Schools in Melksham are to participate in a £10,000 research project which, it is hoped, could reduce anti-social behaviour in the town.

Melksham Oak School, The Manor School and St George’s Primary School in Semington will all be taking part in the Melksham 0-19 Resiliance Project from January.

The study, run in conjunction with Bath Spa University, will introduce a technique known as emotion coaching to young people to help improve behaviour and relationships.

Richard Parker, director of the Centre for Education Policy in Practice at Bath Spa, said: “It’s an experiment on emotional intelligence, finding reasons why children and young people misbehave and developing their own ways of coping and helping them understand why they are behaving in that way.

“In simple terms it may be that if somebody calls somebody a name, instead of lashing out we will teach them how to cope with that and deal with it.” Emotion coaching originates from the United States and focuses on understanding the reasons for an individual’s behaviour, working with them to develop alternative responses to their difficulties and enhancing their confidence and self-esteem.

Similar studies in the US have shown encouraging results, and part of the reason for this study, which is joint-funded by Melksham Area Board and the university, is to see if the techniques will work in the UK.

A similar study in schools in Hull showed a 75 per cent reduction in verbal abuse, a 57 per cent reduction in physical abuse, exclusions down by 80 per cent, and in one school staff absence came down by 63 per cent.

However, Mr Parker is keen to point out that the outcomes of the study are far from guaranteed.

“Not a lot of work has gone into this in the UK,” he said. “Projects, particularly in deprived areas, have been successful. We really want to see if it works in a British context. We have to have an open mind and evaluate what we’re doing in Melksham. The article of faith is that it will improve things in Melksham. The point has to be made very simply that this isn’t a quick fix. We will be trying to change attitudes.

“We will evaluate how effective it is, does it improve quality of life for children and families in Melksham? Is it making a difference?”

It is hoped that by training up to 40 teachers, youth workers and even some young people in the coaching techniques, and adopting the same approach across the three schools, up to 1,800 children will be reached over the next 12 months.

Steve Clark, head teacher at Melksham Oak School, said: “Melksham is a self-contained town with one secondary school.

“The heads (of primary and secondary schools) all meet regularly in close partnership with one another to work for what’s best for the young people of Melksham.

“This is an exciting project, and a chance to use the latest research to improve the outcomes for the young people of Melksham.”

Sgt Mel Rolph of Melksham Neighbourhood Policing Team said they too were looking forward to working with Richard Parker and his team on the Melksham 0-19 Resiliance Project.

He added: “Anti-social behaviour is one of the priorities of the Melksham NPT and we are keen to find ways to reduce levels of anti-social behaviour in Melksham.

“We will look forward to seeing the outcome of the study.”