Local schools take part in pilot learning programme

Students of St Paul’s National School, Athlone with teacher Linda Walshe. Photo: Conor Healy Photography

Students of St Paul’s National School, Athlone with teacher Linda Walshe. Photo: Conor Healy Photography

A classroom behaviour game which is being tested in Westmeath primary schools, including St Paul’s NS in Athlone, has reported a 58 per cent reduction in children’s off-task behaviours.

Almost 200 children in schools across Westmeath, Laois, Leitrim, and Dublin have taken part in a pilot programme incorporating a teaching approach called the PAX Good Behaviour Game (GBG ). The GBG is a simple game that helps children to engage with learning, manage their behaviour, and regulate their emotions so that they can benefit fully from school, and has received strong endorsement from teachers and principals.

A new study, which examined a wider range of children from junior infants to fourth class, found an average of 58 per cent decrease in off-task behaviour among the students.

The idea behind the PAX GBG is that by learning to regulate their emotions, to get on with others, to express their feelings, to have healthy self-esteem, to be independent and solve problems themselves, children can achieve better academic outcomes and better mental health.

It is based upon promoting desirable behaviours by using fun activities. Children are divided into teams, which are rewarded for delivering positive behaviours that support classroom activity. The games are played at least three times a day, during normal class work, and can last from a couple of minutes to 45 minutes.

To deliver the programme, teachers are trained in the approach and provided with materials. They then apply it within the classroom, with support from a mentor who visits the classroom four times to support the teacher.

Midlands Area Partnership manager Conor Owens said the findings are significant for Irish schools and that the programme is highly cost efficient and scalable.

“Currently 250 teachers have received PAX training in Ireland with in excess of 6,000 pupils receiving the programme. It can be rolled out further at a cost of approximately €1,300 per teacher including training, information packs, and follow-up mentoring. However, once the teacher is trained they can then apply PAX to each class every year for the rest of their teaching careers – so the benefit is applied over a career rather than for just one class.”

The initiative is currently being funded through the Area Based Childhood (ABC ) Programme which is co-funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

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