Geared up with lavender

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
Vehicle maintenance tutors more used to the aroma of grease are turning to essential oils to help them teach 14 to 16-year-olds.

Students on vocational courses at City college, in Birmingham, are working in rooms sprayed with lavender oil while rainforest sounds and classical music help to generate calm.

Staff have been trained in "accelerated learning techniques" to help them teach the college's growing population of under-16s.

City college has been a pioneer of vocational programmes for school-aged students, offering courses including vehicle maintenance, hairdressing, beauty therapy and catering. It also runs a successful "bridge programme"

for disaffected 14 to 16-year-olds.

The programmes meant staff had to adapt quickly.

"Suddenly you're faced with 14 to 16-year-olds, with all the behaviour and hormonal problems that come with them," said Liz Hough, the college's 14-16 assistant manager. "There have been issues around behaviour, but this is where we have found accelerated learning has really helped."

The techniques are often used in schools, but are unusual in further education. They involve creating the right learning environment and taking into account different learning styles. In a pilot scheme last year, the college trained some 40 staff in the techniques.

Essential oils are sprayed in the classroom to calm students. The oils are also believed to aid retention of information, while pastel colours for hand-outs are said to make them easier to read. Fidgety students are given stress-busting "koosh balls" to fiddle with.

But not everyone is convinced. Some students were sceptical and joked about the use of "whale music and joss sticks".

"Some thought it was great, but others didn't give it a very enthusiastic response," said Ms Hough. "But they've persevered with it. You're not going to get rid of the smell of engine oil but, in the theory classes, they find it really useful.

"It's not a cure-all, but it all goes towards helping students have a really positive experience."

Comment, page 4

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today