MAPS is a project which started in 2021 to bring mindfulness to children and young people in Alternative Provision (AP) settings in England. Funded by The Bright Future Trust, this two year project will ensure that MiSP’s high-quality, evidence-based mindfulness programme .b is available to vulnerable children and young people who are at the highest risk of social exclusion.
Evidence from scientific research consistently demonstrates that, to access the benefits of mindfulness, teachers must practice it themselves before they teach it to students.
MAPS is providing 60 AP staff with training so that they can learn to practice mindfulness themselves, then train to teach mindfulness to young people with appropriate materials, a peer group network and ongoing support.
Our aim is for each trained teacher to deliver the .b curricula to at least 30 children and young people within the project timeframe, reaching a minimum of 1,800 children in this period:
- Providing skills to cope with difficulty
- Learning how to appreciate ‘the good stuff’
- Teaching adolescents how to notice their reactions
- Offering them transformative choice in their response to their world
- Empowering them to connect, to care and to have courage
We believe that staff who are already employed in AP are best placed to teach mindfulness skills to the young people in that setting. They will already have established relationships and will know how to respond to the individual needs of each young person. We hope to train two staff from each AP provider to maximise shared learning and support.
Children and young people educated in alternative provision (AP) are among the most vulnerable, often from disadvantaged or disenfranchised backgrounds. They include pupils who have been excluded or who cannot attend mainstream school for other reasons: for example, children with behavioural issues, those who have short- or long-term illness, school phobia, teenage mothers, pregnant teenagers, or pupils without a school place. AP includes Pupil referral units (PRUs), AP academies and AP free schools.
The number of pupils with sole or main registrations in AP is slowly increasing, rising from 15,550 to 16,135 between 2010 and 20191. Pupils in AP are more likely to2: be of secondary school age (the highest proportion are aged 14, 15 or 16), have a SEN statement or EHCP plan, be eligible for free school meals, be in local authority care, have poor mental health and have low prior attainment.
Young people leaving AP are also more likely to have poorer academic and social outcomes than their peers, with only 1% achieving five good GCSEs3. Basic levels of literacy and numeracy are a bar for entering semi-skilled employment: even low-skilled apprenticeships and training.
The most recent figures show a shocking 41% of pupils4 in AP have no sustained destination or no data held after Key Stage 4, meaning they make up a significant proportion of the young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). As the IPPR report ‘Making a difference’ noted in 2017: “Excluded young people are more likely to be unemployed, develop severe mental health problems and go to prison.”
The challenges for AP providers are significant, and include:
- Supporting and developing AP staff so that have appropriate skills, knowledge and resilience to support and develop the young people in their care
- Providing evidence-based tools that enable young people in AP to learn how to self-regulate and give them positive strategies that empower them to choose how to respond to their environment
This project will do both.
1. Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics: January 2019 (Department for Education)
2. Making a Difference October 2017(Institute for Public Policy Research)
3. Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions, Fifth Report of Session 2017–19 (House of Commons Education Committee)
4. Destinations of key stage 4 and 16-18 students, England, 2017/18 (Department for Education)
This project is providing to each of the 60 staff members taking part:
1. An eight week instructor-led mindfulness course. ‘.begin’, comprising 90 minutes weekly sessions, with daily practice of 10-20 minutes. We ran three dedicated courses from September to November 2020 and offered further places on public courses as required..
2. A two-month embedding period where staff members have absorbed and practiced what the mindfulness skills they have learnt with support from the MiSP Hub .
3. A five day online training course to train to Teach .b, a 10 session mindfulness programme, to children and young people aged 11+. We ran two dedicated courses in January and February 2021 and have offered further places on public courses as required.
4. Support to deliver the ten session curriculum ‘.b’
to at least 30 CYP each.
5. A one day continuous professional development and review course
three to six months after the Teach .b training.
6. 18 months of ongoing expert advice
and support via the MiSP Hub.
Many experts argue that the most important prerequisites for child development are executive control (the management of cognitive processes such as memory, problem solving, reasoning and planning) and emotion regulation (the ability to understand and manage the emotions, including and especially impulse control). These main contributors to self-regulation underpin emotional wellbeing, effective learning and academic attainment. They also predict income, health and criminality in adulthood. There is promising evidence that mindfulness training, when taught well, can enhance executive control in children and adolescents in line with adult evidence1.
