Some MPs want the government to invest in mindfulness programmes to alleviate stress and reduce attrition in the teaching profession.
Early Day Motion N0 630 in the Commons with over 40 signatories reminds us of how the concept of Mindfulness is now very much part of the education agenda.
The motion notes that approximately one in 10 children between the ages of five to 16 years old suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder and that 75 per cent of mental disorders emerge before the age of 25 years, about 25 per cent before the age of 12 years. It also highlights the fact that as much as 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession within five years and that stress is the predominant reason cited for leaving the profession;
Given that staff turnover is so high, lack of stability, the motion says, is likely to have an impact on pupils’ learning and the cost is significant .
In addition, the costs of mental ill health are set to double over the next 20 years and billions of pounds could be saved through emphasis on prevention and early intervention.
The motion points to ‘the solid evidence-base for the reliable impact of mindfulness for adults on many aspects of psychological and physical health and a growing body of work with school staff and young people, showing that mindfulness interventions can have significant impacts in terms of reduced stress, depression and anxiety, increased sense of control, better behaviour, increased social and emotional skills, cognitive skills and performance in terms of focus and attention’
The signatories believe that ‘ all young people and those who work in education, should have access to mindfulness training; and further believes that a Government-funded mindfulness programme will constitute value for money as access will lead to children and school staff being less likely to access costly interventions later.’
A small scale study in 2013 by CFBT Education trust titled ‘Mindfulness’ looked at how mindfulness can be used to manage teacher work-related stress. The results suggest that work-related stress significantly affects teachers, causing increased levels of negative feeling and reduced levels of positive emotion. Using mindfulness had a positive impact on the teachers.
Mindfulness can mean different things to different people but this definition broadly seems to cover its essentials: ‘ a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.’ It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them and manage them in a calmer more positive manner. Though it has its roots in Buddhist and other forms of meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness is also in evidence and has entered the mainstream. Some dismiss this all as new age hype and bunkum. But if you look at it from the point of view of seeking to develop techniques and strategies to help reduce the stress we all feel at times, then it has some relevance and resonance.