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Participation in the school dinner hall environment: A qualitative observational study of a UK mainstream primary school

Morgan, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-7573-4290, Paton, V. & Harding, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-5192-2027 (2019). Participation in the school dinner hall environment: A qualitative observational study of a UK mainstream primary school


Introduction: Children with disabilities should have equal access to participate within school. Participation is affected by contextual factors; the physical environment and people. One important aspect is the school meal. Little is known about school dinner environments and there is no formal guidance.

Material and Methods: This was an observational study of one UK mainstream primary school dinner hall. Two one hour lunchtimes were observed with children, aged 5-11 years, (703) and mealtime staff (30). Observations were guided using published frameworks, with descriptions of the physical environment and social interactions noted. Children and mealtime staff were not directly approached. Sound pressure level measurements were taken. Further information was gathered via the school website and the Special Educational Needs Coordinator.

Results: This purpose-built school dinner hall had a seating capacity of 231 with a range of different sized furniture. Sound pressure levels reached a maximum of 91dB, above UK standards. It scored negatively on acoustic audit with factors including; open plan space, open doors, hard flooring, talking. The social environment focused on ensuring children ate a meal and on managing behaviour (‘dinner hall rules’). School staff were observed to focus on these aspects e.g. managing queues, wiping tables and reminding children of the rules. School staff did not eat with the children.

Conclusion: In this school the children’s ability to participate fully at mealtimes is likely to be limited, particularly for children with disabilities. This study highlights the need for more exploration of this school environment with guidance developed.

Publication Type: Poster
Publisher Keywords: Dinner hall; School; Communication environment
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
R Medicine > RF Otorhinolaryngology
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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