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Solihull's stablemates

A teacher stands at the front of the school assembly, hands raised, fingers pointed upwards. The hall is alive with the chatter of 290 children, but as his fingers drop, one by one, so does the noise level. By the time his fists are shut, the hall is in silence. Pupils know what it means if they continue to talk: they will have to leave and file back in.

This is Monty Roberts's horse- whispering technique in action- on children.

Kingshurst junior in Solihull is the first UK school to adopt Mr Roberts's "non-coercive" teaching and behaviour methods. Ten years ago the school, in a deprived estate, was failing. Today it is a beacon school and holds a government charter mark.

All Kingshurst pupils draw up behaviour contracts, outlining their own punishments if they step out of line. Mr Roberts's non-aggressive approach also rewards good behaviour, though not in a material sense. Pupils are allowed to form a school council and play an active role in decision making. Fifteen pupils have trained as peer mediators, often acting as the first port of call in playground arguments.

Almira Sejfic, 10, said: "Monty does not get stressed out or angry with the horses. When people are having an argument we remain calm as well and work out their problems."

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