BACKGROUND: School-based relaxation training programmes are a popular means of helping children with anxiety problems such as headaches and test anxiety. AIMS: Our major objective is to evaluate the empirical status of school-based relaxation training programmes. CONTENTS: Focusing on progressive muscle relaxation training, we show how this adult training procedure has been modified for use with children. Several training issues are discussed including the questions of live versus recorded instruction and individual versus group instruction. We also discuss the evaluation of relaxation training programmes in school settings, highlighting issues of reliability and validity. CONCLUSIONS: Our review of studies examining the efficacy of school-based relaxation training shows that improvements are usually modest and of dubious clinical or educational significance. Consequently we suggest that when relaxation training is used with school children treatment goals should be more modest or, that if improvements in specific performance areas are sought, then more comprehensive treatment packages be developed which can influence the successful performance of children in target areas and reduce anxiety to normal levels.