Massage used to beat the bullies

PUPILS at a Suffolk primary school are finding a novel way to combat bullying during Anti Bullying Week - by massaging each other.In a programme brought in under the Massage In Schools Association (MISA)programme Thorndon Primary pupils are taken through simple massage strokes including “the Baker,” “Ice-Skating,” and “The Bear Walk.

PUPILS at a Suffolk primary school are finding a novel way to combat bullying during Anti Bullying Week - by massaging each other.

In a programme brought in under the Massage In Schools Association (MISA)programme Thorndon Primary pupils are taken through simple massage strokes including “the Baker,” “Ice-Skating,” and “The Bear Walk.”

At Thorndon, near Eye, they are taken through their daily 10-minute routine by their teacher. In turn the teacher has been taught the strokes by qualified MISA instructor, parent and governor Wendy Coulson.

Every day straight after morning break the children return to their classrooms and settle down for their routine. It is a standard routine set out by MISA, which the children have easily learned.


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During their latest class they correct Headteacher Steve Robbins who has inadvertently missed out one of the strokes.

The children massage their fellow classmates. They are fully clothed and at no time, or under any circumstances, does an adult massage a child or vice versa.

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Children are encouraged to take the programme home to see how the rest of the family view it. Now nearly two years on the programme has been adopted by the entire school.

So if you visit Thorndon Primary at around 10.30am you will hear gentle calming music and see the children sitting one behind the other having a gentle massage.

The strokes reintroduce children to touch, which, MISA believes, to be sadly lacking.

There are also huge benefits both socially and academically - once staff and relevant bodies can be convinced of the programme's worth.

Paula Evans, who teaches Years 2, 3 and 4, said: “As an outsider coming in, my reaction was one of surprise. When I watched a video explaining it all I thought how good it was.”

Mr Robbins added: “Feedback has been very positive amongst the parents and here in school we have noticed the benefits.

“We have got a few children who benefit from anything that calms them down. This is the first term we have introduced it to the older children and I think there has been an effect of calming some of the more boisterous ones.

“They also have more respect for each other.”

Peer massage works on the basis that each child has to ask if they can massage their partner and they have to thank each other at the end. During the session the child doing the massage asks if their partner is enjoying it, would like the strokes carried out more softly or firmer. Half way through the session they swap.

It is a simple system which studies show is having positive results regarding bullying.

Kate Pigeon-Owen, who runs Childways, a business just over the border in Gissing, Norfolk, aimed at promoting the MISA programme in schools, said: “It is virtually impossible to bully someone with whom you have established a relationship.

“The level of respect the children gain just prevents any bullying from happening.”

There are also academic benefits.

Mr Robbins said: “They are certainly more amenable to learning and seem to concentrate better after the session. We put it in place after break to calm them down and before the class when we do numeracy, which does require a certain amount of application.”

Originally the programme was brought in for the little ones in January 2004. Older children who attended the five-week Healthy Fit Club said they would like to do massage as well.

All the pupils were asked their opinion and in September the programme was introduced so everyone could enjoy it.

Mrs Coulson said: “It is great because it has been instigated by the pupils themselves and sometimes they come up with ideas for different strokes as well.”

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