The government is considering whether courses in “mindfulness” should be introduced to help improve pupil well-being, a minister revealed today.
Asked if the Department for Education planned to promote the idea, schools minister David Laws told MPs: “We are very interested in promoting this and we certainly think that it is an area that merits consideration based on the evidence we've seen to date.
“My colleague [education minister] Liz Truss actually has been looking at this recently.”
Increasing numbers of schools, particularly those in the private sector, are already looking at “mindfulness” classes, which usually focus on teaching students meditation and breathing techniques as well as how to pay attention to the present moment.
Last week, Anthony Seldon, head of the elite boarding school Wellington College, recommended that all schools should make use of the practice.
“With the decline in religious assemblies, the chance to be quiet and reflect during the school day is being lost, at a time when it is needed more than ever as young people experience increasingly frantic pressure in their lives,” he explained.
"This is severely damaging to the mental health of young people...In mindfulness, we have a powerful, scientifically proven approach that can make a real difference, and which can be learnt by young people whilst still at school.”
He revealed that pupils at his £33,000 a year school in Berkshire often took part in a two-minute "stillness period" during assemblies, while teenagers in Years 9 and 10 had a timetabled weekly mindfulness session.
But Mr Laws seemed a little less sure than Dr Seldon of exactly what mindfulness meant. When the minister, appearing before the Commons Education Select Committee this morning, was asked to explain the concept he said: “It's about trying to impact on people's motivations, their attitudes to life, it's about trying to get at some of the things we don't always get at through our crude technical interventions.
“I think it's an area that we should take seriously while making sure that there is proper evidence-based scrutiny of it.”
Improving pupils’ character alongside their academic knowledge is attracting more attention generally, with the idea of teaching “resilience” moving into the education mainstream.
Last month, an all-party parliamentary group on social mobility called for character education, which includes mindfulness, to be part of the curriculum.
And Labour's education spokesman Tristram Hunt echoed the calls, stating it should be included in initial teacher training.