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Mind training launched at two Welsh primary schools to help pupils manage worries

15 Mar 2024 4 minute read
School children during class. Photo Danny Lawson PA Images

Compassionate mind training has been rolled out at two Welsh primary schools to help children manage their worries.

The 6-session courses, which have been designed by researchers at the University of Derby, teach pupils about how their brains work, how to handle difficult emotions, and the importance of offering themselves and others compassion.

168 pupils were involved in the pilot that was rolled out at Garnteg Primary in Pontypool and Malpas Court Primary in Newport.

Participating pupils say the course gave them practical tools for managing their concerns.


One pupil said: “When I get into a bit of a mood I can use one of the practices to calm me down.”

Another pupil said the lessons influenced their personality by helping them become less angry and have a better ability to calm themselves down when they’re stressed.

Both pupils and teachers say they noticed a significant change in classroom behaviour since the course was rolled out.

One pupil in the study said: “I have felt more welcomed in class. I have been more accepted by the students in my class.”

Elizbaeth Williams, a mindfulness teacher who helped with the roll-out of the course at Garnteg Primary, said: “The 9-11 year olds I’ve been teaching have been excited, and even relieved, when they recognise that how they are feeling is part of how their minds and bodies work.

“This gives them a basis to be kinder to themselves and apply the practices they’ve learned.

“It’s a real privilege to lead a calm place practice and feel the energy in the room quieten and calm. You can see the impact in their faces and body language, teachers too!”


Interventions that can help to reduce student anxiety are highly prized by educators as mental health issues among young people and rates of suicide increase.

Researchers argue that an increasingly competitive educational environment – characterised by frequent exams and pressure to succeed – are a significant factor behind a worrying trend.

Prof Frances Maratos who led the research, says the courses offer not only an intervention that can help them manage stress but also a new way of thinking about the purpose of education.

She said: “A serious weakness of our schooling system is that it is still primarily based upon high-stakes performance testing, rather than developing the whole child.

“This is a huge oversight when one considers that healthy social connections and good wellbeing are extremely important for not just academic success but future life success also.

“If we want to support our children to flourish, then schools need to be enabled to widen curricula to include good quality and evidenced wellbeing lessons that support the development of the child as part of wider (school) inclusive communities.”

“This study adds to the growing body of evidence about the power of compassion to enhance wellbeing and prosocial behaviours.

“What we need now is support to help expand this programme and make its benefits available to many more children. We need our government and other bodies to help us integrate CMT and other forms of psychological wellbeing development into expected school curricula.

“We want to be raising a generation of children who flourish in life, and this includes feeling confident, courageous, kind, and connected to others.”

An academic study of the effects of the course released earlier this year showed that the intervention is effective in reducing pupils’ anxiety and stress levels.

Prof Maratos and others involved in the study – including the Compassion in Education network being developed internationally by the Global Compassion Coalition are now seeking support from education bodies and lawmakers to help fund and promote the programme.

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