New research by mindfulness leader Smiling Mind has found two in five (41%) teachers believe they lack adequate resources and support to teach personal and social capabilities, vital in children’s emotional, social and academic development.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.
The practice has been used in schools around the world to improve students' concentration and reduce anxiety, particularly around the time of high-stakes exams.
A recent survey of 500 Australian teachers found that they believe they are insufficiently supported to do this effectively, despite 93% saying it was a high priority for them.
The main reasons listed were a lack of funding (28%), that it was not a priority for their school (27%), or that their school simply doesn’t know where to access resources and support (22%).
However, in the last 12 months, Smiling Mind has seen a 70% increase in the number of teachers accessing their resources – now more than 49,000 educators using the Smiling Mind resources in schools across Australia.
“Almost all teachers surveyed said that student wellbeing and the development of personal and social capabilities was a high priority for them,” Dr Addie Wootten, CEO of Smiling Mind said.
“Many of them understand these capabilities will not only help children academically, but also emotionally and mentally. They are critical in ensuring our children can grow up to be happy, healthy and productive adults.”
Dr Wootten said that despite general capabilities playing a significant role in the Australian Curriculum, there hasn’t been much progress in terms of supporting teachers in this area.
“As well as helping develop important social and emotional skills, mindfulness has been proven to support learning – helping to settle and focus students, and develop important cognitive skills such as attention, concentration and memory,” she said.
Tip Kennedy, principal at Richmond West Primary School agreed with this sentiment.
“Supporting student wellbeing is one of the most important parts of our work as teachers but with conflicting school priorities it is often under resourced and not given the time needed,” Kennedy said.
“Our challenge in schools is to do this well.”
Kennedy said the mindfulness curriculum supports teachers to implement an evidence-based approach to student wellbeing.
“I have seen the positive impact that mindfulness has had on both primary and secondary students I have worked with,” Kennedy said.
“This resource should be made available to all teachers looking to improve student wellbeing.”
Dr Wootten said the Smiling Mind schools program is an important part of the organisation’s strategy to reach five million young people by 2021.
“So far we have reached 1.225 million young people and 49,000 educators, and we hope to reach many more as we develop our new blended online learning program,” she said.