Building Intellectual Capacity in Schools that Serve Socially Disadvantaged Areas

School Brain Clubs

Building Intellectual Capacity in Schools that Serve Socially Disadvantaged Areas

by The Brain Trust Registered Charity 1001012


This project is about helping those school students who most need educational success and too often fail to achieve it. From our experience, research and expert advice, we are convinced that too few students, especially those attending schools in educationally disadvantaged areas, learn how to learn effectively and hence to know what it is to succeed in their education. In particular, we have strong evidence that a trained memory, allied to specific learning and study skills and techniques, has a vital part to play in unleashing the potential that lies in every student.

In Search of Genius

In 2007, Tony Buzan – our founder and one of the world’s leading authors and lecturers on the brain and learning – conducted a unique experiment. He was asked to take six unruly and largely unteachable pupils in a problem school outside London and demonstrate their true potential to learn. He was given 6 months to improve the children’s cognitive processing abilities. His aim was to teach them how to learn and, above all, how to motivate themselves.

As the project progressed it was clear that the children were becoming increasingly confident.

At the conclusion of the project, independent assessments by researchers from the Institute of Education at London University confirmed that all six students had made dramatic improvements in their achievements. In particular, the children achieved five times the level of progress in their verbal skills that one would have expected in the time frame. The researchers observed shifts in behavioural patterns, a willingness to participate and to enjoy learning. Professor Joan Freeman of Middlesex University said that Tony Buzan had shown that you can increase children’s mental ability enormously with the right kind of attention and opportunity. The teachers involved in the project said that Tony had achieved ‘extraordinary results’.

This exciting process was filmed by the BBC and shown in the programme ‘In Search of Genius’.   Viewable here.

This mini-pilot study in 2007 demonstrated that equipping students with the tools to learn can empower them and enable them to succeed. We now intend to show that what Tony Buzan achieved with 6 children is capable of being scaled up to support many children in schools that serve socially disadvantaged areas towards success through improving their thinking and learning skills.

The Brain Trust Charity now wants to adopt Tony Buzan’s teachings and expand them using the same techniques and enlisting a highly trained group of lecturers such as Elaine Colliar, Dominic O’Brien and Phil Chambers, respectively multiple world champions in Memory and Mind Mapping.

The Way Ahead – Building Intellectual Capacity

At the heart of our vision for empowering students is the training of the brain through learning how to learn. We are so often taught what to learn without the basics of knowing how the brain works. We have developed, therefore, an exciting new programme that utilises an integrated range of approaches which, together, will be effective in helping students to achieve their potential in improving memory techniques, creativity, the key to successful learning and revision.

Such a programme would benefit all students but we intend to target schools that serve socially disadvantaged areas. Children whose educational performance is below average can make huge strides if they are helped to learn how to learn and to think, using brainpower-improving techniques. Mental ability and focus can be improved radically by methods such as mind mapping, speed reading and memory development.

Often, the biggest barrier to improvement is the lack of belief that it can be achieved. This is particularly true for children at schools in socially disadvantaged areas, who may have few examples of achievement from which to learn. We will therefore incorporate into our programme a visit from someone who has achieved great success in the field of sport, entertainment, business or politics; the opportunity to discuss with him/her where opportunities lie and how they can be seized will open children’s minds.

This programme will help children in schools that serve socially disadvantaged areas towards success through improving their thinking and learning skills. We intend to build on the work of ‘In Search of Genius’ and The UK Schools Memory Championship and to combine those with a proven brain training system. We believe that in so doing we are offering something that can make a real difference to students. We further believe that this is a programme that will support fully the ambitions of successive Governments to raise standards in disadvantaged schools and areas, through focused attention on creating a curriculum and teaching methods that are geared to widening opportunity and access for all.

The Three-Layer Programme

The programme that we have devised consists of:

Brain Training Level 1: Mind Mapping

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, thoughts, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around an image of the topic. Mind maps are used to visualise, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organising information, solving problems, making decisions and generating ideas.

Mind Mapping done correctly is a powerful accelerated learning technique. It helps the brain to organise information and to make connections by showing the relationships between the separate pieces of data acquired. It provides ‘triggers’ that aid learning, prompt recall and precipitate creative thought.

The elements of the layer are:

Mind Mapping

– How to access and record the infinite number of thoughts, ideas and connections that your brain can make, using what has been referred to as ‘the Swiss army knife for the brain’; students will learn about:

– The amazing potential of the brain

– Note taking

– Note generation

– Radiant thinking


– How to increase creative intelligence; students will learn about:

– The explosive nature of thought

– The left/right brain

– Infinite creativity – mapping your mind with Mind Maps

– Enabling and enhancing your multiple intelligences


– How mind mapping increases the memory capacity and will allow the student to remember clearly what was on the mind map. This is done through one key image or one key word.

Brain Training Level 2: Memory

We are on the cusp of a new scientific revolution in understanding how the brain works.

Working memory

– our ability to remember and manipulate information, is at the centre of this revolution.

