with the very first point, it's about creating a diverse range of opportunities, a rich diet for the children to choose their activities from, and that's how you really keep children engaged and occupied. And when schools do this well, they see a reduction in behaviour incidents, they see a reduction in first aid incidents, and they see an improvement in the children's social skills. So everybody has a happier lunchtime, the children and the adults, and that's good for everybody.

Simon Currigan

So those are our four factors for lunchtime success. Just to give you a quick recap, number 1 was offer high quality inclusive SEND provision.

Emma Shackleton

And number 2 was train your supervisors well. So don't forget if you're interested in finding out about our free, no obligation to buy trial, you can download the free trial for successful supervisors and take a look and see if you think this system would be a good affordable solution for your school by going to www.beaconschoolsupport.co.uk.

Simon Currigan

Reduce waiting times so you're getting as little dead time during your lunchtime as possible.

Emma Shackleton

And finally, provide the kids with something to do. Keep them occupied.

Simon Currigan

Thank you for listening today. That's all we've got for you. If you enjoyed the show, don't forget to rate, review, and subscribe. When you do that, it does make a difference to the podcast and helps us grow and get these messages and this information out there to other teachers, school leaders, and parents who would benefit from it.

Emma Shackleton

So that's all we've got time for this week. We hope you have a brilliant week, and we'll see you next time on School Behaviour Secrets. Bye for now

Simon Currigan

 Bye.

 

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)