Have a break

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Break duty requires your full attention. You must be prepared for anything, writes Kevin Berry.

Each school has specific rules. Learn them and stick to them; they are usually set in stone. Brokering a Middle East peace deal is easier than suggesting a change from a whistle to a handbell.

At my old school, Cloughie ran the football team. A Year 4 boy had brought a referee's whistle, a present for Cloughie from the boy's father. Cloughie blew the whistle to try it, forgetting he was in the playground. The entire school, 182 children, dutifully marched into their classrooms five minutes early!

Break duty can be the bane of the week. But playgrounds are easier to supervise if they have defined areas for fast activity, such as football, and sheltered areas for gentler pastimes.

Breaktime can also set the tone and atmosphere for the rest of the day. It is a fact of school life that a dry, windy breaktime, with lots of swirling dust, will make the children irritable nd irritable children take ages to settle down.

Be prepared for your first duty. Look at the people who do the job properly, the teachers who remain calm and unruffled. Watch how they begin and end breaktime, note how they divide up the areas to be supervised. They will give the children time to calm down instead of sending them straight into school.

Have two responsible children from your own class with you. They will be handy for getting the first aid box or taking urgent messages to one of the school's management team. And don't be tempted to carry a drink around with you, it will inevitably spill and cause an awful accident.

And if there is an incident or an argument, insist on dealing with it without a crowd of spectators. Keep naughty children with you: sending them inside merely sends the problem into school and will irritate your colleagues.

At the end of breaktime have a treat with your drink - a chocolate biscuit to replenish your energy.

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