Bickley Park School in Kent, which teaches boys aged two to 13, wants to give their pupils the “best possible start in life both academically and mentally”.
Jon Poole, the assistant head teacher, started running mindfulness sessions for his five- to seven-year-old pupils to give them a chance to take a time out from the busy school day.
“Such a vital part of helping pupils have a healthy, happy life is making sure they know how to look after themselves, and taking early steps to help them nurture their mental health is a key part of that,” Poole said.
The 37-year-old introduced mindfulness sessions to students at Eltham College, where he taught for 15 years and wanted to replicate its success at this school.
“I’ve done quite a bit of research into wellbeing and mindfulness and, while there’s a lot out there for teenagers, there’s not a lot for younger children, Key Stage 1 in particular,” Poole said.
“Research has shown everything is becoming younger and younger, even to the extent of puberty starting sooner. The earlier we can teach them to spot the signs of when they’re not quite right, and be responsive to that, the better.”
Poole introduced sessions after lunch, where pupils at the Bromley-based school enjoy “five minutes of calm”.
The idea of running mindfulness sessions in schools is not new.
Dr Mark Williams, a professor of clinical psychology who researches the benefits of mindfulness, previously said during the Mindfulness in Schools Project conference in London: “Mental health difficulties really kick in at the age of adolescence – that’s when children who perhaps have been struggling a bit but who have managed before suddenly find that they can’t manage.”
He told HuffPost UK at the time: “Studies have found kids who have difficulty with self-control often turn to be adults who have problems.
“Mindfulness isn’t the control of the ‘top down’ – so just another instruction for children, but the sense of becoming captain of your own ship again.
“The sense of being able to pause, to check in and notice. Then to take account of your own mood before taking the next step or action. And that’s got to be good.”
Poole is now working with Bickley Park’s prep department to introduce mindfulness classes throughout the school.
“We’re looking at ways of bringing it to all year groups so we can give our boys a good grounding in preparation for secondary and further education, as well as adulthood,” he added.
“I think it’s important pupils, even those in pre-prep, get a chance to sit, relax and be silent. Their lives are so busy, even at a young age, that getting a chance to take a time out allows them to recharge their mental and physical batteries.”
Poole said he hopes mindfulness will give the boys a platform to deal with stressful situations.
“So often we hear of youngsters and teenagers struggling with mental health problems, with statistics showing children as young as five have suffered from depression,” he said.
“I hope to give our boys the tools to support their own mental health, which is just as important as giving them a strong academic start.”