MINDUP, A little gift with huge impact

By Lynne Weir, Headteacher, West Rise Community Infant School


When a child states ‘mindful breathing calms my amygdala down and helps me think’ something truly special has occurred in the developing brain. This is MindUP in action.

Daily at West Rise Community Infant School, children astound us as they comment on how mindful breathing helps them as learners. Even our most vulnerable children show that they can now self-regulate using mindful breathing. Throughout the whole school, children do Brain Breaks to engage with this breath-work for a short session 3 times a day to reduce learning loss at times of transition and to increase focus as children begin a task.

Our MindUP Experience

Back in 2013, many children struggled to meet school expectations in terms of behaviour and levels of engagement. MindUP arrived just as we were developing a unique environment purposefully designed to promote best behaviour and within it, MindUP flourished.

Our partnership with The Goldie Hawn Foundation and introduction of MindUP was the result of a brilliant chain of events. One of our school governors attended training to explore how to reduce anxiety for their own child through ‘10 Mindful Minutes’, as explained in Goldie Hawn’s book. They immediately saw that MindUP would be perfect for West Rise and within a few days we were signed up!

Over the following months, staff undertook training from The Goldie Hawn Foundation. The impact, even in the early days, was remarkable as children absorbed key messages. Staff, including those who were unsure at first, saw how the curriculum and Brain Breaks positively affected the children. What we had not expected was the immense impact mindful breathing had on children’s ability to focus on learning. One child commented that ‘mindful breath helps make my maths better!’ Not only did children’s behaviour calm but attitudes towards self and others improved considerably.

The Impact of MindUP

West Rise today is a place of exceptional calm and purpose. We have carefully chosen resources strategically placed around school to offer children and adults the opportunity to pause, engage the senses and reflect. And we have an indoor fountain for mindful listening!

MindUP has also had an impact on parents, with one reporting that ‘the breathing the children do helps at home’. A busy mum was recently reminded to ‘just calm and breathe mummy!’ And even in the Nursery our youngest children engage with mindful breathing, with Ofsted commenting that: ‘children are ‘mindful’ of their own thoughts and actions. This has helped to greatly improve children’s behaviour and concentration.’

MindUP is now placed within the school’s vision, aims, approach and crucially, within the School Improvement Plan. It is key to the school’s Learning Tree Curriculum, at the roots of the tree, in fact, where children learn the key values of gratitude, optimism, kindness and respect. All staff at West Rise are ambassadors for MindUP and some have undertaken further training in courses associated with mindfulness and positive psychology.

Practising Gratitude

We are very grateful for MindUP and its incredible impact. Staff express their gratitude frequently, in particular for the Brain Breaks, giving them a moment to pause, breathe, settle and then teach the children with fresh energy.

Such gratitude was captured recently during staff training: ‘A few years ago if I was asked, I probably would have said that I didn’t have time in my school day for any mindful breathing, but having worked at West Rise where this practice is expected, I now consider mindful breathing to be essential. It’s like pressing a ‘reset’ button in the brain and makes teaching and learning a more positive and productive experience for all involved wherever I teach’.

Thank you MindUP, a true gift to our school.

Hear more from Lynne and children at West Rise School in this video.

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