Becoming More Aware of Bullying in the Primary School Playground

The statement that “there’s no bullying in our school” is not realistic.

Bullying is woven into the fabric of our society and the school playground is where many children learn to become life long bullies.

Looking out for incidents of bullying in the playground is not easy and can be a real challenge for the midday team. Often the signs are not immediately obvious and can slip under the radar.

So what signs should we be looking out for?  

Possible indicators that a child is being bullied range from them being: withdrawn and isolated in playground ; tearful and clingy; continually complaining of feeling unwell; looking miserable or worried. 

Parents may tell us that their child has complained of feeling ill; is having regular nightmares; is tearful/ withdrawn at home ; has a loss of appetite; has become more aggressive towards siblings/other children; is having temper tantrums ; is uncharacteristically disobedient.

What sort of bullying should we look out for in the primary school playground?

  • Name calling – face to face or behind someone’s back
  • Teasing
  • Pushing or pulling
  • Hitting
  • Taking & throwing another child’s things around
  • Spreading rumours
  • Ignoring and leaving out
  • Forcing a child to hand over their possessions
  • Attacking a child because of their religion, colour, culture
  • Ridiculing

We need to therefore keep our eyes open and….

  • Look out for sad, upset children
  • Use our personal knowledge of children
  • Watch out for groups of children huddled together
  • Listen to each child directly involved individually
  • Use time-out as temporary way of calming children down – ask them to seek us out only when they feel calm


Another post to follow soon on what the midday team can do to become even more aware of the types, indicators and effects of bullying and how they can deal with it confidently within the context of their school’s anti-bullying policy.



Stand up for each other

I read this on the Bright Side website the other day. Such a simple and effective way to talk to young children about bullying. Just had to share it!

“Today in one of our classes I introduced the children to two apples (the children didn’t know this, but before the class I had repeatedly dropped one of the apples on the floor, you couldn’t tell, both apples looked perfect). I picked up the apple I’d dropped on the floor and started to tell the children how I disliked this apple, that I thought it was disgusting, it was a horrible colour and the stem was just too short. I told them that because I didn’t like it, I didn’t want them to like it either, so they should call it names too.

Some children looked at me like I was insane, but we passed the apple around the circle calling it names, ’you’re a smelly apple’, ’I don’t even know why you exist’, ’you’ve probably got worms inside you’ etc.

We really pulled this poor apple apart. I actually started to feel sorry for the little guy.

We then passed another apple around and started to say kind words to it, ’You’re a lovely apple’, ’Your skin is beautiful’, ’What a beautiful colour you are’ etc.

I then held up both apples, and again, we talked about the similarities and differences, there was no change, both apples still looked the same. I then cut the apples open. The apple we’d been kind to was clear, fresh and juicy inside. The apple we’d said unkind words to was bruised and all mushy inside.


I think there was a light bulb moment for the children immediately. They really got it, what we saw inside that apple, the bruises, the mush and the broken bits is what is happening inside every one of us when someone mistreats us with their words or actions. When people are bullied, especially children, they feel horrible inside and sometimes don’t show or tell others how they are feeling. If we hadn’t have cut that apple open, we would never have known how much pain we had caused it.

Unlike an apple, we have the ability to stop this from happening. We can teach children that it’s not ok to say unkind things to each other and discuss how it makes others feel. We can teach our children to stand up for each other and to stop any form of bullying.

The tongue has no bones, but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.”



What’s in a name?




I am amazed by the number of different job titles there are for staff employed in primary schools at lunchtime.

It seems to be a regional thing. I recently read a Mumsnet thread in which 6 mums were discussing their children’s experiences in the dining hall. Depending on where each mum was from the staff at their children’s schools were variously described as:

“Lunchtime Supervisor”; “Dinner Lady”; “Midday Supervisor”; “Dinner Nanny”.

In the early ’60s the lunchtime staff at my first (northern) primary school were known as “dinner ladies”.  For me it had a “homely” ring to it. Two years later  when I went “down south” that name seemed to drop off my radar only to reemerge in the early 1990s when my children started school in Leicestershire. (I can’t remember what the lunchtime staff were known as at my southern primary school!).

I’ve often wondered how the staff feel themselves about their job title.

In 2008, around the time of Jamie Oliver’s campaign for healthy school meals , an article in The Daily Mail broached the subject:

The school meal rebellion: ‘Don’t call me a dinner lady, I should be addressed as school cook’

” Those with catering qualifications prefer to be called “school cooks” or “school chefs” while servers want to be known as “lunchtime supervisors” or even “food advisers”.

Staff employed in the school playground, who often cover the dining hall as well, also have a plethora of job titles.


“Lunchtime Supervisor”; “Dinner Lady”; “Midday Supervisor”; “Dinner Nanny”.

~But Also~

“MDSA”; “Play Leader”; “Midday Supervisory Assistant”; “Lunchtime Controller”; “Lunchtime Assistant”; “Playground Supervisor”; “Welfare Assistant”.

I’m sure there are more.

~ I often wonder how a job title affects a person’s identity and self worth~

Laura Fredericks talks about the significance of a job title within the corporate setting. Her reasons can be applied to any role in a primary school:

“Many organizations due to budget reductions, downturn economy, or revenue shortfalls, often give current employees more job responsibilities without the title that reflects all this additional work. Does this sound familiar? The first place to start is defining why a job title is important.

Top reasons job titles matter:

  1. Reflects your current professional identity within the organization.
  2. Describes the quantity and scope of the work you do everyday.
  3. Signals loyalty to the company that you want to advance and make a significant contribution.
  4. Shows your authority and rank within the organization internally as well as to external constituents, clients, supporters, foundations, corporations, competitors.
  5. Carries weight and prestige and will be of great importance in securing opportunities for the organization.

“I am sure there are many other reasons you can add to this list but the point is that job titles do matter, but if you don’t have the one that reflects your work, then you need to ask for the title you want”.


More to follow soon  🙂













Celebrating 18 years!

This October we’re celebrating our 18th anniversary of training midday supervisors.

It’s been a rewarding and enlightening journey ….from the early days of working in neighbouring Leicestershire schools to today working with schools as far afield as Northumbria and Cornwall.

We’ve learnt so much from meeting midday supervisors – how they feel about their role, the challenges they face and how much they want to feel valued members of the school team. They tell us how helpful it is for them to meet staff from other schools and that they’re looking for practical ideas to help them do their job even better. They ask our advice about all kinds of dining hall and playground scenarios. They want to know how to nip a situation in the bud before it escalates into a big drama. And if something does become a big drama then they want to know strategies for dealing with it confidently themselves without involving a member of the teaching staff.

A basic understanding of child development and psychology is a must for midday supervisors. It underpins all our training courses and gives them credibility.

But it’s the simple tried and tested tips (that derive from this) that the midday team really want to talk about.

Tips on

  • How to work with other members of the school team
  • Keeping children safe
  • How to build positive relationships
  • Behaviour strategies
  • What causes different types of behaviour
  • How to help children modify problem behaviours
  • Identifying and anticipating triggers
  • How to support and to include children with varying needs
  • Introducing new games


We’re looking forward to many more years of midday team training and we wish you all a wonderful New (academic) Year .

Here’s to another 18!

Best wishes