School Lunchtime Supervisor

The Job and What's Involved

School lunchtime supervisors are responsible for the safety of schoolchildren during lunchtime breaks. They are sometimes called school midday supervisors, lunchtime controllers or lunchtime assistants. Their duties include supervising pupils in the dining hall, playground and other school premises, and making sure they do not leave the school or go into areas that are out of bounds.

Although specific responsibilities vary between schools, tasks are likely to include:

  • Supervising pupils at mealtimes - encouraging children to eat healthily, helping infants to open packaging or cut up food, and providing some social and educational training, such as good table manners.
  • Cleaning up spillages, and possibly helping catering staff to clean tables and clear the dining area.
  • Overseeing children in the playground or during wet play, and monitoring the safety and suitability of activities.
  • Supervising children using toilet facilities - issuing passes to older children and accompanying infants, checking they wash and dry their hands.
  • Caring for the personal cleanliness of children.
  • Maintaining order, cautioning children who misbehave and reporting unresolved problems to the duty teacher or head teacher.
  • Making sure children who are ill or injured receive appropriate medical attention, and reporting any serious accidents.

Lunchtime supervisors are typically employed to supervise the same class or year group. If they are responsible for a child that suffers from hay fever, or is allergic to a food item or insect sting, they need to know the appropriate treatment to give.

Lunchtime supervisors must also be aware of responsibilities under child protection legislation, and report any concern over possible abuse of a child to a senior supervisor or the head teacher.

School lunchtime supervisors work shifts, on a part-time basis. They usually work between 12 noon and 1.30pm, Monday to Friday. They are normally employed during term-time only.

Lunchtime supervisors work in primary, secondary and special needs schools. The work involves standing and walking, both inside the school and outdoors in the playground. The work environment can be lively and noisy.

Lunchtime supervisors may earn from around £1,600 a year. These pay figure is based on working one and a half hours a day for three 12-week terms, without any holiday pay.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

School lunchtime supervisors are employed at most primary schools, and some secondary and special needs schools or colleges in the UK. There are currently around 27,500 secondary and primary schools in England, Wales and Scotland. Lunchtime supervisors are employed either directly by a head teacher or by the local education authority.

Competition for jobs varies, with some schools finding it difficult to fill positions.

A small school might have just one lunchtime supervisor, although many schools employ one for each class or year group, with a senior supervisor co-ordinating cover.

School lunchtime supervisors may combine this job with other employment, either in an educational support role, such as school administration, teaching assistant or patrol crossing, or outside the school altogether. Schools often try to attract parents or people known to school staff by advertising lunchtime supervisor vacancies in the school newsletter or on their website.

Vacancies may also be advertised in local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and local authority job bulletins.

Education and Training

Employers may ask that applicants are aged over 18. There are no set qualifications for work as a lunchtime supervisor, although some experience of dealing with children may be desired.

Some local education authorities now employ people specifically to run play activities with children during the lunch break. For these posts it helps to have experience or qualifications in playwork.

As the job involves working closely with children, applicants must agree to undergo a criminal records check.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is largely delivered at the school by co-ordinating lunchtime supervisors and the school's head or deputy headteacher.

Newly appointed lunchtime supervisors usually receive an induction, covering the school's policies for health and safety, and behaviour management, and dealing with incidents like racism and bullying.

Attending a basic first aid course is usually a job requirement. Courses include the:

  • First Aid Qualification (FAQ) Level 2 Certificate in Paediatric First Aid.
  • ASET Level 2 Certificate in First Aid for those Caring for Children.

There may also be the opportunity to work towards relevant vocational qualifications, such as:

  • Level 2 Award or Certificate in Support Work in Schools.
  • CACHE Level 3 Award, Certificate or Diploma in Support Work in Schools.
  • City & Guilds Level 3 Award in Safeguarding Children and Young People.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A school lunchtime supervisor should:

  • Relate well to children and staff.
  • Be responsible.
  • Be assertive.
  • Respond calmly and quickly to developing situations.
  • Have experience of dealing with children.
  • Respect school policies and guidelines.
  • Be organised and able to keep simple records.
  • work well in a team setting.
  • Be flexible and use their initiative.
  • Have a good sense of humour.
  • Have some basic first aid knowledge.

Your Long Term Prospects

In larger schools, it may be possible to progress to senior lunchtime supervisor, in charge of a small number of staff.

School lunchtime supervisors taking a Level 3 vocational qualification may be able to progress on to a Level 4 qualification, such as an NVQ/SVQ Level 4 in Children's Care, Learning and Development. This training may enable lunchtime supervisors to become classroom teaching assistants or provide learning support to individual or small groups of students.

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