INNER peace has been celebrated as a way for pupils to beat stress, excel in exams and build better relationships. SARAH TROTTER learns about the benefits of mindfulness practice in schools.
MINDFULNESS is a way of focusing on the present moment to bring calm, reflection and boost memory, studies have shown.
Teaching schoolchildren this psychological tool has been praised for improving academic performance and offering them tranquility in an increasingly "chaotic world".
Trinity School in Lee uses meditation gongs in each classroom, three-minute sand timers and periods of silence and stillness every day to help pupils become more attentive and mindful.
As assistant headteacher of Trinity Secondary School Fidelma Hanlon explains: "Mindfulness teaches people to be more reflective, calmer.
"It creates a calming environment for pupils in quite a chaotic world.
"Kids very rarely have an opportunity to sit quietly without their phones or computers – there is always something moving.
"It just gives their minds a chance to relax without being influenced by something outside.
"It makes them more aware of themselves and the impact of their behaviour on others and their environment and then they are more mindful of their actions."
The secular practice, based on ancient Buddhist meditation techniques, was adopted by the Church of England School, in Taunton Road, in 2010 and is used with both primary and secondary students.
The whole school has mindfulness sessions twice a week during worship, as well as every day in tutor groups where the reverberations of the meditation gongs help still and focus pupils’ minds.
Ms Hanlon, who is also director of character education at Trinity, said: "Rather than raising your voice, the gong is used to call for quiet. It works really well, pupils are very good at responding to it.
"It helps them to calm themselves and we would encourage them to sit up, have nothing in their hands, have both feet firmly on the ground to reconnect with themselves and get rid of some of their giddy, nervous energy and focus their mind on learning.
"It also helps build relationships - rather than telling them off, it brings them back.
"Sand timers are partly used for timing different tasks, but also as a countdown for the three minutes of mindfulness - rather than electric tools they are more calming and relaxing."
She urged other schools to include mindfulness training in their curriculum as she says it also helps staff beat stress as well as diffusing heated arguments between students.
Ms Hanlon said: "I think schools should adopt it - anything that helps to build relationships between pupils and staff.
"And for staff it does lesson the stress of managing a class."