Staff at Henbury School introduced the Movement Programme for year 7 pupils last September.
For three months the 120-strong cohort gathered in the school hall every morning for 25 minutes of exercises, some of them similar to t’ai chi, the Chinese martial art.
The activities, which included hand massages, eye strengthening, balance and co-ordination routines and marching to a rhythm, were followed each day by 35 minutes of literacy.
The aim was to help the pupils develop their self-confidence, writing speeds, co-ordination and concentration in class as well as improve their literacy skills.
When the pupils’ progress was analysed the school found that more than 40 per cent of the year group had made more progress in reading than expected. Of those who made progress, their reading age had increased by an average of a year.
Henbury School is one of the first schools in the UK to adopt the Movement Programme, which was developed by the Leigh Academies Trust and has similarities to Brain Gym.
The Movement Programme is based on research showing that an improvement in learning outcomes can be achieved through improving the co-ordination between both sides of the brain and the body.
“The sessions were very quiet and very calm,” said Megan Read, Henbury School’s literacy co-ordinator. “We assessed the pupils’ reading ages at the start and at the end and we found that the programme had really raised their concentration and co-ordination. One pupil made four years’ worth of progress in reading in three months.”
The school is so pleased with the programme’s impact that it will run the sessions again for the year 7s in September. Teachers are also considering the possibility of using it with students with low literacy levels further up the school.