By Nikki Cox
Back in the day, they were called dinner ladies, but a transformation is occurring! The role now is often called a 'School Meals Supervisory Assistant' (SMSA), and in primary schools, it involves ensuring that children have had sufficient food to fuel them for the afternoons learning, dealing with the common place bumps and scrapes, and responding appropriately to children's disagreements and misunderstandings!. All this, and the added addition of 'play'!
For many SMSA's, this job is in addition to the other roles that they play within the school. They often also work in before and after school clubs, so they are constantly moving swiftly from one job to the next. "I wear so many hats, that sometimes I forget which one I am meant to be wearing at any given moment" I heard one SMSA telling her colleague!
One of the ways that Scrapstore Play Services works in primary schools is to install a Scrapstore PlayPod, a container full of loose parts, from tyres to cable reels, suitcases to dressing up clothes. In order to make positive play at lunchtimes we need to work closely with the SMSA's to make this sustainable!
When we introduce loose parts play in primary schools, the impact is of course fundamentally with the children, but the SMSA's will be affected by the change. Whilst a Scrapstore PlayPod in a school extends children's play possibilities, it may also challenge adult perceptions of play, introducing more elements of chaos and risk onto the school playground, in a controlled and beneficial manner.
One SMSA I worked with was a little reluctant and cynical about the whole concept of the Scrapstore PlayPod at her school. "Children won't share", she told me, "they will need help all the time from adults to make things". These were just a few of her initial fears. 5 weeks later, after 10 hours of training and practical support on the playground, it is a different story. " I never realised how a playground could sound, the children are using every available space and they are just so creative in their play." This SMSA was embracing the change and thought "it would be great if every home could have a mini Scrapstore PlayPod!"
Children's Scrapstore support SMSA's to become advocates for children's play, they can transform into effective enablers and observers of play within schools. "This week I went on holiday to Turkey with a child, we took our suitcases and flew first class, I was so engrossed, it was just about the best fun! Normally this child struggles to fully engage in play, but for those moments, he was truly playing!" - Lead SMSA.
In one school I worked in, the revolution has gone full circle, people that have worked in the school for over 20 years and were once known as 'Dinner Ladies', are now embracing the title of 'Playmaker'....now that's progress!
Scrapstore Play Services offers a range of playwork training courses if you would like to find out more about playwork training and loose parts play in schools or phone us on 0117 9143002