Hundreds of techniques have been used in a bid to improve boys'
education performance. But some researchers believe that one of the best ways to stimulate their grey matter is ... massage.
It may not seem the most obvious way to help boys learn. But teachers in the Penwith networked learning community have been discovering that chest massage aids concentration by improving the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
The "brain gym", which gets children to massage themselves and do other exercises, is one of the more unusual initiatives embraced by the Penwith network in Cornwall.
Tom Barwood from Like Minds Consulting has been showing teachers how to use these techniques. He emphasised that they are part of the wider approach known as educational kinesiology, which recognises that movement can affect how the brain works.
"A lot of what happens in schools is predominantly visual and auditory but some children can only learn by doing things," he said. That is particularly true of boys.
Teachers who kick off their lessons with gymnastics are reporting encouraging results, according to Les Hall, head of arts at Mounts Bay secondary in Penzance, and co-leader of the network.
"This is still at an early stage but it's integrated into mainstream classroom work ... and there is already evidence of increased awareness during lessons," he said.
The Penwith network consists of six secondary schools, 13 primaries, one tertiary college and one out-of-hours learning zone. Joining forces has not only given them the chance to work with external consultants such as Tom Barwood. The network has also helped break down what Mr Hall describes as the severe rural isolation of these 21 institutions, scattered around a huge area stretching from the Hale estuary to the Scilly Isles.