Lucy Barratt is weaving around the gym with her 16-year-old classmates, all dribbling basketballs. There's laughter and chatter, when a whistle suddenly blows.
After which it's another 10 minutes with the basketballs, followed by the same eight-minute drill at their desks.
This cutting-edge concept is known as 'spaced learning', created here at Monkseaton High School in Tyne and Wear, and adopted with remarkable results.
Based on the latest neuroscientific research, short sharp lessons are interspersed with an entirely different activity and repeated at regular intervals.
And high-speed learning is proving far more effective in helping children improve their concentration – and their grades – than conventional lessons.
'Unlike in traditional lessons, you don't need pens or books, there's nothing to distract you, and as you listen and watch and focus, all the information gets stored in your long-term memory,' Lucy says.
'During the breaks, I focus on the instructions for the physical activity, and afterwards it just seems like I am seeing a movie in my mind of the lesson that I have already seen before, and my understanding of the information presented becomes even more precise – clearer – when I see it again.' Louise Dickson, the science teacher, says that she has seen children go up two grades using spaced learning.'Instead of four months of revision, we did one hour of spaced learning and the whole year got better marks than previously.But it's not just about instant results, spaced learning really motivates the pupils.If we do it at the start of a topic they really gain confidence as we progress, because much of it feels familiar.We've seen the students themselves start to believe they can achieve better grades and so set their own goals higher.' Scott Purcell, also 16, was a D-grade student in all three sciences; after taking part in spaced learning, he achieved three Cs in his GCSE science modules. 'I find this new way of learning far more interesting than sitting with a textbook, and after every lesson I feel I've really learnt something, and I do remember it for a long time afterwards, too.' According to studies carried out at the National Institute for Child Health and Development in the United States, connections between developing brain cells form most effectively when the brain is given regular breaks, hence the spaces between lessons are every bit as crucial as the content of the lessons themselves; today the youngsters are playing basketball, but it might just as easily be word games.The mechanics behind spaced learning are straightforward: the teacher gives a quickfire Powerpoint presentation, of about three slides a minute, and the pupils listen and read the screen, effectively taking in the information twice.