CHILDREN as young as 10 are being put under such pressure to perform in exams that one school has called on the services of a yoga teacher to help relax the pupils. Teachers at a St Neots junior school are so concerned about the stress of Standards Assess

The pupils practice

CHILDREN as young as 10 are being put under such pressure to perform in exams that one school has called on the services of a yoga teacher to help relax the pupils.

Teachers at a St Neots junior school are so concerned about the stress of Standards Assessment Tests (SATs) that the children, aged 10 and 11, are having yoga classes in the school hall every day this week after they have taken exams in English, maths and science.

Deputy head of Crosshall Junior School, Anne Eardley, told The Hunts Post: "Like 10 and 11 year olds across the country, our pupils are taking their Key Stage Two tests in English, maths and science.

"It can be a time of anxiety and stress. We invited yoga instructor Maria-Elena Cusick to take classes each afternoon during test week to alleviate some of the possible pressures and fears."

Research by Cambridge University has found SATs can produce high levels of stress among children, with boys finding it harder to cope with the pressure.

Crosshall's methods look to provide pupils with some relief from the pressure and, according the children, are having an impact.

One pupil, Georgia, said: "I wake up every morning with butterflies in my tummy. The music calms your mind and helps you to think."

Another, Ryan, added: "Yoga relaxes you and helps you to calm down. It takes all the stress out of your head". And a third, Jake, said: "It's a good way to relax. It takes your mind off SATs."

However, it raises the argument again about the necessity for SATs for young children.

Headteacher, Julia Elliott, said: "There are two ways of testing: formal tests and teacher assessment, both are nationally recognised to have equal rating.

"But the press is interested in league tables. What needs to be championed in the media is that it is equally important that every aspect of a child is developed, including helping them reach a good academic standard. Everything is equal.

"We have had Key Stage Two tests here for 13 years and 1,000 children must have taken them.

"Of course it is demanding work for children but I would not say it is over stressful and Crosshall children always rise to the challenge - partly because of the support they get."

However, the mother of a child in year six, confided to The Hunts Post: "There are definitely better ways of testing children and teachers know their children's levels, so why go through all this rigmarole?"

The youngsters have been taking classes with Ms Cusick since September, learning breathing techniques, agility and strength exercises as well as good posture and well-being.

Ms Eardley said: "We have worked hard to provide school-cooked lunches and after-school fitness clubs. We believe in healthy bodies. The yoga exercises also help develop healthy minds."

The school, which has been congratulated by Ofsted for achieving high standards, has been commended for having above average standards in English speaking, listening and writing.

Mrs Elliott, who has been at the school for 21 years and has been head for seven, added: "We have a holistic approach to learning, which means that we take account of the child's mental and emotional well-being. This is of paramount importance, as is the principle that the child achieves full academic potential. Everything is of equal importance."

She said the Government's policy headed Every Child Matters demands schools should concern themselves with five "outcomes" - including health - and yoga came under the school's commitment to ensure that children stayed healthy.