A discussion on the radio this week centred on lunches for children at schools. How healthy are they? How easily can the children leave school and eat at the local chip shop? Then someone said that the teachers often did not not superintend the lunches in school. Or, if they did, they then were entitled to take a long break. It sounds unlikely but I thought a two-hour break was mentioned.
What a contrast there is between this idea and what I have seen at two private schools – one in Britain and one in America. Most notable was the private school in New York State where, I think, all the teachers had lunch with the children and, even better, each teacher went to a separate round dining table so that he or she would talk with the children on that table. It must surely be the case that this is a civilising practice for the children. They are more likely to learn the boundaries of good behaviour and more likely to have sensible and even, occasionally, educational discussions.
When I visited this school last year, I sat on one of these round tables with the headmaster on my left and children on my right. Doubtless it was no accident that the child I was placed next to was extraordinarily bright. He told me his favourite subject was history and he preferred European to American history because it was longer and richer. He must have been about 13 or 14, I think. Of course, the school did not make him as clever as he was but it certainly enabled him to thrive.
The other school, in Britain, was Hampton Court House in South London where the teachers ate with the children. This was entirely informal, I think, and children could avoid being with teachers if they wanted to. But I got the impression that they were perfectly happy having lunch with teachers and, again, this must surely be a civilising influence. Children can learn about history and science in class. But at lunch, any subject can be discussed and the child can have the benefit of the perspective of an educated adult.
The private boarding school that I attended had no teachers present at meals and it was pretty shambolic. I guess that many private schools would benefit from having the teachers present at meals. I would not be surprised if among the government-run schools there is more of a rule that teachers cannot be obliged to go to lunch with students. I would also guess it was pressed for by the teachers’ union. I would welcome any information on this.
If that indeed is the case, it would be an example of teacher union power being used to the detriment of the interests of the children.
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- Why poor parents in Miami send their children to a private school
- Virtually all bright children at private schools get good GCSE results but only just half of bright children at state schools do.
- Raising the school-leaving age would be crazy
- “Most” children in Naples go to private primary schools