Retreat room hailed a success in helping to calm down pupils

UNRULY pupils at an Edinburgh primary school are being sent to a special "calm room" complete with cushions and soothing pan pipe music.

The initiative, which also sees children being shown "positive pictures", is being pioneered at Niddrie Mill Primary, and is already being hailed a success.

Teachers have created the room known as the Retreat for badly behaved pupils to cool down, wind down and even lie down.

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The room was recently singled out by school inspectors as an example of good practice while the school as a whole was deemed "outstanding" in meeting emotional needs.

Pupils with behavioural or emotional issues use the room to express how they are feeling, working with the school's behaviour support teacher Sandra Bonthrone.

Mrs Bonthrone said: "Without this support, the children would have difficulty staying in mainstream education, but we help integrate some."

Children have also been given an "emotions ruler" which they can use to grade their moods on a scale from on to ten to enable them to express themselves without necessarily having to talk about it.

Cushions are scattered on the floor, pan pipe music plays in the background and photos of positive experiences children have had in the Retreat are beamed out on a constant loop.

It has been hailed as the saviour of many troubled youngsters at the school, including seven-year-old Jay McMillan, whose father died two years ago.

The schoolboy would "walk around the school like he owned it", according to his mother Lana Anderson, throwing chairs and swearing at teachers, but since the P2 pupil was introduced to the Retreat, his behaviour has improved dramatically and his mother says she has got her son back.

Ann Muir, Jay's grandmother, praised the work of behaviour support teacher Mrs Bonthrone in helping her grandson combat his issues. She said: "The kids just automatically slap their hands into hers – Mrs Bonthrone should get a medal. I've been here in tears and she's been so reassuring. I had actually given up on Jay."

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Another pupil, Andrew Tulloch, used to retreat into fantasy worlds and would constantly disrupt his class by making silly noises, but using the Retreat has given him a focus. His mother Kelly said: "It's a place where there's no pressure. It calms you. If it wasn't for the Retreat, Andrew wouldn't be at this school any more."

Other schools in Edinburgh have developed their own methods for dealing with unruly or troubled pupils.

The Evening News revealed last year that Wester Hailes Education Centre had adopted "get out of class free" cards, allowing pupils to leave lessons if they felt they were going to become disruptive.

Victoria Primary in Newhaven also has a chillout room with calming lights, soothing sounds and a relaxing bubble machine.