by Joanna Feast, 26 October, 2015

Mindful Nation UK: Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG)

October 2015

This report, published in October 2015, is the culmination of over a year of research and inquiry, including eight hearings in Parliament when members of the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group were able to hear first-hand and question some of those who have experienced the transformational impacts of mindfulness.

The foreword is by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Lexington, Massachusetts. He is perhaps the most well-known of today’s mindfulness practitioners, teachers and researchers: in this report, he extolls the virtues of mindfulness and wholeheartedly looks forward to learning how the MAPPG’s recommendations will fare in the UK.

The recommendations from the report have far-reaching possibilities. For schools, there are two recommendations: firstly, the Department for Education (DfE) should designate, as a first step, three teaching schools to pioneer mindfulness teaching, co-ordinate and develop innovation, test models of replicability and scalability and disseminate best practice. And secondly, given the DfE’s interest in character and resilience (Character Education Grant programme), there is a proposal for a comparable Challenge Fund of £1 million a year to which schools can bid for the costs of training teachers in mindfulness.

For schools already using Jigsaw – the mindful approach to PSHE – there is less of a need to take time to train teachers, as there are opportunities to practice mindfulness in every Jigsaw lesson – in the Calm Me time particularly. Regardless of a teacher’s expertise, competence or personal practice, children can be guided through mindfulness practice, secure in the knowledge that Calm Me time helps in so many ways.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, mindfulness has the capacity to address some of the larger challenges and opportunities to be found in the domains of health, education, the workplace, and the criminal justice system by tapping into interior resources we all possess but that are mostly undeveloped or underdeveloped in our education system and in our society more broadly, at least up to this point in time.

At Jigsaw, we believe mindfulness is a vital tool for life: not only does it support the regulation of emotion and build emotional resilience, it also enhances focus and concentration; both helping to optimise learning. Mindful children can more readily choose their responses to situations rather than react while caught up in their thought-flows and emotions. It can be learnt, and techniques to develop it can be taught. It also needs to be practised. In Jigsaw PSHE, mindfulness is developed through taught lessons and the ‘Calm Me’ time in each Piece (lesson) using:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Awareness exercises
  • Visualizations

So what is mindfulness? Put simply, it is the ability to observe your thoughts and feelings as they arise, in the present moment, without judgement. This level of awareness enables children to ‘catch’ their thoughts and feelings before these carry them along and lead to choices and actions that may not help them or their learning. Being mindful can be learnt, but takes practice, hence the Calm Me time, which, as well as relaxing the body and calming the mind, also enhances this awareness of thoughts and feelings in the present moment.

Catching your thoughts and feelings as they arise gives you the choice of how to respond to them. For example, if a child is struggling with his numeracy, he can be aware of his thoughts and feelings and ask for help. However, if his thoughts and feelings (e.g. ‘I can’t do this, I am rubbish, everybody else can do it, I am stupid…’) carry him along, this could lead to consequences that don’t help him learn at all. So imagine, that if every child in your school were able to be more mindful through regular practice and Calm Me time, what a difference that would make, and what a gift!

You can read the full APPG report on mindfulness here.

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