Family Lunch - One week on
We have now been running Family Lunch for nearly one week. As we anticipated, it has not been
without its teething troubles, but we’ve never been more certain that it is the right thing to do.
Last year, students had 30 minutes for lunchtime. In fact, with the warning bell going at 25 past, this ended up being more like 25 minutes. In this time, students were expected to get their lunch
(queuing up with the rest of the school), find a place to sit, eat lunch, go to the toilet, fill their water bottle and do any playing and running around that they could fit in. As you can imagine, this was quite a rush. In addition, as some students ate lunch outside, we had a flock of seagulls visiting who were ever bolder about trying to get hold of lunches which simply added to the stress.
Lunch is now 50 minutes long. Whereas before, students had 25 minutes for everything, they now have 25 minutes to use as recreation time. Some students have been using this time to continue with their art, some have been using it to practise drama pieces, some have been using it to play football, and some just to chat with their friends. But, because we have removed the stress of queuing with hundreds of others, as well as the stress of finding a seat together with friends, they can relax and enjoy their time in any way they see fit.
Every student in every year has their own seat, so no one is left out, no one is unable to sit down, no one is left on their own. Everyone is equal because that is what is fair.
In addition, as staff, we can check that every student is being given the best chance at success by making sure that every student is eating a good lunch. There is a direct correlation between eating a healthy lunch and performing well academically. At Towers, we make sure students are cared for and have the best chance at academic success.
There are practical reasons as well as philosophical ones. As the fastest growing school in Ashford, we have had more Year 7 students joining us each year for the past three years. We now have a waiting list of students wishing to join us. In addition, we have students and parents from other schools visiting every week (as well the sixty who joined us from other schools last year); they are in schools which do not enforce silence in every lesson so that students can concentrate, who do not have the same high expectations of their students and who do not have the knowledge driven curriculum that we have been working towards. These students have realised that they are not as lucky as the students at Towers and are therefore choosing to move here. As a growing school, we simply could not fit everyone in during a single lunchtime using the previous system. Now, we manage to seat over 1000 students every lunchtime in a calm and purposeful way.
We are not arrogant enough to suggest that we get everything right first time. We have spoken to students and made tweaks according to their ideas: we are trialling music in the hall; we have
changed the system for getting our older students into the dining spaces as they have understood our reasons, adapting so quickly and maturely. The students we have spoken to on a daily basis all agree with the principles behind what we are trying to achieve and, in a world dominated by mobile technology, it is genuinely lovely to experience the atmosphere as tables of young people eat, chat and forge new friendships over lunch. When parents have come in to speak to us about it, they walk away understanding our philosophy. They have put their trust in us to educate their child and trust us in this too.
Everything we do at Towers is planned to maximise their learning, to make them the best version of themselves. Every decision that we take is for the benefit of the students. Family lunch is about giving students the skills and confidence to eat, communicate and feel confident in the company of other people. These are life skills that everybody will need and benefit from, regardless of future career.
And as an added bonus, the seagulls have gone!