Education Quandary: 'My twins get half an hour for lunch. Can we do anything to get a longer break?'

'My twins only get half an hour for lunch. The school says this is for discipline reasons. Can we do anything to get a longer break?'

Hilary's advice

First, tell yourselves that you are right to be worried. We don't like chickens being reared without being able to feed, breathe and stretch. Why is it OK for children?

Lunch times are for unwinding, eating properly, socialising, going to clubs and getting fresh air. Yet, worryingly, 13 per cent of secondary schools now give pupils only half an hour for lunch, and more than half give pupils less than an hour. And this change is being sneaked in without consultation with either pupils or parents. Some schools say it's because they can't find lunchtime supervisors. More cite playground problems as the reason for the change.

Yet good discipline does not come from denying children time to be themselves. It comes from helping them to develop respect for themselves and others, within a clear framework of expected behaviour, with quick, effective sanctions for those who spoil things for others. It isn't difficult to put in place. Much has been written about how to do it, and good schools make it work every day.

Your twins' school is telling its pupils that they expect them to behave badly and that they are being locked in their classrooms to prevent such behaviour. If pupils respond by acting even worse, who can blame them?

Find out what other parents and pupils think, then ask to see the head and raise these issues. If he or she won't even discuss them, think about whether you want your children to stay in that sort of school.

Readers' advice

I'd advocate doing everything you can to help the school discipline system. I'm not in education, so this isn't from another teacher's point of view; it's from a mum who thinks that maybe our kids should be a bit tougher and stop the whinging. School's only a six-hour day. So they have to comply with a restricted lunchtime – so what? It's not exactly workhouse conditions, is it?

Stephanie Acton, Cheshire

Half an hour is an adequate amount of time to eat lunch. Your children can socialise at breaks and after school. A school timetable must be adhered to in order to fit in all the necessary requirements of a busy school day, and cannot be run to the whims of individual pupils. You would no doubt be the first to complain if your twins were falling behind due to lack of teaching time in the classroom. It is essential at this age for pupils to develop a certain amount of "self-discipline", this being an essential life skill.

In coming years, as your children's problems become more involved, you will need the full advice and support of their school. So save your interventions for the truly important issues rather than alienate the staff at such an early stage. It is essential that children see their parents working with the school rather than against it.

Julie Earnshaw, Leeds

Suggest to the school that if it really wants to get on top of its discipline problems, it should cut out lunchtime altogether.

Craig Wiley, Essex

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary, I have been thinking about teaching computer skills to adults, but I've been told that I need a special teaching qualification to do this. Is this true? If so, why? Teaching adults is surely quite different from teaching children. It must put so many people off wanting to pass on their skills to other adults.

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than Monday 4 February, to 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Early Years Teachers ...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Qualified Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualifed Early Years ...

Do you want to work in Education?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energetic gradu...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little