When insisting on good manners in the dining hall pays off – how one London school has made a different to their lunchtimes

(Website Editor’s Note: This photo of a ‘Golden Table of the Week’ is from Jenny Mosley’s book ‘How to Create Calm Dining Halls’.)

The other day I was working in a large, complex multi-cultural school in London and I was reminded of what happens when staff work together well. The children and staff had noticed that standards, manners and behaviour had all slipped in the dining hall and the dining experience was beginning to suffer as a consequence. The school then started to put in a huge effort to get standards, manners and behaviour back up to where they should be.

For example, the children and the staff decided that they didn’t like the mess on the table and underneath the table and children who were on the second sitting were having to sit at tables where there was food mess on top and underneath the table which was very off-putting for the children. They then put up in the dining hall, a big golden poster, ‘we need tables that are clean on top and underneath’. The headteacher talked about it in assemblies and came into the hall a few times to check how the initiative was going. The children were taught how to put their plates under the lip of the table and scrape any spilt food onto that plate which they would then take to the bin to be scraped. Stickers were given out for children who kept their tables clean. Adults all said well done to the children who were trying hard.

So when all the adults work together, it is possible every time in my view to help the children to make very good choices. I am constantly in school and in terms of the background of the school, often they might be the same, however one school, the children behave very well and in another they don’t behave very well. If they followed the three C’s (Care, Commitment and Consistency), it is possible every time to make things work.

  • Care – all the adults need to care about what it is they want to change.
  • Commitment – you need a whole school approach to everything you want to change. So all the adults need to commit themselves – in this case, the catering staff, the dining hall staff and senior management.
  • Consistency – then you need to be consistent. Everybody needs to keep an eye out for the good choices, good behaviour and all the children who are not keeping to their rule. So it means that every adult needs to notice things, not to turn a blind eye because you are too tired or cannot face challenging that child.

You need to have regular meetings to check that everyone is being consistent and then you can move to the fourth C which is celebration! Children who do well can go and celebrate on the golden table.


Website Editor’s Notes

1. Jenny Mosley delivers keynote speeches, seminars and workshops at conferences and training events including headteachers’ conferences. For further information about Jenny’s work and availability please phone 01225 767157, email circletime@jennymosley.co.uk or see our training section on the website.

2. For all enquiries about Closure Days and Working in School Days for positive behaviour, social and emotional skills development, staff well-being, circle time and lunchtimes and playtimes in mainstream, special schools and early years settings – click here.

3. Jenny Mosley’s training, consultancy and conferences are for teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers, midday supervisors and everyone who works with children in schools and settings.

4. Jenny Mosley’s Golden Model and training promotes positive behaviour for learning, positive lunchtimes and playtimes, SEAL, SMSC, PSHE and British Values.

5. See details of one of Jenny Mosley’s latest books ‘How to Create Calm Dining Halls‘. This book has many initiatives, audits, photographs and ideaS for the dining hall such as those mentioned in the article. You may like to see our dining hall articles in Headteacher Update here and the TES here.

6. To see all our other resources for schools, dining halls and playgrounds – click here.