– Working memory is our brain’s post-it note. We use those little yellow slips of paper to make mental scribbles of information we need to remember and work with. Can we increase our working memory space? Brain training is a growing and exciting new area in scientific research. In particular, there is a lot of evidence of our brain’s plasticity: that it can actually change—shrink or grow—depending on what we do. For example, there are studies that show that taxi drivers’ brains ‘grow on the job’ as they build up the detailed information they need to navigate around a city. This has powerful implications for learning. If our brains keep growing as adults, it is so much more important to train our children’s brains while they are still developing. By training their brains we will be able to improve their prospects in the classroom and in the workplace.

– Research findings show that by using memory training to challenge the minds of young learners, a direct impact can be seen on their attainment and concentration in school and for their future.

Working Memory and Fluid Intelligence

– Fluid intelligence, as defined by the researchers, is the ability to reason and to solve new problems independently of previously acquired knowledge. It is considered one of the most important factors in learning and it is closely related to professional and educational success, especially in complex and demanding environments.

– The researchers found that training the working memory led to an increase in fluid intelligence and also that the gains in intelligence depended on the amount of training: the more training, the more improvement.

Brain Training Level 3: Processing Speed

Being able to read more quickly without a significant loss of comprehension or retention is an obvious benefit to learners. We have therefore included a speed reading module in our programme.

Speed Reading

– How to improve the speed and quality of your information intake; students will learn how to:

– Expand visual power

– Improve concentration and comprehension

– Accelerate reading rhythm

Target Population

Whilst relevant to students at all stages of their education, this course is intended particularly for pupils in ‘Key Stage 3’ (11-14 year-olds). These lower secondary years are notoriously a period where too many children stand still or experience a further dip in their performance, often from a slow start, and who fail therefore to make the progress that should be made over these three years.

Course Delivery

At this time of coronavirus, where so many students have been disrupted, this programme allows students to acquire not just a useful technique, but also a major life skill.

The sessions will be delivered by professional presenters who have been trained to teach these modules.

Can be done live or through webinars.

Case Study:

The Lilian Baylis School in Southwark London had been suffering from low academic standards when Tony Buzan, Dominic O Brien and Phil Chambers took their team in to teach the three pillars of mental literacy, Mind Mapping, Speed Reading and Memory Power. The following year BBC prime time news announced the Lilian Baylis School as the academically most improved school in the U.K. This initiative culminated in the staging of the 2013 world memory championship at the Lilian Baylis School!


The Brain Trust Registered Charity has designed this Training Proramme that will teach the students:

– Learning How to Learn

– Mind Mapping

– Creativity

– Memory

– Speed Reading

– Motivation & Confidence

Analysis: The effectiveness of the training programme will be evaluated by statistically comparing memory and learning gains pre- and post-training across groups.

Treatment Fidelity

The impact of the programme will be monitored by David Taylor MA FRSA – former Director of Inspection at the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), Past Master, Company of Educators.

The costs

Brain training £12,000

Cost of preparing work plans and study materials £3,000

TOTAL £15,000.00

This funding will enable students to participate in an accelerated learning programme. We are also intending to invite approximately 20 teachers to participate in the programme and to equip them to take the learning back into the classroom. If we assume, conservatively, that each of the teachers will pass on the learning to, say, 50 students per academic year, then the pilot project will have contributed to developing the cognitive processing abilities of some 1000 students, at a unit cost of £15 per head in one year.

The work needed to deliver this project will be commissioned on commercial terms. Some of that work (e.g. delivery of modules, preparation of study material, etc) will be undertaken by members of the Brain Trust team. The members of the team are committed to this project and to the objectives of the Trust; any fees that members of the team earn from the work they undertake personally in the delivery of the project will be donated to the Trust and used by the Trust for its charitable purposes.


We do not equate being in a disadvantaged area with attending a poor performing school. We recognise that there are some outstanding schools in such areas, but that many schools in such difficult circumstances (especially in the inner city) face formidable problems.

We want to demonstrate that the conditions of disadvantage in which many young people grow up need not prevent them from realising their full potential. Tony Buzan once said, ‘We damage so many kids and so many lives by saying “you’re thick” ‘. We want to put into the hands of the teachers some thinking and learning tools that will enable them to show their students that they are far from thick and that, if they are helped to believe in themselves and given a little training in how to use their brains, they can achieve remarkable results.

At the Brain Trust, we have a fierce commitment to challenging cultures of under-expectation and underachievement, and working alongside schools’ own professional staff to give young people the chance they so richly deserve.

About the Brain Trust

The Brain Trust is a registered charity which was founded in 1990 by Tony Buzan with one objective: To maximise the ability of each and every individual to unlock and deploy the vast capacity of his or her Brain.

The Brain Trust’s Charter is:

” To promote research into study of thought processes, the investigation of the mechanics of thinking, manifested in learning, understanding, communication, problem solving, creativity and decision making; to disseminate the results of such research and study and to promote generally education and training in cognitive processes and techniques and to develop and exploit new techniques in cognitive processes.”

More information about the Brain Trust can be found at:

The team working on this project comprises:

Elaine Colliar: five times World mind mapping champion

Phil Chambers: two times World mind mapping champion, chief arbiter of the world memory championships and globally recognised expert on Speed Reading.

Dominic O’Brien: Eight times world memory champion, author of a number of memory improvement books and Organiser of the UK Memory Championship.