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Helping shy pupils break out of shell.

Byline: By Graeme Whitfield

A scheme to help give shy and quiet children more confidence in the classroom has been hailed as a success in the North.

The children's charity Barnardo's has been operating the Pyramid scheme in Newcastle for the last two years, after winning funding from the Newcastle's Children's Fund and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

In that time, it has offered help to 160 children at 16 schools in the city, and it has proved so popular that the charity is now looking for volunteers to help it expand.

The project works by taking small groups of shy children and working on projects that give them more confidence.

It aims to help children aged between seven and nine overcome shyness or lack of self-confidence so that they can achieve better results and integrate into the social mix at schools better.

Co-ordinator Tracy Bell said: "The sort of activities the children do in the 90-minute sessions are some sort of physical activity, a craft session and also a snack which the children help prepare.

"There is also something called circle time at the beginning and end of each session, which is very important to building confidence.

"Some of the children might be new to the area and have had trouble making friends. Some might have had problems at home or in class.

"Others might just be painfully shy or English is not their first language.

"But research has shown that taking part in a course helps a child significantly."

The courses were designed by the London-based National Pyramid Trust for Children and there are now more than 40 schemes running throughout the UK.

They work by taking small groups of children ( usually around 10 ( so that shy pupils are not overawed by other youngsters.

The classes also concentrate on activities that the children cannot fail at, so that their self-confidence is boosted.

Ms Bell added: "Some of the kids who come along might be doing well academically, but they're not mixing well with the other children in school. Some aren't making friends as much as they could be or they might be very shy about talking to adults.

"There are also some who aren't doing well for simple reasons like being too shy to put their hand up in class.

"It's a lot easier for them to speak up in the small groups we have and that really builds their confidence. That can be important for the rest of their school career but also for life after that.

"We take these children from the ages of seven to nine, because if you don't catch them then, they won't catch up later.

"It's all about improving their social skills and developing their ability to make new friends."

The scheme has proved so popular that Barnardo's is looking for volunteers to help out at future classes. Volunteers work in groups of three and need to be able to commit themselves to one day a week, between 3.15pm and 5pm, for 10 weeks.

Anyone interested in helping out with the classes should contact Tracy Bell on (0191) 240-4820 or by e-mail at
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 23, 2004
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