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Gentle exercise for the mind and body

Relaxation and concentration may be alien concepts to many children, but at Hythehill Primary in Lossiemouth t'ai chi is becoming an increasingly attractive break from the buzz and bustle of life.

Since this slow, graceful form of exercise combined with meditation came to the school last August as the result of a funding request, P5, P6 and P7 pupils taking part in the extra-curricular activity have become far more aware of the benefits of slowing down and taking time to focus fully on their immediate task.

With its choreographed movements, known as forms, and its emphasis on listening, deliberation and self-discipline, the martial art, developed by Taoist monks in the 13th century, is proving to be a calming influence on the youngsters and encouraging skills that they are applying to other areas of their lives.

"We're pleased with the effect it seems to be having on the core group of children who regularly attend the classes," says headteacher Hazel McPherson. "Ican see they are becoming better at listening and focusing on what they are doing, and this is showing in the classroom."

T'ai chi instructor Mandeigh Wells, who had never worked with children until last year, says: "Although repetition of movement is very important in t'ai chi, I originally planned to play it down as I thought the kids might become bored. I quickly changed my mind because I realised repetition is part of their learning process and it helps them concentrate."

Hythehill Primary applied for a pound;2,500 New Opportunities Fund grant in a bid to increase the selection of extra-curricular activities it could offer pupils. The benefits are also being enjoyed by some teachers.

"Apart from it being a wonderfully relaxing way to end the day, we feel it's good for the children to see their teachers as learners, and it gives the teachers something new to add to their tool kit when it comes to classroom management," says Mrs McPherson.

Judy Mackie

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