Improving break time

Sometimes, school breaks and lunchtimes can be problematic. Pupils might not be playing well together, they may be unable to play, or they may be causing arguments. The responsibility may lie with the lunchtime supervisors, but when the break is over, the problems can persist in the classroom for teaching staff, who have to waste teaching time sorting out disagreements and generally calming pupils down.

Top tips

There are several ways of improving school breaks. A few ideas are offered below:

  • Zone the playgrounds so that different activities can take place.
  • After zoning, make sure that there is equipment available for those who want it, eg basketball or juggling.
  • Get to know lots of playground games. Alternatively, ask your school to invite an external agency who can help pupils to organise different kinds of games.
  • For pupils who do not like the bustle and noise of the playground, organise some indoor activities (eg chess, drawing or reading). Train older pupils to run these and give them arm bands or bright labels so that pupils know who they are.
  • Find out if any of your fellow lunchtime supervisors and support staff have hidden skills, such as dancing, needlework, etc. Perhaps these could be the basis for a lunchtime club?

Two schemes – lunchtime buddies and friendship stops – are outlined below. These can help to reduce the incidence of bad behaviour caused by social relationship problems, bullying or low self-esteem. When they are set up, both schemes can help to develop a supportive atmosphere in the school.

Lunchtime buddies

Sometimes younger children can feel threatened by the playground at breaks and may find it difficult to find friends. A buddy system can remedy this. Many schools that promote ‘zero tolerance of bullying’ find peer support (like the buddy system) useful.

Buddies are simply older pupils who help younger ones. They are allocated to specific children. A child can ask their buddy for help if they feel they need it.

A buddy system should be organised with the full cooperation of all the lunchtime supervisors (who must be trained to make it work). It is important that the buddies know what they are there for, and that they have some guidance in handling the various situations they might encounter. Encourage them to be:

  • friendly
  • thoughtful
  • caring
  • confidential
  • helpful
  • understanding
  • fair.

Friendship stops

Friendship stops can accompany and support a buddy system. Friendship stops are specific, signposted places in the playground where pupils who are lonely, upset or without any friends can sit. When the system works well, buddies, who may be part of the whole school buddying system or specially allocated as friendship buddies, come to the friendship stop and try to help solve a child’s problem.

NAPTA, 10 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 1JP — tel 01223 224930 — email