I was invited by a local authority to carry out a behaviour audit of primary schools. This audit involved spending a day in each school within the authority and producing a report of what the school did well and what the school needed support with, purely from my own perspective. This wasn't akin to a mini Ofsted inspection and the schools could choose to either ignore or take onboard my views, it was simply a chance for behaviour in the schools to be viewed with a fresh pair of eyes and provide feedback.
One morning, early on in the audits, I was observing children on the playground and the bell rang to mark the end of playtime. Upon hearing the bell most children stopped in their tracks and stood still, like statues, thirty seconds later a second bell rang and all the children walked sensibly to their class line. Some children were met by their class teacher who stood at the front of the line, arms folded, talking to the children awaiting the headteachers prompt to take their class into school in an orderly fashion. Some children were greeted by a disgruntled teacher who reminded the children that lining up was not difficult and if they couldn't do it right they would need to practice it at lunchtime. Another teacher stood at the front of the line looking down his outstretched arm with one eye closed and his head tilting slightly to one side to ensure the line was perfectly straight. Three of the lines however just stood there and waited because no teacher was present. Eventually, two of the teachers arrived and took their class inside. The final class, whose teacher was still absent, was eventually told by the headteacher to walk to classroom sensibly, which is what they did. This whole process took eight minutes from the bell ringing to the last child entering the school building. Eight minutes may not sound a long time but this school had a morning break, lunchtime and afternoon break where the whole process was repeated. Suddenly eight minutes in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon equated to twenty-four minutes a day, two hours a week, surely that time could be spent doing somthing more productive? During the behaviour audits, I also discovered that some staff in some schools also line children up to send them out to play, again wasting valuable time.
At the staff meeting that evening I presented my views to the staff who all agreed that two hours a week of standing in line was ridiculous but pondered ways of getting children into class in a more efficient way.
The answer is simple, at the end of break time children walk into school.
Upon suggesting this several of the staff explained how this was a bizarre idea and a health and safety risk, other staff told me how getting them to stand in line enabled the children to be better prepared for learning and it how would be chaos if children were allowed just to walk into school. Eventually, the head of the school said they would try 'not lining up but if it was unsuccessful they would back to lining up.
I advised the head teacher to explain to the children, at the following mornings' assembly, that "because they are all really good at walking into the school they should just walk in when the bell rings and they don't need to line up". The staff were also told that they would need to go to their classrooms when the bell rings.
Two days later I received an email from the head teacher explaining how amazingly well it worked. The Head teacher explained how all the children just walked into the school and less than two minutes later they were all in-class learning. I have received a host of emails explaining the same thing from schools that have tried this.
Although every school who tried not lining children up found it to be extremely successful it might not work in your school, but why not give it a try! Isn’t that what we ask children to do? If not lining up causes problems then I recommend you look at why it didn’t work rather than declaring the whole thing a flop and reverting? Maybe you might need to place a member of staff next to a door to help children through it or strategically place a member of staff on the corridor to remind children of your presence. During the behaviour audits, I also discovered that some staff in some schools line children up to send them out to play, again wasting valuable time. You might want to time how long it takes children to get into school to check on how much ‘learning time’ is being wasted before giving it a go.
The truth is that lining up is simply way of controlling children that teachers children nothing, it’s something that most children will never do again once they have left primary school (unless they join the army), whereas not standing children in a line teaches them to be spatially aware, self-aware, polite, sensible and helpful it also makes them feel valued and trusted.
That’s what I think anyway.
Please comment on this Blog if you have tried not lining up in your school.