On the 1st of May 2023, Hawthorn Press released Sally Goddard Blythe's newest title: Reflexes, Movement, Learning and Behaviour. Press Releases have now been sent across the UK. If you are aware of publications, medical, psychological or educational bodies, or individuals who would benefit from the content, please do reply to this blog and we will happily forward the information. This is a copy of the information that was sent along with a new article written by Sally (Included here below the press release) and can be forwarded. For subscribers to Sally's blog, we want you to have access to this information as well. On behalf of Sally, she hopes that you enjoy reading her new book and that you find it to be a rich resource. .
Despite government ambitions outlined in its January 2022 white paper, “Levelling Up the United Kingdom” aiming for 90% of key stage two pupils to reach the expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics by 2030, and for the proportion meeting the expected standard in the “worst performing areas” to improve by a third, figures released by The Department for 2021/22 revealed this cohort have had their learning significantly disrupted by the pandemic. Just 59% of pupils reached the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths, down from 65% in the 2018/19 academic year. While effects of the pandemic on learning children’s learning outcomes are multifactorial, one factor that can be identified and improved is children’s physical readiness for learning and its relationship to school performance. Would you be interested in sharing this news with your colleagues/audience so they can access what amounts to nearly 4 decades of research compiled in this long-awaited book exploring neuro-development and the effects and treatment of neuro-motor immaturity? This has the potential to be very relevant to your audience and realm of influence because families are increasingly desperate for answers and insights into what has become an epidemic and rise of neuro-diversity across the population. Yet, our current systems fail to address that there is hope beyond the “handshake” of multiple neuro-developmental disorder diagnoses. To accompany the release of her new book, Sally Goddard Blythe has launched a new website www.sallygoddardblythe.co.uk and YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@SallyGoddardBlythe-INPP Both of these resources offer a wealth of information and content presented to be a breath of fresh air and hopefulness to families very much within your audience. There is ground-breaking content there specific to Education and Childhood in research, treatment for specific physical, cognitive and behavioural challenges, and commentary. Beyond any of this specific content, Sally Goddard Blythe is a renowned researcher and voice in the area of neuro-developmental education and child development. Hers is a voice that deserves to be heard far and wide in the coming wave of support and understanding of the needs of Childhood Development and Education. If this is your first introduction to her, then you are warmly invited to have a look at the breadth of her research and publications.
Sally Goddard Blythe is contactable through her website for speaking and print requests. www.sallygoddardblythe.co.uk
New article for immediate release: Gaps in the System Why children fall through the education net and what can be done about it Sally Goddard Blythe MSc. Despite the involvement and directives of many different organisations involved in education there remains a yawning gap in the areas of policy, practice and assessment between goals set for education in the United Kingdom and whether children are developmentally equipped to meet those goals. While Ofsted carries out inspection of schools on the basis of 4 criteria: quality of education (intent, implementation, impact); behaviour and attitudes; personal development; leadership and management and The National Curriculum for England expects that, “every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”, this framework does not include routine assessment of every child’s physical development. Many factors are listed as reasons for poor school attainment: physical and emotional health and safety; sense of belonging, connectedness, and support; academic challenge and engagement; social and emotional competence for students; economic disadvantage; ethnicity; disability; gender, and whether a child has been in care or has special educational needs and disability (SEND). Barriers to learning at all stages in life are acknowledged and include: negative past experience; personal mindsets; lack of a sense of community; lack of purpose; distracting environment; lack of technical skills; boredom – but, the majority of these are social factors for which a single school system has no universal remedy. It can take months or years for referrals and assessments to be carried out to identify what is blocking a child’s progress. Even after assessments have been done, the result is often a diagnostic label with recommendations made for support and strategies to be used in the classroom but still no clear understanding of why one child has difficulties and another does not. A neuro-developmental approach to education seeks to investigate the physical foundations for learning to identify if a child has the tools in terms of physical skills to meet the demands of the classroom. Modern education is so focused on outcomes that it has little time to investigate processes - or the ways in which a child processes information and expresses knowledge. Reading for example, is not just a cognitive skill. It depends on having developed control over a series of specific eye movements to follow a line of print without the eyes jumping further along the line, to the line above or the line below. It involves being able to translate visual symbols to sounds to “hear” what the visual symbols say. Good readers develop a silent “internal voice” that is equivalent to reading aloud, but this depends on how well the listening system (ears and brain) has been developed in the pre-school years. Writing requires coordination between the eyes and the hand. Even minor differences in early development can set up a chain of events that interfere with physical aspects of holding and controlling a pen some years later. These children often present as an enigma – being good readers and orally articulate on the one hand - but unable to express their obvious intelligence fluently in written form on the other. Letter size, formation and spacing may be erratic, pencil grip immature, the child complains that “it hurts to write” and teachers and parents struggle to encourage the child to write more than a few lines at a time. These children under-achieve not because they lack ability, understanding or creative ideas but because there is a mechanical problem which impedes the transfer of what is in the head onto the page.
