Mindfulness company expands into primary school

A MINDFULNESS coaching company, which helps children and their teachers learn techniques to tackle stress, low self esteem and anxiety, has been commissioned to expand its programmes into primary schools in the North East.

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Jill Cox takes a Living Mindfully class at Consett Acadamy. Picture by Stuart Boulton.

Living Mindfully has been working with students at more than 21 secondary schools across the region for the last three years. Now it has won a contract with Hartlepool Borough Council to develop its sought-after Living Mindfully in Schools programme for primary pupils in the borough as well as secondary.

The community interest company (CIC), based in Consett, County Durham, was set up by Gary Heads in 2009 as a social enterprise after he delivered mindfulness programmes for Job Centre Plus. His teaching saw 70 per cent of people he taught securing a job after being unemployed for up to ten years.

“Mindfulness is a life skill which can be practised on a daily basis,” said Gary.

“Two massive issues which schools are facing are exam stress and self harm among young people. We believe that by introducing mindfulness at a primary school level you’re helping them cope with the pressure of exams at an early age, and giving them that resilience to cope with any anxiety, panic attacks and stress.”

Mike Stokoe, assistant principal at Consett Academy, which has hosted workshops by Living Mindfully, said: “The effect of a positive mental health is of increasing importance in supporting young people towards adulthood and the needs and expectations of adult life.

“The strains of being a teenager and the stresses involved in preparing for external assessments can create negativity in a person at a key moment in their lives. At Consett Academy our use of mindfulness from the professionals trained to deliver the program has been interesting, well received and a useful tool to the students as they, and we, work towards the most positive outcomes on behalf of our young people in Consett, both academically and socially.”

Demand is at an all-time high for Living Mindfully, which has just moved into new premises based at Consett Business Park, run by Business Durham, the economic development company for County Durham.

It trains two teachers from each school to be able to deliver their programme themselves. Some schools feel so strongly in its benefits they have trained as many as six teachers. As well as schools, Gary and his team of six staff and associate teachers deliver mindfulness programmes to local authorities, charities, health services, employment services and universities.

The schools programme follows on from its work with public health in the region. The company is an NHS service provider and more than 3,500 people have been referred into their mindfulness based stress reduction programmes across County Durham and Darlington by GPs whose patients are suffering from anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

Now Gary plans to take his programmes across Europe by increasing the number of teachers via a year-long mindfulness practitioner training programme he is launching in September. He is also working on a book entitled Living Mindfully, which will be published in November, and has developed a meditation App which is available on iTunes from January.

Simon Goon, managing director of Business Durham, one of the largest commercial property landlords in the North East, said: “In today’s world with exam stress and anxiety in the workplace, there is a great demand for the services of Living Mindfully. We look forward to supporting them as they continue to teach their excellent programme to practitioners across Europe.”

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