One of the benefits of having worked ‘somewhere else’ is that we can directly compare systems and their effectiveness. At one school we used ‘three whistles’ – one to stand still, a second to line up in classes on the given spot, and the third to lead in in the order given to us (furthest classroom first). It didn’t work of course – the children didn’t stop, they didn’t simply go to the designated spot or line up sensibly and without fuss, and the class that had to wait longest lost most learning and was bored of waiting.
In another school there was very set (no-one ever broke ranks) procedure for entering and leaving assembly – classes lined up in the corridors in the ‘correct’ order and left in the reverse order. It gave order – it did not lead to self-discipline, self-determination or any form of independence.
Here we try not to line up if we can help it – they waste time, they are boring, they are a potential for pushing and shoving, they give very little of benefit and we think the cost / benefit balance is against them most of the time. We open the gates at the start of school and the children simply go in – they do not congregate on the playground to wait for a whistle for a signal to go into school. No time lost there, no pushing or shoving, no heavy blockage due to ‘sheer weight of traffic’. At the end of the four playtimes the bell sounds and children do the same – they simply go in. The same happens on two playgrounds at the end of the staggered lunch breaks. It works without problem so we have no intention of messing with what we currently do there.
We do still have queues and queueing for school meals – around 160 children from Year 5 and Year 6 came out to lunch at 12:15 and wanted to be ‘first in’ (the rest were having a packed lunch and went straight in through a different door). They get register checked and served one at a time – there is a queue behind the first person. The children instinctively line up by class – though we make this happen by putting out eight large cones at the top of the playground slope.
What we have been looking at this week is how long half the queue waits, and whether we can delay the second half for a while; can we send them to play for 10 minutes and then safely, successfully, securely (so no-one misses lunch) call them across to the front of the line? If we can then we get more physical activity, healthier children and hopefully fewer complaints about queue behaviour.
We are thinking of two big signs on to tall posts – one indicating the year group to line up for lunch immediately, and one to show who should go and play for a bit. One whistle, we think, could then tell the players to line up.
We might just be over-complicating something that is not a big issue – with a 55 minute lunch break even the slowest, latest child gets 20 minutes play after queueing and eating.
We do have the odd queue at other times – keeping a class together as they prepare to leave school so the teacher can supervise all of them as they leave the site, or when moving through school to the music room or IT suite – but these are single classes only.
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