MPs debate mindfulness in schools

Nicholas Dakin, Labour MP, Scunthorpe, asks for Mindfulness in schools to be debated by MPs. He said: "Childhood is a time for acquiring life skills alongside academic knowledge. Good schools teach young people how to keep their bodies fit, and encourage regular exercise and a healthy diet to promote good physical healththroughout life, but mental health is equally important to a child’s long-term wellbeing, academic success, behaviour and eventual life outcomes. He added: "Children and young people are under tremendous pressure in today’s society. According to Government figures given to the all-party parliamentary group, 32.3% of 15 to 25-year-olds suffer one or more mental health difficulty, and11% suffer mild, medium or severe forms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Only last week, the Children’s Society published disturbing evidence in its annual “Good Childhood Report” that levels of unhappiness are rising among 10 to 15-year-olds. It called for more mental health and wellbeing support to be made available in schools to tackle low wellbeing early. In the context of education, our all-party group on mindfulness is concerned not only with pupils and students, but with those who work in education. Sadly, according to the statistics, the challenges that they face are compelling.

MPs also discussed the NASUWT survey which reported that half the teachers polled had visited their doctor with work-related physical or mental health issues; more than three quarters of them had reported anxiety; and 86% had suffered sleeplessness. 

The Minister for Schools, Edward Timpson agreed to meet a cross-party delegation in the near future to discuss these issues further and said that the debate was timely in that he has recently taken on departmental responsibility for children’s mental health, which is an area that he feels passionately about and with which he has been involved through his work for children in care. He stated that the Government had committed £1.4 billion in funding to turn around and transform children's services, asking local areas to identify the needs of their local populations and to look at developing new approaches, in particular those focused on upstream investment in preventive approaches.

He agreed that "there is still much more for us to learn and do to enable all children to enjoy good mental health and emotional wellbeing, and I completely agree that schools and colleges have a vital role in achieving that....schools need to decide what is best for their pupils, our approach is to support them by providing information, support, advice and guidance about the many options available to them. We have focused on four key areas of support: prevention, identification, early support and access to specialist help.....Improving identification of potential problems, including increasing awareness of those who might be vulnerable to such problems, will help everyone to become more aware of the warning signs of a problem and help children and young people to become more confident about asking for help."

 

An ACP spokesperson responded to the debate, agreeing that addressing mental health in schools is key, but emphasised the importance of having specialists such as child psychotherapists available "..to help with those children and young people who have experienced significant trauma. While the mindfulness approach may be helpful, the underlying issues of childhood trauma, abuse and loss can continue to cause them significant distress. Schools need to be equipped with support to address the underlying and historical causes of distress and disturbance, as well as offering approaches which help children concentrate and manage their learning environment in the present."

Read more about the debate here