School can be a stressful place with exams, tests and homework conspiring to put pressure on children.
The staff at Balsham Meadow Primary School decided to do something about this.
They have begun a programme of peer massage for their pupils, with children being encourages do deliver massages to each other before lessons and after lunch.
Nichola Connor, head teacher at the school, said: “I got a flyer through from the local authority and, at the time, we had been giving a lot of thought to our children’s well being and mental health. I thought we would give it a go.
“To begin with, I was very sceptical about how good it would be. I thought I was going to take some persuading, but it has been brilliant.”
The school put its name forward and was chosen to be part of a pilot scheme that could see the programme rolled out to other schools in the area.
Children are given training in the delivery of back and hand massages and can then give and receive them on a random rota basis.
“We had just come out of special measures,” said Nichola. “We were really having to up the ante. We are pushing the children an awful lot and have to make sure they are as relaxed as they can be.
“The results have been great. The year six students have asked if they can have it every morning before their SATs exams to calm them down.
“We have never really had any massive behavioural issues at the school but now, everyone’s much calmer. When the children come back in after their lunch, they’re all ready to get down to work in silence.”
Nichola admitted that persuading parents that the peer massage sessions were a good idea was a challenge but, she said, once they had come and seen the results themselves, they were won over.
“Once they saw what we were doing, they had to support it,” said Nichola. “The massages don’t always take place within friendship groups, so the children mix more socially.
“It’s important for them to understand boundaries and that it has to be okay for you to touch someone before you do it.
“It’s been a very positive experience.”