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Church minister warns school lessons on mindfulness should be fully secular

Mon 04 Feb 2019
By Premier Journalist

A Baptist minister has welcomed plans for pupils in 370 schools to be taught mindfulness but has warned that the teaching should be fully secular.

The plan was announced by the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds on Monday and involves children learning how to use a range of methods including breathing exercises to manage their emotions.

The trial will run until 2021and has been launched to mark Children's Mental Health Week.

Shaun Lambert, who is senior minister at Stanmore Baptist Church and the author of a number of books on mindfulness, told Premier that Christian parents should check that the content of the teaching is fully secular and not tending towards Buddhism and other philosophies.

He said: "As Christian parents, we can practise discernment, so certainly under this sort of major trial, there should only be sort of tried and tested secular mindfulness practices that are being introduced. So there shouldn't be anything that has a faith element to it. That's the sort of question you can ask as a Christian parent.

"If these practices enable our children to sort of pay attention more clearly, to get less distracted, to cope better with exam nerves, you know, these are good things, but I think information and being well-informed is really important. And I think that's one of the confusions - we're not really sure what mindfulness is."

Lambert said we all have capacities given to us by God which are mindful capacities, for attention, awareness, being able to regulate our emotions, being able to know what is going on inside us with our thoughts and our feelings.

Concern for children's mental health has increased recently particularly with the pressures created by social media and online content.

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

Nine areas across England will work on mental health and well-being assessments for children entering care. They are: Brighton & Hove, Devon, Doncaster, London Borough of Merton, North Yorkshire, North Tyneside, Salford, Staffordshire and West Berkshire.

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