Heathrow Primary School

Lunchtime was inadequate said the Headteacher. Before we made the changes, it was chaos. We were at crisis point and just waiting for the big explosion to happen. The noise (in the dining room) was astronomical and the amount of food waste we had was incredible. The floor looked like a landfill site at the end of every sitting

We extended lunchtimes from one hour to two hours and launched a new restaurant style dining room that dramatically reduced food waste and improved behaviour.

Although the school has plenty of space outside for children to play, including two large playgrounds and a field, most of them weren’t engaged in many games.

We ran a Hillingdon Headteacher twilight with OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) talking about how loose parts (scrap materials like cardboard boxes) and a risk benefit approach will engage and motivate all children to play.

The issues


Midday Supervisors said children are disrespectful and say things like you can’t tell me what to do you’re just a dinner lady. Children perceive (wrongly) that they can get away with this disrespectful attitude said one of the Supervisors. That’s because our school is very unclear and inconsistent about lunchtime rules.


Before we made the change, it was chaos said the headteacher. Everything we tried before didn’t seem to work and stick. Children had to queue to queue. They were queuing outside in the playground said the Headteacher They then queued when they came in to get their dinners, queued to get their knives and forks and queued to get their drinks. They weren’t guaranteed a seat and had to sit anywhere in the dining room so they couldn’t sit with their friends. The noise was astronomical. You couldn’t hear yourself think or let alone talk to the person next to you and the amount of food waste we had was incredible. The floor looked like a landfill site at the end of every sitting


Supervisors felt that the school played good cop, bad cop at lunchtime. Teachers might say something like If you don’t do this, then I will send you to one of the Supervisors. We just end up working as police officers nagging the children all the time. The Headteacher said before we made the changes children didn’t respect the Supervisors and didn’t even know their names.


The school has a large outside area including a MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) a large field and two playgrounds. But the play environment wasn’t engaging or inclusive. Play equipment was restricted to a few balls and skipping ropes which involved a small minority. The majority weren’t engaged at all in any games.

The solution


Lunchtime behaviour expectations were agreed based on the three school rules.

  1. Show respect and good manners.
  2. Care for everyone and everything.
  3. Following instructions with thought and care

Children recognise and understand that their school rules are to be followed and respected throughout the academic day and not just in the classroom.


Separate infant and junior lunchtimes were introduced. This extended services times from one hour to two hours. Infant children have lunchtime from 11.40 to 12.40. When the infants go back into class at 12.40 all the junior children break for lunch from 12.40 – 1.40. Although lunchtime was extended this didn’t affect curriculum time.

Launch of a new restaurant style dining service has created a calm and relaxed environment, conducive to on task behaviour – i.e. socialising and eating. This is based on the following best practice principles:

  1. Introduction of four 30-minute sittings giving most children the opportunity to stay in the hall during the next sitting if they need more time to eat.
  2. Children sit in friendship groups so everyone knows who they are sitting with.
  3. A seating plan with named tables (carrot and lettuce etc) which are always in the same place every day so children know where they are sitting.
  4. Children sit down when they first arrive in the dining hall and collect school dinners one table at a time to make sure no one queues for more than a few minutes.
  5. Children stay in the dining hall for a minimum length of time before leaving the dining room to support slow eaters.
  6. Children are responsible for clearing up any food that drops on the floor and NOT the Supervisors.


Supervisors worked with school council to agree the lunchtime behaviour expectations. This gave them a say on how the school is run said the Headteacher which has made them feel valued. We are also putting the onus back on the children so it’s their responsibility if they drop things on the floor. That means Supervisors can put down their cloth and broom and spend much more time with the children. We had a lot of lollypop eating where they stab food and put it in their mouth. Our staff can now model and teach, particularly our younger children, how to cut up food properly.


The school is working with OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) to improve their outdoor provision and create an inclusive nurturing environment which will engage all the children. This will include introducing loose parts (scrap materials like cardboard boxes) adopting a risk benefit approach to play and writing a play policy.

The outcomes

Supervisor role and engagement

The (Recipe for Change) training has helped bring the whole school back together again said the Headteacher. Rather than Supervisors being separate from the school we are now seen as one and they are respected by the children because of their work with school council.

Lunchtime behaviour

Behaviour incidences have gone done drastically at lunchtime and the children are much calmer and ready to learn once they come back in from lunchtime said the Headteacher.

On task behaviour

The dining room environment is conducive to socialising and eating. Children are now sitting longer at their tables which means they are naturally just eating said the Headteacher. There is no rush anymore to get outside and join their friends because they have to stay there (in the dining room) until the majority of the table has finished. The children have been calmer coming in because they know this is my table, this is where my table is every day for this term and these are my group of friends, so there is no panic.

Food waste

Food waste has gone down drastically said the Headteacher. We have gone from 5 bags of rubbish to 2 bags of rubbish at the end of a sitting.

Cleaning the dining room

Before the changes we had to completely mop and wash the hall floor every single day after every single lunchtime said the headteacher. Now we just do the occasional spot mop for things that are spilt.

Midday Supervisor training feedback

Midday Supervisor training feedback with Excellent getting all the votesHow would you rate this training?

What aspect of the training was most useful to you?

Great ideas. Good communicator for whole school.

Great ideas. Open to all suggestions. Very supportive.

Setting up playground rules and to understand positive ways to respond to the children (e.g. agree, school rules and choices)

Most of the training was interesting. The improvements and rules. Discussing with everyone to find out all the points of view.

New strategies to put in place. Lots of new things. E.g. games and approaches. New ideas.

Discussing different ideas on how to improve lunchtime situations, activities etc.

The discussion and ideas to improve things. To recognise the problems we have at present.

Some very useful good ideas given and useful ways to speak to children.

Fantastic ideas and a fresh perspective. All useful.

Discussing concerns and coming up with ideas for improvement.

All of it

Setting up rules. Appropriate speech with children. i.e. agree, school rules and choices.

Setting up rules, great ideas for play and lunch.

How to assert authority to the children, role model and body language.

All aspects

What aspect of the training was least useful?

All of it was useful. X 2

All aspects useful. Correction. Very useful!

All aspect of training was useful.

No comments X 12

Midday supervisor confidenceHas the training made a difference to your confidence in dealing with lunchtime incidents?

Do you have any other comments?

I’m looking forward to the changes being implemented during lunch, as I feel the children will enjoy their free time and return to class in a more positive frame of mind

We need to have a set of rules that children understand and everyone follows

Rules need to be implemented asap and everyone needs to be doing the same.

Thoroughly enjoyed this training. Very informative. Thank you.

Hope both SLT and teachers, also take ideas on board and work with LSA (Learning Assistants)

An enjoyable day.

Rules need to be made known to all members of staff and adhered to.

The training was very insightful.

Hoping the school pulls together and makes the relevant moves for great improvements at lunchtime.

To have a much calmer lunchtime and children not rushed through.

To implement these positive changes ASAP would be very constructive and beneficial to the school community.

Thank you. This training was great.

Pupil feedback on the dining room changes.

We have our own spaces (friendship groups) now so we don’t need to rush to find a space.

Less food dropped on the floor.

You don’t feel under pressure to eat your food because all your friends have to wait until you are finished so it’s like a restaurant.

You start (eating) together and all your knife, fork, spoons and water is on your table.

If lots of food goes on the floor the dinner ladies ask you to clean it up instead of them because it’s your mess.