At a time when mental health challenges amongst young people in schools are greater than ever, Warwick School is putting mindfulness into the curriculum. Mindfulness courses for sixth form and for staff have been offered for the past two years and now all pupils in Year 10 will have the opportunity to learn the skills. This is part of a wider programme in which the school is trying to build resilience and good mental health in pupils, protecting against the many challenges today’s young people face.
Sixth formers at Warwick School have had the opportunity to study mindfulness in their lunch breaks for the past two years and have given very positive feedback, citing improved concentration, better memory, better sleep and better crisis management, as some of the positive outcomes.
Pupils focus on their breathing to take control of their thoughts
Pupils are taught a simple technique to focus attention on their breathing which enables them to take control of their wandering or worrying minds. They are taught “beditation” – more commonly called a body scan – in which they learn to focus on the inner sensations they feel as a means to help them to sleep better. The school is using a course designed by ‘Mindfulness in Schools’ called ‘.b’ (dot-be) meaning Stop and Be. This course is also a basis for ongoing active research into the benefits of mindfulness amongst children and teenagers.
Revd. Martin Hewitt, teacher of Religion and Philosophy at Warwick School who leads the Mindfulness programme, says: “People spend a lot of time worrying about things that are in the past, wondering if we could or should have done something differently, and spending a lot of time anticipating and sometimes fearing the future. As a result we miss what is happening in this moment – the joy of this fleeting moment that can never be experienced again. Mindfulness helps us to be aware of the ‘now’ by focussing on what we feel in each instant as it passes by. It brings us into the present.”
The modern school pupil faces many pressures – to meet the expectations of their parents, to perform academically, to be sporting or musical, and particularly to fit into the world of his or her peers. The teaching of Mindfulness is part of a wider programme of teaching – ‘Personal Well-being’. Pupils in years seven and eight at Warwick School are learning about the benefits of optimism, understanding character strengths and other positive mental attitudes.
Gus Lock, Headmaster of Warwick School, said: “There can be nothing more important than the well-being of our pupils, both in body and mind and, at a time when there are unprecedented concerns nationally, we must do all we can to support the mental health of our children. Our boys and staff have engaged really enthusiastically with Mindfulness, one of many things we are doing to help in this important area.”