Brain Gym Exposed

December 19, 2009

Apparently one of the worst types of snake oil in education has been disowned by the DCSF.

According to this report in the Mail, Ed Balls has acknowledged that Brain Gym, the program of physical exercises that were meant to make kids think better, is without evidence.

I’ve only just discovered that Newsnight dealt with the issue more than a year ago:

I can only hope that BLP will be next.



  1. Well, well, well. Fancy that.

    Does this mean that schools will now be encouraged to use activities that have been demonstrated to improve learning? Maybe. What if they offer no opportunities for INSET or serious speeches from stern SMT?

    There’s some good evidence that juggling (!) improves student performance in maths. I don’t care if it turns out to be true or not. I just want to see all the youtube videos taken by teachers in meetings with frowning, pompous education leaders taking people to task for not doing enough juggling.

    Of course. There’ll be no budget allocation, or policy documents, or other guff to go with it, so it probably won’t get off the ground.

    • The evidence about juggling is ~dubious.

      The skills needed to learn to juggle are similar to those necessary to be good at maths. Perseverance, repeated practice, pattern spotting, breaking down big problems to little ones and working from their, not giving up. However learning to juggle won’t make you good at maths…. althouth the reverse is true, if you’ve been successful at maths then being successful at juggling often follows.

      The link between maths and juggling can be shown best by colin wright( look him up on youtube) or at the following links, brilliant juggler and mathematician, great speaker too.



      Chess is another one where there is a link, it’s not just in the logic though, it’s in the application required to be succesful, spotting patterns, breaking a big problem into a small one; however there are more unusual cases with chess (Nigel short) than with juggling.

      Badly explained, sorry


  2. They’ll probably find something even more stupid to replace it with.

  3. about sodding time!
    It’s just a shame it took them 6 years since ben goldacre highlighted it as a load of rubbish before acting on it.
    It’s a small victory that does little to tackle a bigger problem i.e. shit presented as fact.

  4. What I find very odd thought is if Ed Balls can spot that Brain gym is rubbish why was the DSFC (throught the young g&t program) recomending it in the first place? Could it be that they hadn’t checked it out properly first? Surely not, that would be well unprofessional….

  5. well well after all this time when I have been aurguing why I do not waste time with this in my classroom and met with disapprovement from my HoD. Can we now see a series of announcements, or even TV shows about VAK, Questioning (thinking outside the black box), the myth about the amount that pupils retain by watching, listening, doing, the 3 part lesson so beloved by OFSTED. Most of these are based on very little research or studies that not have been repeated under controlled conditions.

  6. When the hoo-hah about education spending cuts was blowing up a couple of months ago, I emailed Mr Balls to suggest cutting bloody Brain Gym would be one way of saving money while actually improving education in schools. You won’t be surprised to learn that all I got back was the standard yah-di-yah about how it’s up to schools to decide how they spend their money. Still, if he’s finally worked it out perhaps it will be dumped before my four-year-old reaches Year 2 (when they start Brain Gym in our school). Not looking forward to explaining that for an hour a week (or whatever) she should pretty much ignore what her teachers tell her.

  7. […] Old, blogging on Scenes from the Battleground, wrote a piece on Brain Gym, a system of simple exercises promoted by Britain’s Education Ministry and used in thousands […]

  8. […] does a service, I think, to blow the lid off the “phony” approaches, such as Brain Gym and others that might be lumped together under the heading Snake Oil. (Here are similarly critical […]

  9. This is great! Just what our kids need, a little massage and get them out of their minds a little bit!

    Thanks for letting me know – good times indeed!

  10. […] act without thought or wisdom, jump on bandwagons (brain gym), adopt theories(visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) without bothering to read them.  You implement […]

  11. […] act without thought or wisdom, jump on bandwagons (brain gym), adopt theories(visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) without bothering to read them. You implement […]

  12. […] between scientific findings and ‘neuro myths’. Andrew Old exposes three of the most prevalent: brain gym, learning styles and one particular snake oil salesman. One of the foremost Learning Styles […]

  13. […] a branded series of strange exercises that were meant to improve learning. Take a look at this or this for more information or watch […]

  14. […] of Growth Mindset is well-established within schools. Is it a fad that’s as disreputable as Brain Gym?  Probably not, but I couldn’t resist putting that in the title after I rediscovered this […]

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