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Meditations begin on academy status

Private specialist Maharishi School in talks with Government on sponsorship agreement

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State schools specialising in transcendental meditation (TM) will open under plans being developed for two academies, The TES can reveal.

All pupils will meditate twice a day in a bid to reach an inner peace that practitioners say will lead to increased creativity and improved intelligence.

Derek Cassells, headteacher of the private Maharishi School in Ormskirk, Lancashire, the only specialist TM school in the country, has held meetings with the Government about the possibility of sponsoring two academies.

"At the moment we have just one small school," Mr Cassells said, "but I'm certain transcendental meditation can work on a bigger scale.

"The key factor is that the meditation brings balance to the nervous system. This leads to greater creativity, intelligence and harmony, and better behaviour."

There is no religious aspect to the meditation and the schools would operate an open admissions policy for children of all faiths or none, Mr Cassells said. Apart from the meditation, they would be run along relatively traditional lines, he said.

Pupils in the proposed academies would do two 10-minute sessions of meditation a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. They would involve pupils sitting quietly at their desks with their eyes closed.

"The whole understanding of this is that effective education begins with neurological and physiological balance," Mr Cassells said. "The best way to achieve that is with inner quietness, called restful alertness. TM is an effective way for children to create neurological balance and do better in school."

Work on setting up the charitable trust needed to sponsor the academies is being completed. Mr Cassells has also held discussions with existing academy sponsors.

Mr Cassells has trained several state school teachers in the TM technique, including at Limeside Primary in Oldham. Helen Arya, the headteacher, said half of her staff now regularly meditate.

Dylan Wiliam, deputy director of London University's Institute of Education, said encouraging children to be calm could help their learning, but he was worried about the hype around TM.

"It's not a bad thing to get kids calm and focused, but that could be done with TM, yoga or just getting children to read for 10 minutes," he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said proposals for a TM academy would be judged on whether they could improve educational standards. "The academies programme allows for a diverse range of schools, each with its own ethos," he said.

Maharishi's way

Transcendental meditation was spread by the teaching of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who started a worldwide movement to promote the technique in 1957.

It is usually practised for 20 minutes twice a day, with participants sitting quietly with their eyes closed. There is no chanting. The idea is that the mind is allowed to rest and it allows stress to be relieved in a natural way. Supporters say the technique can be mastered quickly and that children as young as five can benefit.

Maharishi first came to the UK in 1960 and became increasingly famous after teaching The Beatles. Other famous advocates include the film director David Lynch.

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