T’ai Chi is being taught in primary schools to help children overcome exam stress.

 

The Chinese martial art is used as a way to calm the nerves of anxious children in the run up to Sats.

Paul White, who runs Snap Dragon T’ai Chi, has run classes in the Chinese martial art at hundreds of schools in Derbyshire, Nottingham and South Yorkshire.

“Children are under pressure from parents, they pile stuff on them. But if they are anxious, they have no way to cope,” he said.

“Nobody teaches you how to mitigate the stress and get rid of it all.” Mr White, a former financial advisor, has been travelling around  primary schools delivering courses in T’ai Chi for the past decade.

But he said that with increasing awareness about the importance of mental health and wellbeing in recent years, the classes have gained much more traction.

Mr White generally teaches children aged four to eleven, and runs a special course for Sats preparation.

Last month, the head of Ofsted claims that exam stress among primary school children is being exacerbated by teachers who are “manufacturing anxiety”.

Amanda Spielman has raised concerns that teachers are “encouraging children to feel anxious” about tests, warning that they are only a source of concern when “people make it so.''

In China it is fairly common for a school to perform T'ai Chi exercises before classes to help pupils relax and learn. The ancient form of exercise was originally developed as a "soft" martial art but is now used for its health benefits.

T’ai Chi is is a “more fun version of yoga”, Mr White said, adding that children prefer it because they can move around more.

A study by Nuffield Health last year suggested that wellbeing should be timetabled alongside English and maths. The recommendation followed on from a two-year pilot scheme in which a dedicated member of staff was assigned to teach children about mental health and wellbeing at an Oxfordshire secondary school. 

The results suggested the role traditionally fulfilled by the matron in British schools could soon be filled by "Heads of Wellness".

The Department for Education has announced the launch of a two-year research project in school, where children will be taught about mindfulness, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.

The government hopes the two-year scheme will provide useful information regarding what mental health practises can benefit students in schools.