Dinner ladies", or lunchtime supervisors to give them their more correct title, are undoubtedly among the unsung heroes of the education service. Rarely do they get any kind of formal training and yet they are crucial to the running of every school, especially since teachers have largely withdrawn from lunchtime duties.
If lunchtimes are an undisciplined, unruly riot, it can be exceedingly difficult to settle children down for the afternoon's activities. Some more enlightened schools have begun to put some positive effort into structuring their lunchtimes, and central to this lies the effective training of the adults in charge.
Walsall Educational Development Centre has put together an excellent package to assist with this process. It consists of an A4 ringbinder holding a VHS video and materials to support the running of 19 training sessions, divided into four units.
The first asks the supervisors to explore how they see their roles and responsibilities, to discuss key issues and to identify their training needs. It effectively uses the National Primary Centre video 395 to Lunch - Managing at Midday, which is included in the pack, to raise awareness of good practice and to stimulate productive thought.
Unit 2 alone is worth the cost of the package. Here you will find an amazing collection of practical ideas. There are more than 80 photocopiable - and multiculturally acceptable - wet day activity sheets (word searches, dot-to-dots, paper mazes, puzzles, origami, crosswords and more besides); more than 60 indoor and outdoor games, many designed to be led by the supervisor, and which include most of the well-known traditional playground activities; practical ideas for playground and dining-room layout and organisation; and even survey forms to use with the children and a form letter to persuade parents to help physically create a more attractive and child-friendly playground environment.
Unit 3 is the real meat of the training programme. Seven workshops deal with creating and implementing behaviour and anti-bullying policies, handling difficult situations (with a good selection of testing examples) and emergencies, child protection and child abuse, and raising both the profile and confidence of lunchtime supervisors.
The next unit suggests an induction process for new supervisors, discusses why and how it is important to raise their status, covers the vital issue of communication with other staff, parents and, of course, the pupils, and introduces a simple appraisal system.
There is a final unit designed for the use of trainers, which offers guidance on maximising the effectiveness of the various techniques that are suggested in the manual.