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Kick-start for exam takers

STUDENTS from an Edinburgh secondary took part in some unusual pre-exam activities this week which saw them kickboxing their way to the exam hall.

A group of 30 pupils from Castlebrae High participated in Japanese-style motivational exercises and kickboxing sessions, all before sitting down to take their Standard grade exams. Staff at the school hoped the innovative project would encourage students to turn up in the best state of mind, feeling motivated and destressed.

It was an early start for students - who received a wake-up call from staff or were picked up by a minibus at 7am. At 7.30am, the exercise class, led by a former army combat expert, began.

After 45 minutes of activity, there was a healthy breakfast and a motivational talk.

Early morning sessions took place on Tuesday and Thursday before candidates faced Standard grade English and maths.

The project, which cost pound;500, was funded from school budgets and partly sponsored by a local company, Nairn's Oatcakes. Those who took part wore T-shirts with "Get up and get motivated" blazoned on the front.

Christine Scott, community programme manager for the school, said that staff wanted to create a positive environment. "Our programme was certainly ambitious but we consulted extensively with students on what kind of activities they felt would help them relax and focus," Mrs Scott said.

"Kickboxing was the surprise clear winner and we were delighted that so many people signed up. My colleagues and I were totally committed to our quest of ensuring that everyone felt confident and inspired. Physical exercise gets endorphins going through the body. It wakes you up - and it also calms you down."

Teachers took part in the exercises while others helped canteen staff to set up the breakfast.

"This is the first time we have done something like this and as far as I know we are the only school to run a project of this kind," Mrs Scott said.

Although there are a handful of other pre-exam clubs in Edinburgh none has seen students taking part in a vigorous exercise class. A breakfast club at Broughton High, which runs on each morning of an exam, is designed to provide emotional support as well as promoting healthy eating.

Mrs Scott now hopes that early morning exercise will become a regular feature on the exam timetable. "We will most definitely run it again and it is something that would be good to see in other schools across Scotland.

Although the original reason we set it up was to encourage students to turn up to exams, the real success of it was that kids felt good about themselves and were motivated."

Darren Bigg, aged 15, said: "It was good and it was fun. There was a lot of exercise and it got me to wake up. I was still half asleep when I came into school. I felt all ready for my exam and it helped my confidence."

Mark Donnelly, also 15, said: "It was good and helped me confidence wise.

It was a chance to get help from teachers before the exam if there was something you needed to ask and it helped me to relax. It's a good idea and I think it would help other pupils. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it."

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