Trial run of mindfulness practice in UK schools scheduled until 2021

From the Web: Psychology & Religion Topic: Education

Mindfulness at school: Thousands of pupils will be given meditation lessons to help them ‘cope with pressure’, writes Eleanor Harding. Published in Mail Online on February 3, 2019.

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Thousands of pupils will practise mindfulness at school to help them deal with the ‘pressures of the modern world’. Pilot schemes in 370 primaries and secondaries will test different approaches to improving children’s mental health.

Children meditating

The trial, to run until 2021, will be one of the largest of its kind in the world. It will teach students ‘innovative techniques’ such as mindfulness, relaxation and breathing exercises to ‘help them regulate their emotions’, the Department for Education said. Pupils will also have sessions with mental health experts.

Mindfulness, a popular meditation technique, aims to help the brain focus on the present, rather than regrets or worries. Education Secretary Damian Hinds will announce the trial of its use today to mark the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week.

‘As a society, we are more open about our mental health than ever before,’ he said. ‘But the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse.

‘Schools and teachers don’t have all the answers – nor could they – but we know they can play a special role, which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools.’

The trial will be led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, in partnership with University College London.

Project leader Dr Jessica Deighton said: ‘We know schools have a strong commitment to supporting children’s mental health and well-being but have had little clear guidance about the best ways to approach this.

‘We want children and young people, parents and teachers to be confident that mental health in schools has an absolutely robust evidence base.’

The scheme will coincide with a new compulsory health education curriculum, which covers mental health. It comes amid fears of an epidemic of mental health problems among children and teenagers, fuelled by the internet. A recent study found loneliness among youths is on the rise due to increased use of social media.

Childwise, a market research company, found 58 per cent of nine to 16-year-olds sometimes felt lonely – up from 51 per cent last year. Its poll of 2,000 pupils found older girls were particularly affected, with 80 per cent of those aged 15-16 battling loneliness.

Research director Simon Leggett said: ‘They are spending time alone in their bedrooms, scrolling through digital content, watching the lives of others unfold … rather than going to a friend’s house.’

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