Let off steam quietly

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
Gifted pupils - and their parents and teachers - are coping with stress in special relaxation rooms. Stephen Lucas reports

A relaxation expert who usually coaches stressed office workers has been teaching gifted and talented primary pupils how to relax.

Teachers from Sacred Heart Catholic primary, Bolton, chose the 30 high-ability Year 5 and 6 pupils they thought would most benefit from the chill-out session.

Martin Johnson, Year 6 teacher, said: "The pressure builds up on gifted pupils as they move through the school. Other children go to them in lessons because they are seen as really good in one area.

"A lot of these children are involved in things outside school, and they are overloaded. Some say they do not want to be in the athletics team because they are already in the football team and the maths club, for instance. The idea is if they can relax they can do it all."

Pupils brought in pillows and wore loose clothing for the yoga-style class taken by Alwynne Cartmell, 56, who runs the Bolton-based Well Being Workshops Worldwide. "I usually go into offices to help stressed office workers," she said, "but I am increasingly asked into schools."

Her fees range from pound;50 to pound;400 per day, depending on how far she has to travel.

Daniel Smyth, 11, said: "I have started using the exercises. One week I was in choir and doing public speaking, and I could not do the artwork other pupils were doing because I had to prepare my speech. That got me stressed."

Mab Lane primary, Liverpool, was praised last month by inspectors for its multi-sensory chill-out room known as the Quiet Place, which staff and parents use as well as pupils.

The room is painted with an underwater scene and plays soothing music. Two therapists counsel children referred to them by staff or parents and offer massages and aromatherapy.

The inspectors said: "The Quiet Place is a significant initiative in supporting pupils' all-round personal development and in improving self-esteem and confidence."

Dee Boulton, deputy head, said: "It helps children learn. They come in after something has happened at home that is worrying them and they can work through those feelings in the Quiet Room.

"I have used it myself. Mid-week is probably the time I use it most. One member of staff goes in most lunchtimes - he says it does him the world of good."

Matt Buck 31

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