West Lodge Primary School

In brief

The school created a positive lunchtime SEF with a vision to improve their provision both inside and outside. We helped the school transform the dining room from being hectic and noisy said the Deputy Headteacher into a restaurant where children are socialising, they are clearing up after each other and they are interacting with cooks so much more. Our partners, OPAL- Outdoor Play and Learning, helped the school adopt a risk benefit approach and introduce loose parts into the playground.
Before we introduced the changes, packed lunch eaters ate in the main hall and were segregated from school meal eaters who ate in the dining hall located next to the kitchen. All children now eat together in the dining room. To give everyone enough time to eat, lunchtimes were extended, (without losing any curriculum time). We introduced two service points and we introduced a seating plan so everyone knows where they are sitting, who they are sitting with and when. The Y5 & Y6 children succinctly summarised the benefits of their new restaurant: It’s inclusive (one of the school’s diamond nine values) because you are involving everyone who is on your table in the conversation. Noise levels have decreased. Everyone’s more happy so the teachers are more happy and you are not rushed.

The issues


Although children’s behaviour is good most of the time there was a lot of mucking around going on in the dinner queue (before the changes were introduced) said the Deputy Headteacher. The Lead Supervisor said There used to be arguments about who would be sitting next to who and children would then start pushing in the line.


The dining hall was very hectic, noisy and quite a scary environment, said the Deputy Headteacher, where we were just queuing children up to feed them and then get them out again. You used to have to wait for 20 minutes to get your food, said one of the Y6 children. The Lead Supervisor said it was like clearing up after a dinner party. We were just on our knees really. The children were just so noisy. It felt like they were queuing all-round the dining room. Packed lunch eaters ate in a separate hall to school meal eaters. The segregation was just awful and so divisive, said the Deputy Headteacher, We had children never having a school dinner because of the fear of going into the dining room. The school cook said Our service was very slow and often finished late. There were two reasons why the service was extremely slow. Firstly, every child opting for a school meal (on average 350 meals per day) had to queue up and get ticked off on the caterers Cypad (online ordering system). Secondly, a whole year group of 90 children were being served from one service point. This took far too long and as a result, children didn’t have enough time to eat.


You didn’t have time to stop and interact with the children at all, said the Lead Supervisor, referring to how lunchtime was before the changes were introduced. The Supervisors ended up barking orders at them and telling them what not to do and clearing up their mess, said the Deputy Headteacher. It was like clearing up after a dinner party, said the Lead Supervisor. During the initial Recipe for Change training, Supervisors said they saw themselves as just dinner ladies and they didn’t feel the children respected them.

The solution


The school created a charter to make sure all children were clear about behaviour expectations at lunchtime. This lunchtime charter, created by the school council, included all the behaviour expectations that the children felt were important. The charter was based on three school values– ready, respectful and safe– with good lunchtime behaviour choices for each one. E.g. being respectful means I will share in conversation and make sure everyone on my table has a chance to have their say. Being ready means I will wait for my friends to finish their dinner and leave the dining room together.


A new restaurant style service was introduced to help create a learning friendly environment. Detailed below is a brief summary of how the new service works and what changes the school made to their lunchtime provision.

  1. All children (packed lunch eaters and school meal eaters) eat together in the same hall. The hall that was being used for packed lunches can now be used for other activities. As one hall needs monitoring and not two, this increased staffing capacity gives more Supervisors more opportunities to engage with more children.
  2. Lunchtime is staggered over a two-hour period. Service times were extended by approximately 20 minutes so all children have enough time to eat. Reception children have up to 40 minutes in the dining room. Y1 and Y2 have 30 minutes and KS2 have 25 minutes.
  3. To make sure children eat mindfully and not mindlessly, all children stay in the dining room for 20 minutes and aren’t allowed to leave until the ‘early finish’ time. This makes sure no one feels rushed and helps support slow eaters.
  4. A series of four staggered set sittings has replaced the continuous service where children came into the dining room as soon as there was any spare capacity.
  5. The hall capacity can accommodate two whole years groups (180 children). This means the hall is half empty for quite a lot of the service time which helps create a much calmer and quieter environment.
  6. Children sit together in friendship groups (which they agreed, not their teachers) so everyone knows who they are siting with.
  7. Children sit on the same table every day, located in the same place every day so everyone knows where they are sitting.
  8. Two Table Captains on each table are responsible for clearing away all the dirty plates and bowls and waiting for any slow eaters so nobody eats alone.
  9. Flight trays (designed for airlines and prisons and not fit for purpose) have been replaced with attractive Times Table plates and bowls which encourage children to talk about numeracy in an informal and relaxed way.
  10. A Cypad, which was used to tick off each child whilst they were waiting in the queue for a school meal, has been replaced with a registration system in the classroom and the introduction of coloured wrist-bands so caterers know what everyone has ordered. There are no queues and the kitchen has gained another member of staff, now the Cypad isn’t being used, to help serve and refresh food.
  11. ISS catering, the school meal providers, have been very supportive of the new changes and invested in a second service point. This has significantly increased speed of service. A whole year group of 90 children all get served in 5 minutes.


The new dining room service has been designed to ensure Supervisors have plenty of time to listen to children, to encourage them to make the right choices and to teach them the social curriculum (good manners, using a knife and fork properly etc). There are three keys aspects of the new service which have enabled Supervisors to improve their engagement.

