Martial art therapy for troubled teenagers

9th February 2001 at 00:00
A Wigan school for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties is running martial arts sessions for its teenagers.

Around 17 pupils from Kingshill school in Tyldesley will today be wrestling with a police officer in an attempt to boost both their self-esteem and respect for the law.

They will strive to be "king of the mat" under the tutelage of British transport policeman Darryl Grundy, a black belt in karate and qualified wrestling coach.

The sessions are part of an alternative work-based curriculum that the school has been able to develop because it is part of the local Leigh education action zone.

Many of the youngsters are known to the police and have histories of exclusions and violence.

An unexpected spin-off of the sessions has been their more positive attitude towards the police, said Carole Swarbrick, Kingshill's key stage 4 co-ordinator.

She believes the programme could be a model for steering other young troublemakers away from crime and improving their relatinships with the police.

She said: "It became apparent that a large part of pupils' often chaotic lives was spent in confrontation with others. I was persuaded that a martial arts course would encourage order and discipline, whilst developing a respect for one another.

"Critics said 'Why teach them to fight?' But six months on, it's been a huge success."

One 15-year-old said: "I've been in trouble (with the police) a couple of times. I used to call them all sorts of names, but now I've got respect for them."

PC Grundy, a 42-year-old father of three, is modest about his contribution to the scheme.

"The school staff say it's a success. I'm beginning to get through to the children. The language has curtailed quite a lot," he said.

"I see old students of mine. Rather than sticking two fingers up, they come over to the police car and tell me what they're doing, what jobs they've got.

"I feel very proud about that. They do seem to have changed and I do think it works."

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