Lunchtime dance lessons and a stage for performers are helping to improve behaviour. Stephen Lucas reports
A scheme that introduced tango lessons and a stage for singing and dancing in the playground has put an end to lunchtime squabbles and bad behaviour.
St Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic school is one of four primaries in Bristol taking part in a 10-month pilot scheme in which structured activities are offered to pupils during their break times.
The pound;75,000 Imagination at Play scheme, funded by GE Commercial Finance, trained playground supervisors to run games, gave equipment to schools and trained some of the older pupils to defuse fights.
Jackie McCarthy, the headteacher, said: "Lunchtimes can be difficult for children who do not mix easily.
"All the teachers have reported that the scheme has had a positive impact on behaviour back in the classroom. A lot of issues in the playground spill into class after the break."
She believes the pilot scheme has improved behaviour at the school. During the spring term last year, four children were temporarily excluded. This year, just one pupil was excluded from lessons for a day.
Jacinta Thurlow, deputy head, said: "When the children go out after lunch, the first 15 minutes are fabulous but they go off the boil in the last 10 minutes.
"Now, they play nicely for the full length of time. We do still get the odd squabble but there is less friction."
Trisha Logan, one of four playworkers at the school, said: "Lunchtime is a bit more structured now. When children are bored, they torment each other."
Mrs McCarthy said: "The Year 6 children were teaching the infants to tango today.
"Tangoing is popular here. Our Year 2 teacher goes to classes with the bursar on Wednesday evenings. They demonstrate for us in the staff room on Thursdays, and it has caught on with the children."
Imagination at Play is also being piloted at Cabot, Hannah More and St Werburgh's - all Bristol primary schools.
At St Werburgh's, the number of major incidents reported at lunchtime has fallen from 64 between September 2003 and July 2004 to just 15 for this academic year. Claire Jefferies, headteacher, said: "This programme has had a positive impact."
At Cabot, seven pupils lost 207 days through exclusion in 2003-04, but this year 106 days have been lost. The rate of attendance has also improved at the 210-pupil school - from 88 per cent last year to 92 per cent this year.
Carmen Cadwgan, headteacher, said: "I put the improvements down to the Imagination at Play programme. We have one Year 6 boy who had real problems with behaviour and attendance.
"He was away for 19 days last year. This year it has only been four. He is a highly motivated young man now."