Unhappy? Grumpy? Go to the Pit Stop

30th November 2007 at 00:00
Essential oils, soothing colours and the tinkling of classical music in the background: it sounds like a health spa, but is actually the Pit Stop, a haven for Bannockburn Primary pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Started as a pilot project in 2004, it has become a permanent feature of the school near Stirling.

The room is designed as a place where vulnerable pupils can get a break from the hurly-burly of school life. Essential oils are always burning and classical music constantly playing, while the room is painted pale green - thought to be a calming colour.

Staff are open-minded about how the Pit Stop is used. Claire Hooks, principal behaviour support teacher, says their approach has similarities to nurture groups, but is more "flexible". Children with a history of running away from school are encouraged to head for the Pit Stop instead. Those who are nervous about mixing with older pupils spend a few minutes in the room before venturing into the bigger playground. Pupils can decide when to spend time in the Pit Stop. Up to eight are accommodated during class time, and a maximum of 16 at lunchtime.

Behaviour has improved throughout the school since its introduction, and there have been some striking individual successes. One troubled boy is finding school easier, because when he feels low he can barricade himself behind some chairs in the Pit Stop until he feels better. A girl who was notorious for her bullying said it had made her "less angry".

Mrs Hooks stresses that the Pit Stop is inclusive, not a sin bin: "First and foremost, it's a part of the school - not a bit on the end."

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