Ask Brenda: The lunchtime professional

Written by: HTU | Published:

The lunch hour can be a critical time of day for behaviour. What are your golden rules for the role of lunchtime or dinner supervisors?

QUESTION: The lunch hour can be a critical time of day for behaviour. What are your golden rules for the role of lunchtime or dinner supervisors?

We employ staff to work with our children during the lunch hour – a critical time of the day as regards behaviour – but we send them out with little or no training and expect them to ensure good behaviour through a long session of “freedom” for the children.

The first thing that I do is to give dinner supervisors a small handbook which is full of games to introduce to and play with the children. I also ensure there are sufficient handheld games including skipping ropes, spinning tops, soft balls and hoops for the children to play with. A designated class each day has the football and a specific area to play football uninterrupted.

Dinner supervisors must understand that children need some release at lunchtime but they do not need to go “wild”, therefore it is about encouraging “play”. They must also be aware of the need to encourage good manners while the child is eating. Levels of noise need to be kept to a minimum.

I ask all staff regularly to support the dinner supervisors. Even if they are merely walking through the lunch hall and they see or hear something which needs to be calmed. This shows the children that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Dinner supervisors I believe should all be trained in emergency first aid, safeguarding and fire safety. This empowers them to work with the whole staff as a team should the need arise. Too often they are seen as a group which is distinct from the whole and that is an issue when you are building teams. You can also train them in “play” techniques. Finally, when a lunchtime supervisor starts at your schools, give them a “mentor” who can train them.

Here follows some best practice tips taken from the list of responsibilities I have used for lunchtime supervisors.


  • Stand in different places around the grounds. Ensure you have a radio with you if you are on duty outside.

  • One supervisor should always stand near the front gate so they can challenge anyone who comes into the grounds. They should use the radio to inform the office that there is a visitor so that someone can come and collect them and escort them into school.

  • No adult should collect a child from the playground. They should be directed to the office to sign the child out. 

Inside/in the lunch hall

  • Ensure that the children know that you are watching them and that if you ask them to do something they do it.

  • If they are too noisy or disruptive, report this to a member of staff that day so that we can support you.

  • They do not come in until they are lined up quietly.

  • The children must not leave their seats until they have finished. 

  • They walk into the hall to sit down and put their hands up when they have finished and wish to leave. They walk out quietly.

  • If they cannot eat quietly or follow these simple rules they will have to spend a week of lunchtimes in the office with the headteacher

  • Try giving stickers for the child who has been the politest and who has been the most helpful. Have an award for the most polite table at the end of each week. 


Brenda Bigland CBE is an education consultant, trainer and coach and a former primary school headteacher. Visit
 If you have a question that you would like Brenda to advise on, email Headteacher Update at

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