In 2012, the Universities of Exeter and Southampton published a research report ‘Evidence for the impact mindfulness on children and young people’ which concludes:
“Mindfulness for young people is easy to carry out, fits into a wide range of contexts, is enjoyed by both students and teachers, and does no harm. Well conducted mindfulness interventions can improve the mental, emotional, social and physical health and wellbeing of young people who take part. It has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, reactivity and bad behaviour, improve sleep and self-esteem, and bring about greater calmness, relaxation, the ability to manage behavior and emotions, self-awareness and empathy. Mindfulness can contribute directly to the development of cognitive and performance skills and executive function. It can help young people pay greater attention, be more focused, think in more innovative ways, use existing knowledge more effectively, improve working memory, and enhance planning, problem solving, and reasoning skills.”2
Feedback from 11-18 year olds on MiSP’s .b programme:
- Taught me different ways to view situations I’m in and learn how to cope with them like responding and not reacting.
- Helping me with stress and anxiety which I get a lot, it helped me to notice the good stuff when I am depressed.
- .b help me cope with my biggest difficulties: stress, worrying and thinking negatively.
- it helped me with my problems at home and it helped my family.
- I used to have panic attacks loads and I worried about school before bed, however when I started .b the panic attacks stopped because I was being more mindful and I could sleep! Beditation is a master!
- It helped me a lot with my anxiety and talking to other people.
- it helped me to feel more connected to my friends, family, feelings and surroundings.
1. Davis, D., & Hayes, J. A. (2012). What are the Benefits of Mindfulness? American Psychological Association: Monitor on Psychology, July/August 2012, 198-208.
2. Weare, K. (2012). Evidence for the impact mindfulness on children and young people’
The AP sector, along with the mainstream education sector, is facing a national crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. The pressures on staff have never been greater: heavy workloads, long hours, and under constant pressure to achieve the best educational outcomes for students.
- Reductions in stress, burn-out and anxiety, and therefore reductions in days off work, feelings of being under pressure from too much to do and too little time, improved ability to manage thoughts and behaviour, an increase in coping skills, motivation, planning and problem solving, and taking more time to relax2.
- Enhanced job performance, including better classroom management and organisation, greater ability to prioritise, to see the whole picture, to be more self-motivated and autonomous, to show greater attunement to students’ needs, and achieve more supportive relationships with them3.
Feedback from adults teaching MiSP’s .b programme:
- I thoroughly enjoyed it; it has also allowed me to form new relationships with pupils that I had previously not taught and further develop pre-existing relationships with other pupils.
- I felt like I was having a direct impact on students. It was amazing.
- I’m pleased with the way most of my students, who have learning difficulties , have embraced the course and taken on the ideas. They have been participating in discussions and asking lots of questions.
I have found teaching the .b curriculum a very fulfilling and enriching experience both personally and professionally and would highly recommend it to others
1. Weare, K. (2014). Impacts on the wellbeing and performance of school staff, University of Exeter & MiSP.
2. Manas, I.M., Justo, C.F., and Martinez, E.J. (2011). “Reducing levels of teacher stress and the days of sick leave in secondary school teachers through a mindfulness training programs”. Clinicia Y Salud, 22(2), 121-137. See also Franco, C., Mañas, I., Cangas, A., Moreno, E. and Gallego, J. (2010). “Reducing teachers” psychological distress through mindfulness training”. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 13(2), 655-66.
3. Jennings, P. A. (2011). “Promoting teachers” social and emotional competencies to support performance and reduce burnout”. In A. Cohan and A. Honigsfeld (Eds.) Breaking the Mold of Pre-service and In-service Teacher Education: Innovative and successful practices for the 21st century. New York: Rowman and Littlefield. See also Napoli, M. (2004). Mindfulness training for teachers: A pilot program. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 9(1), 31-42.
This project will take place over 24 months:
- Recruitment of 30 AP providers and 60 staff participants
- Eight week mindfulness training course for all participants
- Two months ongoing mindfulness practice by participants
- All participants attend the Teach .b course
- Programme delivery in participant schools
- Collation of feedback from children, participants and headteachers
- CPD day for all participants
- Publication of project impact report
The project is now underway so we are unable to offer further places. If you and your setting are interested in our curricula, you can find further information here:
- .begin – eight-week personal mindfulness course
- dots – mindfulness for 3-6 year-olds
- Paws b – mindfulness for 7-11 year-olds
- .breathe – mindfulness for 9-14 year-olds
- .b – mindfulness for 11-18 year-olds
If you would like any further information about MAPS or Mindfulness in Schools Project, please email: email@example.com