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  🙂














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