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Squaring up to the circle

Who went?

Heather Daulphin, deputy head at Hampstead School, west London.

What was it?

Circle Time in the Secondary School, by the Institute of Education, University of London.

What did it do?

It looked at ways of creating a protected environment in which children can discuss their opinions and feelings openly.

Why go?

The Department for Education and Skills is keen for more secondary schools to use circle time, which I think is a good thing. But you have to get it right. It's not always done well in primary schools.

Message, motto or mantra

Circle time is not about hugging and sharing. It is about allowing young people to express their views and making sure those opinions are listened to.

Handouts or hands-on?

It was active. We tried out exercises to get a feel of how they work and what the pitfalls might be.

Something I liked

The course looked at tangible ways of measuring the effectiveness of circle time by monitoring attendance and behaviour.

Something I learned

Good circle time needs energy and focus. We were taught lots of energising exercises involving reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination. They're great for waking people up.

Has it made a difference?

We are still considering how best to incorporate circle time. It has obvious benefits in personal and social education but we also want subject teachers to use it in other lessons.

The verdict?

Ideal for teachers with pastoral responsibility. The course leader was dynamic

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