Elbows on the table? Chewing with an open mouth? Surely Harry Potter would never get away with such habits at Hogwarts.
Housemasters at the Havelock Academy in northeast England are taking inspiration from the fictional boy wizard to teach their pupils table manners. The academy is holding regular Harry Potter-style banquets, turning its newly built dining room into the Hogwarts dining hall to give students a sit-down meal experience, the Daily Mail reports.
Many of the children at the Grimsby academy, in one of the poorest parts of England, are more familiar with eating fast food and TV dinners than dining around a table. According to The Sunday Times, the academy serves lunches like shepherd's pie and fish and chips, as the children seat themselves on long, Hogwarts-style benches. The food may not have the same magical qualities of pumpkin juice and treacle tarts, but the experience does encourage a sense of community, and, as the housemasters soon discovered, it provides an opportunity to teach students how to properly handle cutlery.
"The idea for the banquets wasn't part of a program per se about telling you to use a fork – that came accidentally. It was clear that the experience of a number of these children at home was a television-dominated, on your feet, relatively fast-food kind of experience," principal Nicholas O'Sullivan told The Sunday Times.
The privately-sponsored academy teaches children ages 11 to about 16. The students are divided among eight houses, and each house has its own banquet day every two weeks, helping boost the students' social confidence.
Janet Watson, founder of The Etiquette Class in Calgary, applauds the idea, noting she has found children are interested in learning about etiquette through the dining scenes they see in movies or on television.
"I think kids are seeing this sort of thing, and they're curious," she says, adding that themed dinners may offer a way make etiquette more fun and appealing. "I think if you can put it into that kind of context, I think that's a wonderful idea."