“How we’re making time for lunch”

Meet Valerie! She’s guest-blogging for us during Time for Lunch Month about her work with schools in Sheffield trying to use stay on site policies to give pupils a better lunchtime.

“Our Stay on Site project is part of the Sheffield Let’s Change4Life programme, a city-wide initiative tackling obesity in children and young people. A stay on site policy offers an opportunity for staff and students to give some time and attention to their midday meal, a break from the demands of the working day and space for socialising.

We’ve been giving schools funding to draw up an action plan covering four areas:

• Emotional health and well-being/behaviour and lunchtime supervision
• School food
• Positive activities at lunchtime
• Dining room environment, including queuing

We encourage everyone in the school community to contribute. My job is to help each school think about how addressing these areas will make a difference for their pupils. It’s about shifting culture, not just organising a few activities.

This is how Richard Walkden, Deputy Head at Ecclesfield Secondary School in Sheffield, describes the change at his school: “<I was worried about> the number of students going off-site who were being anti-social, eating badly and being late back to school and… the number of students actually doing something practical, sporty or creative. Let’s be clear, we still have work to do but our work with stay on site has had a massive impact here. The dinnertime operation has more diversity, structure, positive energy and choice. Staff have been supportive with duties and supervision and the students have respected and bought into it. The atmosphere is lighter, less intimidating and more communal.”

And Mark Shipman, Assistant Head at City School, told me that their stay on site policy is helping them with curriculum work: “Our science garden is now the focus for growing our own salads and vegetables to use these in the school kitchen. Students have worked alongside the gardener to plant food, and our ECO schools groups are also working with the kitchen staff on recycling food waste and turning it into compost to be used on the science garden.”

For these schools, lunch isn’t an interruption to the day any longer. It’s being valued as an integral part of school life and culture to help everyone focus, concentrate and learn in the afternoon.

If you’d like to introduce a stay on site policy at your school, or if you think you could do more to make your stay on site policy work, here are my three top tips:

  • Make sure there’s buy-in from all stakeholders, especially senior management
  • Build it into your existing work on being a healthy school, or use it as a platform to raise issues around health and well-being in your school
  • Consult students and staff for their ideas before you start.”

Valerie is a Healthy Schools Consultant working with schools in Sheffield. Email Valerie


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