Figure 1 Writing grip and sitting posture of child with writing problems
Figure 2 Infant Palmar grip. This reflexive grip should be inhibited by higher centres in the developing brain by 2 – 3 months of age to make way for the development of thumb and forefinger opposition. Spelling entails combining visual skills, visualisation, auditory processing and memory. Any of these can be affected by immature neuro-motor skills. In addition to basic understanding of numbers, maths involves the ability to sequence a series of operations, spatial skills and the ability to read and understand the language of the question. Neuromotor development describes the process of change in motor behaviour related to age. Knowledge of neuromotor development is fundamental to understanding the development of functional movement and everything that it supports in life from posture, balance, general motor skills and passive muscle tone to hand preference, visual perception and hand-eye coordination. The former influence the most basic of behaviours such as the ability to sit still, focus attention on one task without distraction and eye movements, while the latter affects how the brain interprets sensory information and how it expresses that knowledge. Difficulties in being able to achieve in the classroom can often result in the development of secondary behavioural or emotional issues that are a product of frustration and anxiety. Neuro-developmental methods assess and analyse physical development and provide physical intervention programmes which replicate earlier stages of development to give the brain a “second chance” to form more efficient connections between functioning of the brain and the body. This “resetting” of neural pathways aims to improve posture, balance and control of eye movements to support all aspects of learning. While it does not attempt to address individual presenting symptoms head on, it can make a significant difference to general progress. Physical activity affects not only the body but also the entire nervous system. One of the greatest gains of exercise is the ability for physical activity to improve actual brain function by helping to form new more efficient connections between nerve cells and pathways which support a host of cognitive activities from being able to connect diffuse facts to problem solving. When neuromotor skills are immature cognitive centres in the brain have to compensate to carry out basic physical activities which can result in cognitive “overload”, reduced cognitive capacity for “higher” functions and subsequently affect performance. Research has shown that an increase in physical activity has a significant positive effect on cognition, especially for early elementary and middle school students. How can physical activity affect school performance? One seven year old boy was struggling with all aspects of literacy at school. He was regularly admonished for not taking things in or remembering what he had been taught with need for constant repetition. Despite being bright and imaginative, he was unable to write a full sentence correctly, randomly omitting vowels when writing words such as “svn” for “seven”, reversing numbers in maths – 81 for 18 - and becoming generally frustrated. He was also a poor sleeper, waking in the night, too anxious to go back to sleep and had not slept alone for a whole night since he was born. After one year on a neuro-developmental programme he was enjoying reading and talking about what he had read, letters and numbers reversals when writing had disappeared, he had started doing wrestling, drama and football out of school hours and was enjoying these activities. Children’s drawings of the human figure also demonstrate how neuromotor immaturity can affect higher levels of functioning. The drawings of children with immature neuromotor skills tend to leave out parts of the body that are not working well or be drawn disproportionately large or small. Figure 1 was drawn by an 8 year old boy before starting on a physical programme. This drawing was assessed as being one year below age expectations at the time; the head is disproportionately large compared to the body; the body is longer than the legs and the hands and feet drawn like paddles. His drawing provided a reflection of his sense of his body at the time.
