Tonbridge teacher chairs national education conference

Tonbridge School Housemaster Richard Burnett is chairing a major conference this month on the topic of Mindfulness in education.

The annual MiSP (Mindfulness in Schools Project) event, taking place in London on Friday 26 April, is aimed at anyone wishing to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the subject. 

Mindfulness trains us to direct our attention to whatever is happening in the present moment: our breathing, thoughts, emotions, or even everyday activities like walking and eating. This awareness means we can respond more skilfully to whatever life throws at us. 

Speakers at the conference include the writer and comedian Ruby Wax, Caroline Lucas MP, award-winning mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin, and Sir Steve Lancashire, Chief Executive of the REAch2 academy trust and advisor to the Department for Education.

Mr Burnett, Co-founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, said: “The purpose of the conference is to inspire educators and parents to bring mindfulness to their schools, and to show its potential as an effective tool for living, and flourishing, in these busy times.

“We have a fantastic line-up of speakers, but I am also looking forward to hearing the views and experiences of some of the children and young people who are taking part. One of these, former Tonbridge pupil Luke Naylor-Perrott (WH 2010-15), has done some pioneering work at the University of Cambridge in the field of mental health.” 

Tonbridge has been teaching mindfulness for more than 15 years and was the first school to put the subject on the curriculum for all pupils in Year 10. “Since then it has slowly but surely become part of the culture here,” Mr Burnett adds. “Though we have a very busy school, mindfulness teaches the value of simply stopping for a while and, for example, turning our attention to something we do 20,000 times a day but rarely notice: our breathing.

“I hope the conference will inspire others to follow Tonbridge’s example. We teach the .b curriculum to all Year 10 boys, and there are advanced classes for Years 11, 12, or 13 who want to deepen their practice, as well as drop-in sessions. Staff are also trained, both for their own wellbeing and to set an example for those they look after. It is part of a whole school approach to pastoral care, and my hope is that our boys will leave Tonbridge valuing their mindfulness experience as much as any of the traditional curriculum subjects they are learning.”

Pictured: Richard Burnett teaching Mindfulness at Tonbridge.