Meditation prescribed for unruly children
Creative writing, music and drama are among areas of the curriculum to benefit from the sessions, which children of all ages find soothing.
The Meditation in Schools Network - an umbrella group of teachers, instructors and researchers - is now campaigning for more widespread use of the technique.
Gina Levete, one of the Network's founder-members, became interested in the need for more spiritual education while she was researching loneliness for a now-defunct charity, the Interlink Trust.
She said: "It was all too apparent that many young people were not being encouraged to learn to enjoy stillness and the solitude of their own company. One 15-year-old boy told me 'I would rather be with the worst person in the world than by myself'."
Ms Levete then discovered that a handful of state and independent schools were already using meditation to help pupils.
One network member is Diana Grace, who originally trained as a nursery school teacher and holds meditation sessions with teachers and their classes at three state primary schools in Wiltshire.
She said: "I have been developing the technique for children for the past 18 years. My approach is non-religious and aimed at encouraging individuals to access their inner stillness, strength and creativity."
One of the schools she visits is Charter Primary School in Chippenham. Headteacher Stella Paul, who is also a schools inspector, has seen positive results. "The sessions have been enjoyed by both the pupils and the staff and have had a calming influence on the children," she said. "We've seen improvements in the children's concentration and in their use of the imagination, particularly creative writing."
Teacher Nicola Snell agreed: "These workshops have enhanced areas of the curriculum, noticeably in dance, drama and story-telling."
Jacqui Dye, a special needs teacher at Filton Avenue Junior School in North Bristol finds meditation techniques useful with disruptive pupils. "I was getting to the point when I thought, 'How do you get through to these children?' Then I had a teaching assistant last year who was interested in meditation techniques. We tried it out and the results were encouraging.
"I have now set aside a corner of the room with cushions and bare walls where we sit quietly. Those with low self-esteem and a lack of trust in others don't want to shut their eyes, so I allow them to focus on an object. We used a candle at Christmas.
"I then talked to them about their own value and how they can stop themselves lashing out. After the sessions they are noticeably calmer, and sometimes more willing to talk about the things that have upset them."
For Presenting the Case for Meditation in Primary and Secondary Schools (price Pounds 2.50), or information on the Meditation in Schools Network, write to 64 Archery Steps, London W2 2YF