AN alternative classroom activity has proved to calm pupils down and make them more focused at a Worthing school.
Thomas A Becket Middle School, based in Glebeside Avenue, is entering the fourth year of having massage on its curriculum.
Around three times a week, pupils take part in 10 to 15 minutes of massaging each other through their clothes on the head, arms and back, and teachers have seen an improvement in both the children’s schoolwork and their ability to build friendships.
Teacher Karen Downs said: “I introduced the idea to the school around four years ago and we are really seeing both an improvement in behaviour and fewer disputes in the playground. And the children love it.”
The pupils are taught different moves by a qualified teacher and are encouraged to be vocal in their preferences.
The activity is introduced to pupils half-way through the academic year, so pupils already know one another before the massage sessions begin.
Pupils are said to gain respect from each other through the activity, as each child has to give permission for the other to start the massage.
If a child does not want to take part, they sit and watch.
Parents are also informed of the sessions before they start, and are given the option of withdrawing their child from the activity.
Mrs Downs said: “We show parents a DVD to show exactly what goes on at these sessions, and they have a choice if they want their child to take part.
“But, mostly, parents are very supportive of this scheme.
“We find that it teaches children how to speak assertively, without being aggressive.
“They can say to each other what they do and don’t like in the massage, and they build better working relationships through it.”
She added: “You could argue that perhaps they should be learning other things in these 10 minutes, but this is an important part of their learning, too.”
Parent Clare Gattenby had a son and daughter who took part in the massage sessions at Thomas A Becket.
She said: “When my son and daughter were at the school, they loved it, and they would come home and show us the new moves they had learned.
“I think it really helped their concentration, and it was encouraging to see them learning new things so easily and quickly.”
Clare added: “I didn’t really have any worries about them taking part because I encourage them to try new things, and when we were asked, I was open to them giving it a go.
“I don’t think there’s any harm in it, and my children really benefited from it.”