The General Teaching Council for Scotland

14 Feb 2017

Massage in schools

Charlaine SimpsonMelanie Anderson, Massage in Schools Instructor

My name is Melanie Anderson and I am a Massage in Schools Instructor. I originally trained as a primary school teacher in 1980 and gained my Bachelor of Education in 1984. My first teaching post was at Langlees Primary School, Falkirk, where I completed my two-year probationary period. Two and a half years later the school roll fell and I was compulsory transferred to Head of Muir Primary School in Denny. I taught there for many happy years until 2013. Due to ill health in 2014, I retired from full-time teaching. It was a sad time as I really did miss working with the children. As part of my ongoing health and wellbeing programme, I received massage therapy. The therapist spoke about her work and I began to think that perhaps I could learn this new skill. So later that year I enrolled in a Holistic Massage course and qualified in 2015 as a Holistic Massage therapist from the Massage Training Institute in Edinburgh. Towards the end of my training, my tutor asked if I knew about MISA, the Massage in Schools Association. This sounded very interesting with my background in teaching and so I applied for the next available course in November 2015.

Massage in schools

The Massage in Schools Programme was first implemented in the United Kingdom in 2000 and is now being used in countries all over the world. The programme stemmed from the pioneering work of the founders, Mia Elmsater from Sweden and Sylvie Hetu from Canada, using their knowledge of Infant Massage and their Steiner, Montessori and mainstream approaches in education.

The programme promotes positive and nurturing touch every day in a respectful way for children aged 4–12 years. It is a peer massage programme. Only children massage children whilst adults observe and facilitate the routine. The children massage through the clothes on back, arms, shoulders and head. There is an ethos of respect as all children request permission to massage before they begin. Any child who does not wish to take part can say no but should remain in the room to watch the routine and to experience the calming and relaxing effect of the hormone, oxytocin.

The benefits of the programme are numerous. As children relax, there is a reduction in stress as massage can induce a relaxation response resulting in improved concentration on studies. It has been proven through research studies that regular nurturing touch is a developmental need in children. In targeting this need, proven effects of the Massage in Schools Programme include:

  • Improved concentration levels
  • Calmer classrooms
  • Increase in children’s self-esteem and confidence
  • Increase in creativity
  • Reduction in bullying and aggression
  • Overall increase in emotional health and wellbeing
  • Greater social awareness and respect for peers.

Massage in schools

In addition, the programme includes ideas that promote touch and movement activities for all school curriculum subjects.

Curriculum for Excellence has been addressed by the programme as it develops positive communication, has an inclusive nature, an ethos of respect for self and others and has a positive effect on concentration levels.

Children’s mental health and wellbeing is so important today and I believe that only when this is addressed can future learning securely take place.

The Massage in Schools Programme can make a difference to all children who are given the opportunity to experience it.

I have had the great pleasure and privilege of implementing the programme in Comely Park Primary, Stenhousemuir Primary, Dunipace Primary, Ladeside Primary and Shieldhill Primary in 2016. I look forward to discussing and implementing the programme with many more schools in the future.

Melanie will be running an ‘Introduction to Massage in Schools’ workshop at Moray House in Edinburgh on 21 February. Find out more: