TAKING fish oil supplements appears to have dramatically boosted the academic performance of North-East pupils, according to a new trial.

Youngsters at Toft Hill Junior School, near Bishop Auckland, have been taking fish oil supplements every day for more than a year.

Last night, the school released the results of this summer's Standard Assessment Tests, which showed pupils had performed way beyond expectations.

Apart from registering significant improvements in maths, English and science, the school has also seen clear improvements in concentration and behaviour.

After going on the fish oil, the school's football team never lost a game, winning four cups.

The trial follows others in County Durham. In 2003, in the largest trial of its kind in the world, 123 County Durham children who were struggling at junior school were given fish oil supplements supplied by the UK manufacturer, Equazen.

The results stunned educationalists, with nearly 40 per cent of youngsters showing better reading ability and increased attention.

A second trial in 2005, which involved giving fish oil supplements to youngsters aged 12 to 15 with behavioural problems at Greenfield Community Arts College, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, dramatically reduced severe hyperactivity and inattention.

The success of the trials led to Durham County Council inviting 5,000 teenagers to take free daily capsules containing a brain-boosting blend of pure fish oil and evening primrose oil.

The first Durham trial attracted the attention of Toft Hill headteacher Richard Whitfield, who persuaded governors and parents to back his plan.

The experiment began in January last year after Equazen agreed to provide the school with free supplement sachets.

Fifty-nine children aged nine to 11 signed up and took daily supplements every morning.

Teachers gave them supplies to last weekends and holidays.

It was predicted that 63 per cent of the youngers in year six would achieve the expected level of attainment in their English test.

However, 88 per cent of pupils attained the level.

In September last year, more than 100 youngsters, two-thirds of pupils, were signed up for the scheme.

In an ordinary year, the school would expect about 80 per cent of pupils to achieve the required level, and about 30 per cent to reach the level above.

This summer, 92 per cent of pupils achieved the lower level, and about 35 per cent reached the next level.

Mr Whitfield said: "I believe this study will be of great interest to other headteachers looking to improve their school results and the wellbeing of their pupils."

Last year, the Food Standards Agency reviewed evidence regarding fish oils and said there was still insufficient evidence to reach a firm conclusion.