Figure 2 is drawn by the same child one year later after following a daily developmental movement programme in school. This drawing reveals a much more mature understanding of body proportion and detail. Wrists, and hands with fingers are correctly drawn, ankles and feet shown and detail in his outfit. When the drawings were scored to assess one measure of non-verbal cognitive performance, the score had increased from being equivalent to 6 – 7 years of age at the first assessment to 9 – 10 years of age. (The time period that had elapsed was 12 months). Figure 2 Non-verbal skills tend to be treated as the poor relation in formal education. Primary educational goals are to attain expected levels in literacy, numeracy and use of verbal language to demonstrate knowledge. The preferential weighting of verbal skills creates another significant gap in the education system. Non-verbal skills contribute up to 90% to effective communication. They include, internal body awareness, necessary to read the body language of others to adapt to non-verbal social cues such as recognising and adusting comfortable or appropriate social distance; spatial awareness and emotional security which are rooted in physical stability and security in space; tone of voice, gesture, eye contact and the ability to detect whether what is said is meant. Paucity or immaturity in non-verbal skills can affect social interaction, spatial awareness needed to support aspects of maths, behaviour and emotional regulation. Neither the criteria used by Ofsted for inspection of schools nor the National Curriculum for England take these fundamental factors into account. Feedback from two families after following an individually tailored developmental movement programme help to illustrate how changes in physical skills can impact school performance. Parent 1 “I just wanted to let you know that since completing your programme there has been a dramatic improvement in his working memory and all round academic performance. Since going into Year 7, he has been routinely learning long lists of vocabulary and having no difficulty recalling the learned vocabulary, both for the immediate test and if quizzed at a later date. This is unheard for him previously. His previous substantial maths blindness, which was a source of huge frustration and anxiety for him before, is also notably reducing. He is no longer overwhelmed by the task in front of him and instead just gets on with it. He is also considerably less prone to panic than he was before and if from time, frustration does get the better of him, he is bringing it rapidly under control himself rather than escalating it. As a mother of four children, I do firmly believe that this progress is down to the programme and not just a routine step up in maturity”. Parent 2 “I am writing to let you know that despite it being many years since I brought my son for assessment, the report written at the time helped enormously with his development. When we first came, he had been out of school due to school refusal and home educated for over a year. The education authorities refused to help as apparently he didn’t qualify for support. The report changed this considerably. He was given an assessment at a specialist children’s hospital and subsequently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and given a home tutor for five hours per week. Rather than re-enforcing his desire to stay at home, this had the reverse effect, and he grew progressively more confident. He devoted considerable time to listening to stories, building with lego, football, playing chess and looking after his pet chinchillas. Eventually he returned to school part- time (year10) where he received additional support and he was significantly behind his peers. He left two years later with eight GCSE’s, five at A*. Last year he gained a first class Master’s degree in mathematics and is now studying for a PhD. Although at the time we would have liked him to follow a developmental movement programme, unfortunately he was reluctant to do this. However, your report and explanation for many of his difficulties undoubtedly changed the course of his life for the better”. In the practise of psychotherapy it came to be recognsied that deep analysis of previous life experiences was not always necessary to effect change. Often the recognition or verbalisation of triggering events was sufficient to alter old patters of behaviour and redirect the course. While use of neuro-developmental programmes can make significant improvements in physical skills, sometimes simply the process of identifying and understanding the underlying mechanics of a problem can alter attitude. This can be achieved through screening and/or assessment of children’s neuromotor skills. A series of studies which examined the neuromotor skills of children in mainstream primary schools in the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2018 have indicated that a significant percentage of children have immature motor skills  and that there is a correlation between less mature motor skills and lower educational attainment . A pilot project carried out in Scotland between 2017 and 2018 found a clear association between child poverty, defined as children in receipt of free school meals and less mature physical skills. The introduction of two types of movement programme into schools saw a complete closure of the poverty-related gap in terms of children’s physical literacy at the end of the programmes. Physical literacy supports so much more than simply excelling at sports. While many social and economic factors do contribute to children’s attainment or otherwise, the physical foundations for learning are common to all. This is one reason why the assessment of children’s physical skills at key stages in development and the introduction of regular sensory-movement programmes targeted at the developmental needs of the child are one practical way of helping to provide a level playing field on which all children can learn. Until the education system recognises that physical activity and cognition are not separate processes but inter-dependent, we will continue to see children fall through the gaps in the system. Corresponding author: Sally Goddard Blythe MSc www.sallygoddardblythe.co.uk Author of Reflexes, Movement, Learning and Behaviour published by Hawthorn Press. Stroud. 1st May 2023. www.hawthornpress.com  Sibley BA & Etnier J., 2003. The Relationship between Physical Activity and Cognition in Children: A Meta-Analysis. Pediatric exercise science · August 2003. DOI: 10.1515/ijsl.2000.143.183  Goddard Blythe SA, 2005. Releasing educational potential through movement. A summary of individual studies carried out using the INPP test battery and developmental exercise programme for use in schools with children with special educational needs. . Child Care in Practice. 11/4:415-432.  Goddard Blythe SA, Duncombe R, Preedy P & Gorely T, 2021. Neuromotor readiness for school. The primitive reflex status of young children at the start of and end of their first year at school in the United Kingdom. Education 3- 13. March 2021. DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2021.1895276.  North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB). 2004. An evaluation of the pilot INPP movement programme in primary schools in primary schools in North Eastern Education and Library Board. Northern Ireland. Final Report. Prepared by Brainbox Research Ltd for the NEELB. www.neelb.org.uk  Scottish attainment challenge. Physical Active Health Intervention. 2019. Draft report prepared for the LEA. Unpublished. Personal Communication. Press release NEW BOOK NEW ARTICLE