Immediately Improve Midday Supervisor Engagement in UK Schools

Q: How do we get our lunchtime supervisors to engage more with our children?

This is a great question and one that I frequently get asked and I’m becoming more and more passionate about.

You see we know lunchtimes are pivotal time in a child’s day and that a bad playtime can affect how a child learns in the afternoon and we know that if our MDSA’s (midday meal supervisors) engage then it will solve all sorts of problems.

So why aren’t they engaging?

I recently attended a head teacher pupil premium conference where Steve Higgins, Professor of Education at Durham University was speaking. He really, got me thinking when he discussed how we often put our most under skilled members of staff with our most challenging and underachieving children. When in fact we need to be putting our most qualified staff with these students.

So, it made me wonder why do we put our least trained, lowest paid and frequently most unsupported staff with our children at this crucial time in the school day?

Let me ask you a few questions.

Do you feel your lunchtime supervisors are adequately trained?

When was the last time your school offered training for your lunchtime supervisors?

Whether that be games training or Lunchtime Supervisor/Positive Playtime Training?

If the answer was yes and in the last year, then you’re in the top 15% of schools I speak to.

You see there’s a correlation between engagement, performance and staff feeling skilled and competent.

If you are concerned your lunchtime supervisors aren’t engaging have you identified why?

Is it a skill they are lacking?

I used to work with Ken Blanchard Companies as a Leadership trainer, one of the sayings in our Situational Leadership II training was ‘people can and want to develop’ and as a leader it’s about ‘partnering for performance.’

We need to ask ourselves how can we support them in being the most effective, competent, lunchtime supervisors they can possibly be? A Lunchtime Superhero to our children.

When I run training I often find our MDSA’s confidence is low. Through an exercise I do with them I get them to be aware of the many skills that they bring and I emphasise the importance of engagement and how important their role is to creating happy and harmonious lunchtimes.

So what can you do?

I’ve developed a simple starter checklist, which I hope will help.

  • Diagnosis – Identify what the problems are at Lunchtimes. How frequently are MDSA’s engaging?
  • Complete a skills audit of your lunchtime supervisors? They may have skills that can be brought to the role that you don’t know about.
  • Staffing audit – do you have enough MDSA’s and are they being utilised in the best way?
  • Work out what training is needed if they are lacking skills or experience.
  • Build morale and confidence
  • Audit equipment – make sure there is enough, lunchtime supervisors frequently tell me they are under equipped. They need tools to do their job properly, just like a plumber needs his toolkit!
  • Rewards and Consequences – Rewarding good behaviour is a great way to change pupil perceptions of MDSA’s using Reward Certificates, Stickers or Wristbands which should all be linked to Classroom Rewards. Equally warning systems and consequences for poor behaviour are important.
  • Invest in training – Is there training, guidance and support for new lunchtime supervisors? Are you investing in annual, refresher training for your lunchtime supervisors?
  • Is the whole school involved in some Positive Lunchtime/Playtime and Games training annually, so that we know everyone is working together with clear goals and aims?
  • Communication – Do your lunchtime supervisor have meetings once a half term?
  • Lunchtime and Playtime Policy –- Do you have a Lunchtime and Playtime Policy that has been communicated with all members of staff? Is this reviewed annually?
  • Are all members of staff clear on lunchtime behaviour management systems?

Our role as leaders is to bring out our lunchtime supervisors magnificence, they want their work to be meaningful, fulfilling, and to be part of a greater purpose. It’s human nature, and understanding this important aspect of human nature is key to enabling them to be their best at this pivotal time in a child’s day.

If you’d like to develop these ideas further:

Thérèse Hoyle is bestselling author of 101 Playground Games and 101 Wet Playtime Games and Activities. She runs ‘How to be a Lunchtime Superhero,’ Positive Playtimes, Circle Time and the Flourishing Schools Programmes nationally and internationally. If you wish to develop her ideas further please read her books, available from Edventure, or contact her direct for in depth advice on supporting your lunchtime supervisors and designing and developing your playground.

Tel: 0800 311 8991 or 0121 369 1998