Playground duties and having an effective presence

Jane Wood-Chambers

Friday, 12 October 2018

It is Tuesday morning and as the buzzer sounds for the end of the first-morning session you suddenly remember it is your break duty! No going to the loo, no sweet milky coffee in the staffroom and no rush to the photocopying room to print the next lessons worksheet and certainly no time to check emails and your phone!

However, it is a perfect opportunity for 15 minutes in the fresh air, a chance to speak with the pupils in an unstructured, their terms way and the chance to see and observe the dynamics of your class and pupils in your school.

Playtimes are for many children the most cherished or the most hated parts of the school day. For some children, it is also a time they are indifferent about. How then do you make sure that your presence in the playground is an effective use of your time; not just for yourself and your own professional development, but also for the pupils that you are safeguarding, supporting and engaging?

Some pupils love chatting with the teacher on duty often linking their arm and walking with them everywhere they go! These conversations can be magical, bizarre and fun.

The majority of pupils though have their rituals and routines for playtime. First on the football pitch, hanging off the climbing frame, playing tag and it and walking around the space chatting and gossiping with friends. Playground equipment both the stationary and movable kind provide the pupil on their own an opportunity to do something. Swing on the bars, skip like a boxer or throw the ball against the wall.

Your role is to scan and scan again. Watch the pupils and see how they are playing interacting and second guess their feelings.

jumping kids

Walk around your designated space and explain to the pupil on your arm that you are listening but may have to sometimes speak with others as you see something necessary to comment or ask about.

Occasionally there is an altercation or a fight and there will definitely be pupils that come to you with a moan grip or problem. The best way to interact and problem solve is by following the school playground rules and code and before you refer to these by starting a conversation with the pupils involved.

Make sure you also have your safeguarding head on and you are watching out for negative and bullying behaviour too.

Ask this very simple question; “what do you need me to do?” See the results and then take it from there.

To sort out any disagreement or wrong doing, ask the question; “Did any of you do something that you should not have to one of the others?”

This then starts the period of reflection and takes the conversation away from ‘he said, she said’ and onto the solution. Try it the results are magical to watch.

Try not to assume and try not to pigeonhole pupils based on their reputation in the staffroom. Observe for yourself, ask questions and record and report as necessary.

Often in any behaviour management, and this includes the playground, we forget to ask the accused their side of the story and assumptions can be made!

Oh, and if you do not get 5 minutes either before or after your duty for a comfort break then speak your leadership team. You cannot teach effectively until lunch if you need to use the loo!


About our Community Expert


Jane Wood-Chambers
Editorial Advisory Board Lead

Over 27 years of educational experiences in a number of settings. Developed a clear vision and ethos for inclusion which puts the child at the centre and a clear understanding of how to support, engage and nurture the individual.

Ability to train all staff through effective and reflective continual professional development in behavioural management techniques that begin, establish and maintain change in all.

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