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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Pupils' lessons in table manners
Children eating
Children's table manners should be encouraged by parents, experts say
Children at a Wearside primary school are getting lessons in table manners as part of the curriculum.

The lessons are being held at Quarry View school, in South Hylton, because some children are struggling to use a knife and fork when they start school.

Child psychologist and parenting expert Dr Pat Spungin said fast food and TV dinners are behind the declining standards at meal-times.

She said parents should recognise the importance of the family meal.

Tricia Bateley, head teacher of Quarry View, said table manners are now part of citizenship lessons at the school.

Parents should be getting back to the table and recognise that the family meal is an opportunity to teach good manners
Dr Pat Spungin

She said: "Citizenship lessons offer children the opportunity to develop attitudes to achieve a higher quality of life.

"When our children start school in September, we spend the first month sharing lunch with the children, encouraging and reinforcing table manners and etiquette."

TV dinner culture, where families rarely sit down for a meal together, is blamed for the lack of table manners.

Dr Spungin said: "By the time they start school, children should be able to be quite proficient in using a knife and fork and I would have thought it should be the responsibility of the home.

"There is a lot of finger food around now - burgers, pizza and chips. I think it may go hand in hand with something that concerns us and that is that families are not sitting down to eat like they used.

"It has all got to do with the decline of the family meal in some households. Parents should be getting back to the table and recognise that the family meal is an opportunity to teach good manners, how to hold a conversation and build bonds with other members the family, as well as generally eating better."

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