TV hypnotist Paul McKenna swears by it. Now a former Birmingham teacher is using Neuro-Linguistic Programming - or the "science of achievement" - to help schoolchildren pass their exams. Education Correspondent Shahid Naqvi met NLP tutor Paul Sanders to find out more.


According to Paul Sanders, the secret to success lies in changing the programme in your head.

He explains it like this. "If we have a fear of spiders, of lifts, exams or there is a negative behaviour we exhibit, there will always be a strategy or programme that we run.

"Because that is so well engrained in our heads we are not aware we are running a strategy.

"With NLP you try and dig out that strategy. It is like a CD which plays beautifully but if you put a scratch on it, it won't work.

"There is a process called a strategy scrambler which allows you to put a scratch down someone's strategy."

Paul works mainly with youngsters due to sit their GCSEs or A-levels to help disrupt the "limiting" programmes he believes they run in their heads that stop them from achieving success.

The 45-year-old former assistant head from Selly Oak works with year ten and 11 pupils at his former school, Bristnall Hall Technology College in Sandwell and has private clients.

Whatever one may think of Mr McKenna - who along with his US partner has got rich teaching NLP to business people - Paul is convinced that it has a role to play in education.

"Neuro is for brain, linguistic is language. It is about how the language we use programmes our brain to have the beliefs we have and how we operate.

"If we can change that programme and the language we have in our brain we can begin to change our beliefs.

"Any limiting emotions or beliefs, there are programmes in NLP that can challenge that."

Though not hypnotism, NLP shares certain qualities with it in the way it works by sending powerful messages to the subconscious brain.

Paul has now set up his own training company - PS The Coaching Company - to offer this training to schools.

One of NLP's co-founders is American self-help guru Richard Bandler, McKenna's business partner.

Discredited by some as a quack, a growing number of business and sales people are using the techniques he helped develop to improve their chances of success.

Bringing such techniques to the classroom is, however, relatively new.

Paul believes one of the main reasons children do not do well at school is due to their state of mind and attitude.

Attempting to carry on teaching them is a bit like hitting your head against a brick wall without altering the negative programming in their mind.

That can be as simple as changing the way they carry themselves.

"With some children when you talk about revision their shoulders hunch. So you tell them to life their shoulders and smile.

"What I am looking to do is change their whole physiology when they sit down and start their learning."

Another key aspect is getting youngsters to set goals and visualise themselves achieving it.

If their goal is to have a million pounds in the bank, for example, they imagine a day when they are sitting at a kitchen table looking at a bank balance showing they have achieved it.

They set a time frame towards that goal and imagine themselves floating above the "time stream" leading them to it.

Paul stresses the system works best when goals are clear, realistic and positive.

A key part of sessions with pupils involves removing obstacles.

"With revision, for example, you ask them if they can think of anything that can get in their way. They will say the TV or their mobile phone.

"So you get them to find ways of removing that - I had one say they had given their mobile phone to their parents."

Paul believes the techniques are particularly useful to schools that are trying to improve on their Government GCSE target of five A* to Cs.

Paul says since starting three years ago he has helped many pupils turn failure into success. Though some may dismiss it all as a load of new age mumbo jumbo, there are millions around the world who think differently.