Improving lunchtime behaviour

9th February 2011  |  by Greg

It’s often the part of the day that’s seen as the most challenging (and time-consuming) when it comes to behaviour but there are things that schools can do to improve things. Here are just five:

1. Remember that it’s a whole school issue.

Lunchtime behaviour needs to be addressed as a whole school. Procedures that are in place for the rest of school need to be in place at lunchtime too, although they may need to be adapted. Teaching our expectations for procedures we frequently ask pupils to do, helps to empower lunchtime staff.

A great way to show a united front in terms of behaviour at lunchtime, is to have an assembly just before lunch. With all the staff, lunchtime supervisors and pupils in attendance, everyone will know that everyone knows what the expectations are. No more: “Mrs Henderson said we’re allowed to…” because we’ll all know what Mrs Henderson said.

Remember that unlike teachers and learning assistants, lunchtime supervisors usually don’t get the chance to “stop the class” and remind everyone of the instructions. This causes frustration because they need to repeat the same instruction lots and lots of times instead, so they need our support.


2. Have a system for recognition and consequences.

Train the lunchtime staff in how to use the system and how to encourage great lunchtime behaviour through their choice of language. Lots of time can be taken up with ‘counselling’ and ‘investigations’. Of course we need to investigate if it’s serious, but invariably reminders of the rules plus small, simple  and consistently delivered consequences are the best approach.

Also, ensure lunchtime supervisors can liaise with class teachers to give specific pupils class-wide rewards. These are much better than the individual kind.


3. Scanning zones

With much less ‘counselling’ and ‘investigations’, time is freed up to make sure everyone is safe and happy during their lunchbreak. To ensure the very best levels of safe-guarding, lunchtime staff should be strategically positioned in the playground to ensure no areas are left unsupervised for any amount of time. A quick sketch of the playground/field can make you realise there are certain spots that staff can’t see from where they currently supervise. You might use this “zonal-marking” (to use a football metaphor) with the majority of staff but have one member of staff doing “man-to-man” marking if there are individuals that are particularly challenging.


4. Remember the roles

Not Swiss rolls – which in my time I have seen as the main, savoury component of a packed lunch. No, I mean, who does what:

The Leadership Team

a. Teach routines

b. Define expectations and share them

c. Define responses and share them

The Lunchtime Team

a. Remind children of a. and b. above

b. Implement the responses defined in c. above.


5. Don’t have lunchtime supervisors.

In Australia, they don’t exist.

Many schools now have a system (or are working towards one) where lunchtime and breaktime duties are undertaken by teachers and support staff, with the onus on support staff at lunchtimes. Slightly more complex timetables and staggered breaks for pupils and staff are usually needed but it means that the learning assistants and learning mentors who have had lots of opportunity to build great relationships in class, are also the ones who deal with behaviour at break.

If this sounds too radical, another strategy is to pay lunchtime staff for an extra hour or two a week so they can hear readers or help with an activity which will allow them to interact with the children more positively and prevents them being seen by the children as just “the person that tells us to get off the banking”!


If you’d like to know more or want to take advantage of our Lunchtime Supervisor Training, just drop us an email.

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