Some lunchtime provision is “inadequate”: Why?

  • Pupils often queue to join several other queues even before they get in for their lunch;
  • Lunch time supervisors don’t seem to be respected, and they don’t feel valued;
  • Rules are inconsistent;
  • Communication with Lunchtime supervisors is, at times poor.  They are often the last to get told about any changes from the Teaching Staff or information regarding pupils having difficulties.
  • Pupils are bored in the playground because all they seem to have to play with are footballs and hula hoops, and unfortunately there is always a risk playing on fields in the Autumn and Winter. (Health & Safety)

These issues are quite common and can lead to a high level of incidents and accidents at lunch time.  Lunchtime supervisors, who don’t get any, or little training, are not able then to manage these issues.  This can lead the Lunchtime supervisors to make the situation worse.  Behaviour issues/ autism/ ADHD / anxiety Disorder (the list is endless), are not easy to understand and the lunchtime supervisors are often left to try and resolve these without correct knowledge.  Unresolved lunchtime incidents can often be continued into afternoon lessons.

Lunchtime problems won’t go away, but there are solutions that can be sorted to discourage pupils from being bored/ angry/unhappy etc.

So, we need to look at different ways that will improve behaviour etc. and make sure pupils go back into class ready for learning after their lunchtime. 

Lunchtime Supervisors

Pupils don’t stop learning when they leave the classroom. Lunchtime is another learning opportunity and one that is not always exploited.  It’s an opportunity to help pupils put into practice some of those messages that are delivered in PSHE.  These messages can support character building which includes learning about teamwork, helping others individually, determination and respect.

This can mean supporting pupils in working together when they are outside playing games.  Helping pupils understand that everyone makes mistakes, mistakes are expected, and we can learn from them.

It should be the Lunchtime Supervisors job to deliver communal activities, but most of the lunch time supervisors unfortunately think their job is just to wipe tables, hurry the pupils on, and police those pupils who are poorly behaved.

There is a different way to tackle this Concern:

We must get lunchtime supervisors trained, so as to develop and learn new skills.  Inset is a valuable opportunity to involve them as part of the process. This will then help them to realise their potential and build their confidence and self-esteem and feel part of the school staff.  Once this is achieved playtimes will become more constructive with an ethos of Staff and Pupils (TEAMWORK).

Meetings are paramount to a well working school and lunchtime supervisors should be able to meet monthly or half termly, as this can provide an opportunity for them to:

  • Be listened to
  • Discuss ideas and improvements
  • Highlight current issues and suggest possible solutions
  • Have chance to meet the other lunchtime supervisors in a more relaxed


  • Develop understanding and tolerance
  • Feel that their ideas and suggestions matter
  • Develop a sense of worth

School should remember the induction of any new lunchtime supervisors, using the schools handbook of how your school works at lunchtime, policies etc.

Teachers can play an initial role in this process, not only to benefit themselves but for the pupils and lunchtime supervisor.  Handovers at the beginning and end of each lunchtime is an ideal time to share any relevant information about the pupils.  The handover reinforces the value the teacher places in the Lunchtime Supervisors role.  What also helps is teachers collect their class promptly from the playground. This will illustrate the teacher’s appreciation of the Lunchtime supervisor

It may be possible to link a Lunchtime supervisor with one or two classes, so the pupil, teacher and the lunchtime supervisors build up a professional working relationship.

Another issue is the pupils who are messy and leave everything to someone else.  Making pupils take an active part and become more responsible has benefit.

The benefits of this best practice on lunchtimes is:

  • There is less waste, so dining hall floors just need a quick spot mop rather than mopping the entire floor;
  • Only table monitors visit the waste station, so it significantly reduces the queue;
  • It supports character education and teaches pupils about team work, working together and respect.
  • Clearing up after themselves and getting monitor’s (this can be done on a rotation basis but using the older pupils to wipe the tables etc.). This then allows the lunchtime supervisors more time to get to know the pupils and model good manners. (but still being observant and mindful of what is going on around them for safeguarding issues).

On a positive note the Lunchtime supervisors could have their own reward system in place (discuss this with the Head) This can be known as the Lunchtime reward program.

Behaviour expectations

Pupils often perceive that school rules don’t apply at lunchtime.  This can lead to pupils ruling the playground and ignoring the lunchtime supervisors which can then result in them not getting support from the teaching staff. If no consequences are in place for poor behaviour, pupils will continue to behave inappropriately making lunch time not such a good place to be, especially for the more vulnerable pupils.

