A school has boosted pupils’ reading ages by up to four years – by giving them HAND MASSAGES before class.
The ground-breaking Movement Programme saw 11 and 12-year-olds undertake a 25-minute ‘brain training’ session every morning.
This included hand massages, balance and co-ordination routines which focus the mind and raise concentration levels.
Teachers at Henbury School in Bristol have been astonished by the results, with some pupils making four years of progress in a three-month period.
Megan Read, an English teacher at the school which is the first in the UK to use the programme, said: “It is phenomenal.
“It sounds a bit American but it is the ‘brain gym’ style of thinking. It really works well with our students.
“It has really raised the concentration and coordination of pupils. One student made four years’ worth of progress in three months.
The programme is intended to develop concentration, focus and confidence, as well as language and writing.
Students are encouraged to perform different moves – some like Thai Chi, others where they follow their thumb in slow movements, and another where they rocked side to side.
For the first six weeks, moves are restricted to the left or right sides and in the later weeks the centre line is crossed as co-ordination improves.
Movement sessions – led by a series of videos – are followed immediately each day by 35-minute sessions of intense literacy work.
Mrs Read said: “We got all the students into the hall where we went through the video.
“They had to march in time at some points, it is unbelievable how un-coordinated some of them were but by the end they did all sort of things.
“It was followed up by reading schemes or literacy activities. It has been very, very interesting.”
Henbury School, a state secondary with over 1,000 pupils, is one of the most-improved schools in the country.
In 2004 it was one of the worst schools in Bristol, with just 13 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C grades including maths and English.
This had leapt to 52 per cent by last year under the guidance of headteacher Clare Bradford.
Mrs Read added: “What we did is established that when year sevens come in there tends to be a drop off in reading ages.
“We thought we needed to do something about it.
“We researched this programme and we decided to trial it. We were the first to get started and run it.
“It is obviously working though, because I have seen a lot of pupils massage their hands and arms before they sit an exam to prepare themselves.
“It has obviously had a deep effect on them.”
And students say they have benefited from taking part.
Holly Lansdown, a Year Seven pupil, said: “I think The Movement Programme helped me in English and maths.
“I enjoyed it and it set you up for the day ahead. It helped me in lots of ways like mental problem solving, co-ordination, writing and working in groups or pairs.”
Amara Gamblin added: “I liked the march as it reminded me of PE and running. My reading age has also improved.”
The 98 children who took part saw an average increase in reading age of around one year.
Mrs Read added: “We will make improvements based on what we have learned from this group to develop the programme at Henbury School to meet the needs of all pupils in future.
“Our findings will also feed into research into the impact of the programme,” she said.
Two other Bristol secondary schools are also using the Movement Programme and will also contribute to the research.
The programme originated from a company called Leigh Academies, and is known as LAMP (Leigh Academies Movement Programme).