Mindfulness and relaxation - schools in England set to take part in mental health trial

Schools in England are set to take part in one of the largest mental health trials in the world.

Up to 370 schools will be involved in the scheme to boost evidence about what works to support mental health and well-being

Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced the trial on Monday to mark the start of Mental Health Week.

Hundreds of children and young people will learn how to use a range of methods from mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to help them regulate their emotions.

These methods will be used alongside pupil sessions with mental health experts.

The study will run until 2021 and aims to give schools new evidence about what works best for their students' mental health and well-being.

Up to 370 schools in England will take part in the trial. Credit: PA

Mr Hinds said: "As a society, we are much more open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse.

"Schools and teachers don’t have all the answers, nor could they, but we know they can play a special role which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools.

"These trials are key to improving our understanding of how practical, simple advice can help young people cope with the pressures they face.

"To support this, we’re introducing compulsory health education in all schools, within which children will start to be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, wellbeing and happiness right from the start of primary school."

Led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in partnership with University College London, the school study is now in its second wave and recruiting more primary and secondary schools to join.

The trials will test five different approaches, including two focused on increasing awareness in secondary schools through short information sessions either led by a specialist instructor or by trained teachers.

Three approaches in primary and secondary schools will focus on lighter-touch approaches such as exercises drawn from mindfulness practice, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques and recognising the importance of support networks including among their own peers.

Education secretary Damian Hinds announced the trial on Monday. Credit: PA

An estimated half of all children in care meet the criteria for a possible mental health disorder, compared to one in 10 children outside the care system.

Mental health assessment pilots across nine areas, also run by the Anna Freud Centre, will look at providing improved mental health assessments for children entering the care system.

Action for Children’s director of policy and campaigns Imran Hussain said: “Every day our frontline services see children and teenagers struggling to get to grips with how they fit into the increasingly complex modern world – contending with things like intense pressure at school, bullying or problems at home, all while being bombarded by social media.

“It’s really encouraging to see the Government taking action to tackle the children’s mental health crisis by trialling different approaches in schools.

“We know from our own school programmes how vital it is to step in early with support to stop problems in their tracks."

The nine areas from across England that will work on the mental health and wellbeing assessments for children entering care are: Brighton & Hove, Devon, Doncaster, London Borough of Merton, North Yorkshire, North Tyneside, Salford, Staffordshire and West Berkshire.