by David Colarusso - February 2nd, 2007
If you’ve been following the whole Brain Gym thing, you should know that digitalkatie and I sent out freedom of information requests yesterday to each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. Here’s their contact info. We’re trying to figure out the scale of Brain Gym’s pseudoscientific reach. Either Brain Gym is a minor budgetary blip (costing little or nothing), a worrisome waste of taxpayer money, or something in between. Hopefully, we’ll soon know. Replies should arrive by March. Here’s what we asked for, broken down by year over the past five years:
1) The amount of money the local authority paid for Brain Gym activities, including professional development for both teachers and support staff, be it directly to the Brain Gym trademark holders,
Educational Kinesiology UK Foundation
12, Golders Rise,
London NW4 2HR
or to third party instructors and trainers.
2) The number of hours of staff time that have been devoted to Brain Gym activities, including professional development for both teachers and support staff.
3) The cost of covering staff for any Brain Gym training courses provided during school hours.
4) Venue costs for Brain Gym training. Where the local authority has provided a venue, any extra costs that were incurred such as janitorial staff.
We also sent similar requests to seven teacher training institutions, listed at the bottom of our FOI contact sheet.
We intentionally choose to focus on teacher training not overall cost, ignoring materials purchased and classroom time. Although this would be useful information, we wanted to make the requests as easy to answer as possible. After all, we’re not interested in wasting the taxpayer’s time or money. Hopefully, it will only take one or two people an authority looking through records to reply. A request for all Brain Gym expenditures would have been a logistical nightmare, requiring a look at itemized purchase and an authority-wide auditing of how teachers spend class time.
Since my last post, I’ve also gotten around to reading some of Ben Goldacre’s blogs on the subject. Goldacre writes the Bad Science column for the Guardian, and being American/new to the UK, I hadn’t seen his work before. He has a similar take on the whole Brain Gym thing, which wasn’t surprising as Kate first mentioned him to me. He has a novel way of measuring Brain Gym’s reach, however, a google site search restricted to school websites (see here). By this measure, Brain Gym is in about 6,500 school webpages across the UK. Soon we’ll know where Scotland fits in and how much it costs.
General Observations, Skepticism