Author creates 'genius' pupils

30th April 2004 at 01:00
Documentary shows boys transformed from tearawaysto high achievers. Stephen Lucas reports

Were six tearaways from a Slough school miraculously transformed into potential geniuses in a matter of months?

Bestselling author Tony Buzan held seven two to three-hour sessions between January and June last year with the Year 7 pupils from Beechwood school and the results form part of a BBC2 documentary to be screened next week.

Mr Buzan, 61, said: "I told them their brains were like Formula One Ferraris and they had not been given the operation manual. So my job was to give them the instructions."

Using material from The Mind Map Book and Use Your Head, which have sold two million copies worldwide, Mr Buzan said he transformed all the pupils from the Britwell estate in Slough into potential geniuses.

Educational psychologists did intelligence tests with the pupils before and after the sessions and found that they rose from below average to average and above.

Techniques used included mind-mapping, where pupils write down their thoughts and ideas using pictures and diagrams.

In mind-mapping, the main theme ("my life") is placed in the centre and sub-themes radiate out along thick curving lines (family, hobbies) with further connections on thinner lines (my cat).

Mr Buzan also uses memory tests. He said: "One boy was given 105 things to memorise on cars in the school car park, such as the licence plates and the makes. He did this in front of an audience, in front of teachers, the headteacher. He got 104 and when he sat down, there was a scream from his mother because he had remembered the last one. Being able to memorise like this is a sign of genius."

Mr Buzan asked the BBC to find him pupils who could be disruptive and dismissive of authority, because these can be hallmarks of genius.

Adelene Alani, the executive producer at the BBC, said: "Tony did not turn the children into geniuses, he did something bigger. He showed that thousands of children with potential are being written off. He did something incredibly special.

"The educational psychologists would hardly smile at us at first. They thought it was just another TV stunt. But one was very startled by a boy who went way above average and said she would not have believed it if she had not seen it herself."

Pupils also wrote, rehearsed and performed a play and composed songs. This too is an indicator of genius, according to Mr Buzan.

Julia Shepard, Beechwood headteacher, said: "The school has suffered some problems with underachievement over the years, and some traditional approaches to learning have not worked.

"We are addressing learning at the school and we are open to opportunities like this. We chose children who definitely had challenging behaviour.

"They flourished under the attention Tony gave them. Now they tackle work that they would have said they could not do in the past."

In Search of Genius screens at 9pm on May 5. Part two on gifted children follows at 11.20pm

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