  1. Table Captains– When children work as Table Captains they clear up any waste food and wipe their table. They know if they spill something they have got to clear it up, said the Lead Supervisor. We’re not sort of nursemaiding and running around doing everything for them. They are having to take responsibility. This has enabled Supervisors to stop being cleaners and to start spending time talking to the children whilst they are eating. Although the little ones need more assistance, when Y3,4,5 and 6 come in we can chat and chill with the children, said the Lead Supervisor. It’s much more fun, particularly with the older ones.
  2. Lunchtime charter– The lunchtime charter is displayed on each table to remind children about the behaviour expectations they all agreed to follow. This gives Supervisors a real opportunity to recognise and reward those children who follow the charter. The Supervisors are using the language of ready, respectful, safe, said the Deputy Headteacher, children are slowly coming-round to realising that it is not the free-for-all they used to see lunchtime as. It’s now part of our ethos and our values.
  3. Seating plan– Children’s names are printed on table cards, so Supervisors know exactly who is sitting where and at what time. If anyone drops their food and doesn’t pick it up we know exactly who has done it, said the Lead Supervisor, we can chase them down. This is another great opportunity for Supervisors to use the language of ready, respectful and safe and ask questions like How well do you think you left your table? and Who were the Table Captains this week?

Video testimonials

All the quotations in this case study are recorded in a series of video interviews with the Deputy Headteacher, school cook, two Supervisors and some of the children. To watch these videos please visit the resources section of our website.

The Outcomes

Positive lunchtime SEF vision
For the first time ever, said the Deputy Headteacher, we developed a positive lunchtime SEF. It was slightly tongue in cheek when we created it but looking at our vision, that is what we have got going on in the dining room. We have got children interacting, they are eating lunch calmly and they are using positive behaviour. We’ve got a restaurant where children are socialising and where they are clearing up for each other.

Learning-friendly lunchtime
The restaurant style dining room has created a learning-friendly environment which is conducive to on task behaviour, i.e. socialising and eating. A combination of the lunchtime charter, the Table Captains, the Times Table plates and bowls, Supervisors using ready respectful and safe language and a seating plan, so everyone knows where they are siting and who they are siting with, have motivated children to eat better and eat together. The behaviour has been much better in the dining room partly because of the charters but also because they’re not hanging around now, said the Deputy Headteacher.

SEN children
We’ve got quite a few children with autism and for them the dining room was rather a scary place and they didn’t want to be in there because it was just too noisy. Many of these children are now coming into the dining room because they know where they are going to sit every day, they know which friends they are going to be sitting with and they know that generally it is a quieter, calmer place. Inclusion is at the heart of everything that we believe, it’s the heart of our diamond nine (school values) and lunchtime is now so much more inclusive, said the Deputy Headteacher.

School meal uptake
School meal uptake has increased by at least 15%. Before we were serving between 320 and 400 children per week, said the school cook, now it’s gone 400 plus so we’re looking at between 400 and 450.

Working relationships
Relationships between Supervisors and the kitchen staff have improved. It was quite fraught before if some accident happened, said the Lead Supervisor, now it’s so much better. The whole thing has dove-tailed with the new system of coloured bands.ISS catering have been amazing from day 1, said the Deputy Headteacher, they have been unbelievably supportive.

Midday Supervisor training feedback

What aspect of the training was most useful to you?

The whole training session was extremely useful and constructive.

Strategies given to manage behaviour. Knowing that the whole school will have the same approach. Focusing on positives rather than negatives.

Learning how to deal with challenging behaviour.

Open to the ideas we had.

Reflecting on our roles; expressing worries and concerns; sharing and being listened to.

Useful tips on how to diffuse bad situations.

Learning different methods to organise the children better at lunchtime.

Great to hear about the lunchtime practice to be implemented.

Positive aspect of dealing with given situations- ignore bad behaviour and promote good behaviour.

Good, clear ideas on how to deal with situations.

What aspect of the training was least useful?

No comments x 15

Do you have any other comments?

I have learnt some great ways of dealing with different situations in the lunch hall. Very beneficial. A great morning of training.

Can’t wait for change.

Pupil feedback on the dining room changes

With the queuing you used to have to wait 20 minutes to get your food. But now we have set tables and there are two different serving stations it makes it much quicker.

You are able to socialise more easily because before it was really really loud but now it’s quieter so you can socialise.

I think that it has changed a lot- in a good way- because say all your friends were packed lunch and you were hot dinner then you wouldn’t be able to sit next to them but now if you’re packed lunch and your friends are hot dinner then you still get to sit next to them at the same time and eat together which is nice.

Noise level has decreased, it’s now a lot easier to talk to your friends. It’s not so hectic and the food being dropped on the floor has reduced so it’s a lot cleaner.

Everyone’s more happy so the teachers are more happy. So when you get into learning you can learn better instead of being sulky.

You’re not rushed. You don’t eat your lunch really quickly.

With the table captains stacking and putting the plates away for their table it’s learning a new skill for life and the new times tables plates are really fun.

It’s caring and supportive because everyone is together. No one is going to leave you on your own on the table, there’s always the table captain.

Table Captains