Teenagers should be paid to act as school dinner supervisors and lunch breaks should be longer to improve behaviour, according to a report published today.
Advice from the Government-funded School Food Trust said schools should promote table manners to help develop children’s social skills.
And longer lunch breaks would allow pupils to digest their meals, relax and be ready to concentrate in the afternoon, the report said.
One idea for improving behaviour in the dining room is to employ pupils as lunch-time supervisors.
The report said: ‘Reward the supervisors by either paying them and/or giving them a free lunch. The benefits of self supervision are high when it comes to behaviour management.’
At Coombe Dean School in Plymouth, teams of Year 11 pupils ‘enjoy the rights and responsibilities of staff during lunch when supervising and cleaning the hall’, the Trust said.
‘They receive a free lunch and wages. The designer furniture is respected – leather sofas and birch tables have received no abuse at all in two years.’
The report warned that schools deciding to shorten lunch breaks to stop pupils running riot in the playground could be making behaviour worse.
‘Increasingly lunch breaks are being shortened by schools,’ the report said.
‘This can be counter productive, leading to stressed students who have had little time to digest their food, relax and recover to concentrate in afternoon lessons.’
The report also recommended improving the surroundings of dining halls, with ‘dimmable’ lighting, and making more space by encouraging some students to eat outside.
‘Consider setting up an awning to add shade on sunny days or to protect when it’s raining,’ it said.
The report also suggested that schools should ‘promote social skills, such as table manners’.
The School Food Trust commissioned a survey to coincide with the report. It showed that nearly one-in-five more children would eat school dinners if their canteen had a makeover.
The survey by Carrick James also showed that children were fed up with queuing and short lunch hours, and wanted more time to socialise with their friends.
School Food Trust
Nearly half of schools (49 per cent) have less than an hour for lunch with 13 per cent having only 30 minutes, the survey of 500 11-16-year-olds found.
More than one-in-three teenagers think the dinner break is not long enough.
Prue Leith, Chair of the School Food Trust, said: ‘Many children are being offered 21st century food in 19th century canteens and for some young consumers that means voting with their feet.
‘A major refurbishment programme may not be realistic for all schools but if they can get the basics right – such as providing time to digest food, somewhere to sit, proper crockery and cutlery – this will make a huge difference.’
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