Schools halve lunch break and get better behaviour
The Press
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2009

More primary schools are ditching the traditional one-hour lunch break in favour of shorter breaks to combat bad behaviour.

Rowley Avenue School principal Glenn Bermingham said the Christchurch school had noticed the number of children misbehaving increased in the last 15 minutes of the lunch break.

Teachers were reporting more incidences of conflict, and pupils not sharing and becoming irritable in those last 15 minutes.

The school now has a half-hour lunch break at 12pm, and another half-hour break starting at 1.30pm.

The Hoon Hay school, which has 105 pupils, introduced the changes last year, with the number of playground incidents falling by 90 per cent.

One hour was a long time for children, especially younger ones, to be playing relatively unsupervised, Mr Bermingham said. The school has also introduced more games to keep the children occupied, including knucklebones, padder tennis, draughts, chess and frisbee throwing.

Research indicated children had improved concentration and worked better after being physically active, so the school did numeracy between lunch breaks, he said.

The change had not been as popular with the teachers, because it did not give them enough time to get to the photocopier and run errands during the break, Mr Bermingham said.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president Denise Torrey said more and more schools were doing away with the one-hour break and tailoring their school day to suit their pupils.

"What is fascinating about this is you could talk to half a dozen different schools and they're all doing it differently."

However, the reasons were similar, she said. Most were doing it to reduce bad behaviour and to maximise quality time spent on literacy and numeracy.

Somerfield School, where Ms Torrey is principal, is looking at options to reduce its one-hour lunch break next year.

Bamford School in Woolston has also done away with the one-hour lunch break. The school has a 15-minute break at 11am, a 30-minute break at 12.15pm and another 15-minute one at 1.30pm.

Bamford School principal Sue Sheaf said the break structure had been in place for some time.

She was not at the school when it was instigated, but said her experience was that a reduced lunch break improved behaviour.The Press

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