Therefore, creating rules, incentives and sanctions will help with these issues. Many lunchtime supervisors do not know the rules of the school/playground etc., and the pupils will catch on to this and its then impossible to effectively manage behaviour

There are ways-to-implement and to solve behaviour concerns, especially the pupils who find it difficult to interact and have very low self-esteem, knowing that rules are in place just might be the sanctuary some pupils need. 

Rules for lunchtime

Get supervisors to work with the school (using inset days) and develop a lunchtime rule book. This will help boost engagement and help pupils perceive supervisors as members of staff.  The rule book should include all the behaviour expectations that pupils believe are fair, reasonable and acceptable. They need to be easy to understand and examples given, so that pupils can identify what is needed.

e.g. – always be kind and helpful = encourage pupils to talk to each other whilst in the playground.


It is essential that the moral ethos of the playground is linked within the school

Whole-school rules, incentives and sanctions should be adopted with everyone in mind.

Always remember to praise good behaviour and check and correct poor behaviour.

If supervisors use the same language as teachers, pupils are much more likely to respect them and respond appropriately.

Dinner Hall

Some schools have a system which is very rushed which can promote a very noisy environmen.  Although encouraging communication between pupils should never be dismissed, there should be a comfortable noise level whilst eating lunch (this can be implemented in the school rules). Displaying the rules around the playground and school will help to inform all members of the school community and visitors of the moral values the schools’ expectations of behaviour.

Lunchtime Supervisors spend most of their time managing the constant flow of pupils coming in and out of the dining room and can’t properly engage. Long queues, not being able to sit with friends, and friends not waiting for each other to finish creates a fast food establishment. This is likely to create a large cohort of pupils who just throw all their food away, the dining hall should have a more relaxed feel about it, so pupils are motivated to eat together, eat better and enjoy socialising. 

Arrange the seating plan

When children go to their classroom their desks are arranged to provide an environment conducive to on task behaviour.  This always includes a seating plan so pupils know what’s what in the classroom, so really it makes sense to replicate this seating plan into the dining room

These are the positives of adopting this approach:

  • Lunchtime Supervisors don’t have to worry about seating pupils
  • It helps pupils engage more socially
  • It reduces food waste because, if any table is messy, lunchtime supervisors know which pupils to monitor.
  • As the same pupils are sitting at the same table in the same place each day, supervisors can easily run reward systems for the best table of the week.
  • Pupils with SEND who thrive on routine will enjoy this system because they know who they are sitting with and where.

The benefits of this best practice on lunchtimes is:

  • There is less waste, so dining hall floors just need a quick spot mop rather than mopping the entire floor;
  • Only table monitors visit the waste station, so it significantly reduces the queue;
  • It supports Character education. – (meaning – the teaching of children in a manner that will help them develop variously as moral, good mannered, behaved, non-bullying, healthy, critical, successful, traditional, compliant or socially acceptable people.)

The playground

Unfortunately, schools must be very careful with Health and Safety and the risk assessment, which prevent pupils from doing what they would like to do.  Pupils love to run, skip, jump, run over the muddy grass etc. if they are not allowed to do certain things frustration sets in and boredom appears, and this is where things can go wrong, pupils start to argue, fall out with each other start bullying others.  This all creates a negative play culture and where lunchtime supervisors are constantly telling pupils to get off, get down, stop running.

Football can dominate the playground because there isn’t anything else to do so the pupils minds don’t get stimulated and pupils have no imagination.

Attend Sport can help make play better in primary schools and early years settings, and now have hubs all around Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lyme. They are developing programs that will help create a nurturing and inclusive play environment.


Schools need to adopt a risk benefit approach to play. The HSE guidance says: “When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits. No child will learn about risk if they are wrapped in cotton wool”.

Play policy

To help parents understand and appreciate the benefits of “risky play”, schools should write a Play Policy. This isn’t mandatory like, for example, a Behaviour Policy, but it’s a great way of avoiding parental complaints about minor injuries which the HSE say don’t need to be documented or reported unless they are very serious.

What to do next

If your school is facing some of these very common playground problems, please get in touch with us at Attend EDC/ Attend Sport and set up a consultation with

Lesley Hogg CEO of Attend EDC                                       Gill Tellwright Office Manager & PA to CEO

Email:                                        Email:

Mobile:07803207599                                                         Mobile 07718495416


Matthew Hogg Director of Attend Sport-


mobile 07753324577

Our lunchtime improvement program involves;

  • Observations
  • Lunchtime Supervisor training
  • Whole school consultations with SLT.
  • We will create you an Action Plan.
  • We can offer and deliver a program of activities with qualified Staff.