A DELIGHTED headteacher spoke yesterday of how pupils taking fish oil supplements have boosted their performance in the classroom – and on the football pitch.
Almost every child at Toft Hill Primary School has taken part in a year-long study of the brain-boosting oils, not just youngsters who have behavioural problems.
Headteacher Richard Whitfield said the school, in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, had exceeded expectations in the Standard Assessment Tests (SATs), with pupils registering substantially better scores in maths, English and science than predicted. Concentration levels and behaviour have also improved significantly for the 150 pupils who took part in the free pilot of the “eye q” product.
Mr Whitfield said the benefits were seen within a couple of months, and urged other schools to take up the practice.
“Our children were always well-behaved and got on with their work and we felt they tried their hardest – this has allowed them to do that little bit more,” he said.
“The results in the SATs were much better than our predictions, particularly for pupils at the higher level.”
The small school has begun to dominate on the football pitch too, clinching four trophies and winning every game last season.
“Now, I can’t say that’s all down to fish oils, there has to be a bit of coaching going into that, but the results have been quite amazing.
“It’s difficult for a team to win every game, not just go unbeaten.
“We put it down to the supplement because they are concentrating better and not making mistakes that they were last year.
“I’m trying to get in touch with Steve McClaren about the benefits.”
The pupils snip open a sachet of the yoghurt-like supplement at registration every morning, and also take it at weekends and during holidays.
The school is the latest in County Durham to test fish oil on pupils. In 2003, 123 children who were struggling at junior school were given the supplements.
Education experts were impressed when 40% of triallists showed better reading ability and increased attention.
A second trial two years ago in Newton Aycliffe of 12 to 15-year-olds with behavioural problems also showed a reduction of hyperactivity.
It led the county council to offer 5,000 teenagers free capsules containing fish and evening primrose oils.
The results of this largest trial are still awaited.
The Food Standards Agency said there was not enough evidence to “come to any firm conclusions” about fish oil supplements aiding children’s concentration.