4 Ways you can immediately make lunchtimes better (Part 1 of 4)

Posted by Paul Aagaard · 3 min read · 0 comments

Most of the schools I visit recognise that their lunchtime provision is, as one Headteacher said “inadequate”. Children often queue to queue outside the dining room and then again once they get inside. Midday Supervisors aren’t respected and they don’t feel valued. Rules are inconsistent. Communication with Supervisors is poor and they are the last to get told about any changes. Children are bored in the playground because all they have to play with are footballs and Hula Hoops and our risk averse culture says they can’t play on fields in the autumn and winter. These very common issues lead to a high level of lunchtime incidents and accidents. Midday Supervisors, who aren’t trained to manage behaviour, end up trying to resolve petty arguments. Rather than de-escalating them they often get worse and children end up talking about unresolved lunchtime incidents in afternoon lessons. It doesn’t have to be like this. I have developed an evidence based programme over the last 10 years that provides solutions to these lunchtime problems. It’s based on 4 different ways - my success criteria - that improve behaviour and make sure children go back into class ready for learning.

These four success criteria are – behaviour expectations at lunchtime, Supervisors engagement, the dining room and the playground. This first blog explains how to improve Supervisor engagement.


Supervisors Children don’t stop learning when they leave the classroom. Lunchtime is another learning opportunity and one that is not effectively exploited. It’s an opportunity to help our children put into practice some of those messages that are delivered as part of SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) and PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic education). It’s what I call the social curriculum and how we support Character Education which includes learning about teamwork, volunteering, determination and respect. That means checking and correcting children who are lollypop eating. That means helping children to work together when they play games, particularly when they lose. That means helping children understand we all make mistakes, mistakes are expected and we can learn from them.

It’s the Midday Supervisors that need to deliver this social curriculum but most of them think their job is to wipe tables and police the tiny minority of children who are poorly behaved. This is the hardest part of the programme to get right and it’s about changing mindsets. Getting Supervisors to stop wiping tables and stop keeping an eye on what they refer to as the naughty children is challenging. So, what do you do? There are two ways to tackle this. Firstly, we make sure the children are responsible for clearing up and wiping tables so Supervisors have the time to sit with the children and role model good manners. Secondly, we target Supervisors to give out a minimum number of rewards each day to the vast majority of children who are well behaved and make sure they adopt a policy of distant vigilance to those who behave inappropriately unless there is a safeguarding issue.


At Hermitage School, Supervisors have been banned from washing and wiping tables. “Now they must sit and talk to the children about their food and about what they are doing” said Elaine D’Souza, Headteacher. Supervisors are asked to give out raffle tickets to children who are following the lunchtime charter behaviour expectations. “Any child that gets one knows exactly why they have got it” said the Headteacher. This reward programme helps Supervisors focus on the majority of children who are well behaved rather than the tiny minority who are poorly behaved. Here are more details about how we helped Hermitage School improve their lunchtime provision. Hermitage School case study

If you would like to improve Supervisor engagement, then please get in touch with us at Recipe for Change. Our lunchtime Improvement programme includes positive behaviour training for Midday Supervisors to help them de-escalate incidents. It makes sure the behaviour policy is consistently implemented at lunchtime and ensures children are respectful to Midday Supervisors. Based on the training, we write action plans to improve provision in both the dining room and playground, run whole school consultations and help introduce all the agreed changes that’ll make lunchtimes much better.

For more information, please email info@recipeforchange.co.uk

Paul Aagaard

Paul is a social entrepreneur who is passionate about improving safety and behaviour in schools by transforming lunchtimes. Working in partnership with caterers and local authorities to develop lunchtime improvement programmes, he helps schools ensure that children want to eat better, eat together, engage in good conversation and be more active.

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