Improving Lives: exploring the effects of mindfulness training

Improving Lives: exploring the effects of mindfulness training

Gateshead Council learning Skills, ALD Hair and Beauty Academy, Foundation of Light, North East Counselling Services, Darlington Borough Council

The initial aims and objectives of the project were to:

  • Improve attendance, retention and progression of 16-24-year-old learners on Study Programmes and Traineeships.
  • Improve learners’ ability to focus on a positive future.
  • Improve tutor resilience.

However, as the project progressed, we realised that some amendments needed to be made to these aims and objectives. After consultation with the partners, we revised them to:

  • Improve attendance, retention and progression of any learners who have challenging lives.
  • Provide learners with a range of coping mechanisms that enables them to focus on a positive future.
  • Improve tutors’ resilience that enables them to deal with and recover from challenging situations with learners.


As a provider of a whole range of learning programmes, we had identified that in some curriculum areas, learners who had more challenging lives were least likely to succeed, have poorer attendance and were more likely to leave their learning programme early. This was particularly prominent in courses that were designed for young people who had few or no GCSE’s. In our 2015/2016 Self-Assessment Report, we had identified that attendance at Employability courses within the Study Programmes were inadequate at 40% and even worse (14%) in English and maths sessions. Progression to employment was very poor at 20% and marginally better for progression into Apprenticeships at 37%.

As a local authority, Gateshead Council is committed to “creating more opportunities for young people to flourish by addressing some of the key barriers and challenges facing them and their families.” A strategic plan, Children Gateshead- The plan for children, young people and families in Gateshead, Gateshead Children’s Trust, 2014-2017 sets out the commitment required to young people and how the inequalities in terms of health and life chances will be addressed in order to provide young people with the best possible start in life. The plan also recognises that education plays a key role in improving life chances, specifically the role of Traineeships and Apprenticeships, and that some young people need a great amount of support to make the transition from school to further education, training and employment.

One of the most significant elements within the plan is identifying the importance of social and emotional well-being in relation to health development. It goes on to say “emotional resilience underpins the wellbeing of young people and provides the bedrock for moving into adulthood. Social and emotional wellbeing creates the foundations for healthy behaviours and educational attainment.” In addition, it helps to prevent behavioural problems, substance misuse and mental health problems.

In Gateshead, 5.3% of young people aged 16-19 years old are NEET (Connexions Performance Report January 2017), higher than the Tyne and Wear average with 27% classed as ‘caring for own child’. Participation in education, training or employment reduces by over 20% at ages 18-19.

learningSkills had been working with disengaged and challenging young people for over 10 years, initially in collaboration with the Youth Service and in the last 5 years through direct delivery of Study Programmes and Traineeships. We have a policy of never refusing a learner access to education which results in us working with some of the most challenging learners. There have been some significant successes along the way but there has also been a proportion of young people that we have been unable to fully support due to the complexity of their needs, inappropriate behaviour that resulted in removal from the programme or a lack of motivation and ability to plan for a positive future. This led to falling success rates, poor attendance and low retention on programmes.

Interventions and remodelling of the curriculum established that the teaching was of a high standard and tutors were well equipped to deliver appropriate programmes. However, despite significant effort, many of the problems young people were facing were too complex to solve and learners were leaving early, unable to cope with the added pressure of attending a learning programme.

During a CPD event with the teaching team, we identified that one of the tutors was a trained Mindfulness Practitioner. Mindfulness is a practice that individuals and groups can do on a day-to-day basis that can enable them to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. As a mind-body approach, it can increase the ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices. A growing body of evidence has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful, they feel less anxious, stressed and depressed. It can have a positive effect on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, brain, body and behaviour as well as a person’s relationships with others.

In a study at Brown University, researchers found that those with higher scores for mindfulness were significantly more likely to have healthy glucose levels than those with a lower score. (Everyday Mindfulness linked to healthy glucose levels, Brown University, February 23, 2016

The University of Pennsylvania found that people who were more mindful are less likely to be ashamed when presented with health advice and are therefore more motivated to change. (Mindfulness motivates people to make healthier choices, University of Pennsylvania, January 30 2017

In addition, the more mindful you are the more likely it is that you won’t overeat and less likely to be obese. (Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Obesity and Central Adiposity: the New England Family Study, Eric B. Loucks, Willoughby B. Britton, Chanelle J. Howe, Roee Gutman, Stephen E. Gilman, Judson Brewer, Charles B. Eaton, Stephen L. Buka. International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, April 2016, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp224-233). Mindfulness also combats anxiety, improves resilience, focus and memory, be used for pain relief and improves sleep.

After some discussions and further research, the benefits of practicing mindfulness with young people became clear. In September 2016, the tutor began a short 12-week mindfulness programme with 5 learners. Despite the short timeframe, some positive results began to emerge. Learner’s attendance and punctuality began to improve, self-esteem and levels of confidence appeared to increase and learners with more complex lives started to seek help with dealing with their problems. It was clear that a longer mindfulness programme, embedded into the curriculum was required.

Through appraisals, we had already identified 5 members of staff that were interested in mindfulness and could be involved in the project. In addition, learningSkills works with over 100 subcontractors and we recognised that the concerns we faced when working with young people were mirrored in some of these organisations. After an initial consultation, we identified four partners who would benefit most from the project. These were:

  • ALD Hair and Beauty Academy, a small training provider delivering Study Programmes, Traineeships and Apprenticeships to young people, many of whom have complex personal lives and multiple barriers to learning
  • Barnardo’s, a national children’s charity working with hard to reach young people and their families helping them with social and behavioural issues, learning difficulties, relationship breakdowns, offending history, low confidence and self-esteem and previous poor experience of school
  • Foundation of Light, a charity that works with young people to empower them to gain employment. Through a combination of classroom and physical activity, they improve skills and develop positive psychology and emotional intelligence
  • North East Counselling Services, a tailored counselling service with specialisms in working with young people with a wide range of issues including poor mental and emotional health, low quality accommodation, dysfunctional relationships, lack of coping strategies and low levels of confidence and self-esteem

We established that the level of participation in the project would need to be manageable and not impact too much on their day-to-day business whilst still providing a benefit to the young people they worked with. After the initial partnership meeting, it was decided that the project would:

  • Involve one or two members of staff for a few hours per week
  • Involve learners/ clients
  • Complement existing work
  • Be evidence rich but paperwork light
  • Provide the opportunity for professional development and sharing of best practice

Part way through the project Barnardo’s, due to work commitments, had to withdraw. However, after meeting at one of the workshop events and expressing such an interest in the project, Darlington Council were asked to join the project.

Project Activities and Outputs

Overview of Activitiestwo photos of people lying on massage beds relaxed

Mindfulness would be the main focus of the project and the impact this would have on learners and staff. However, we were aware that training to become a Mindfulness Practitioner takes a considerable amount of time and is not suitable for everyone. Therefore, learningSkills and the partners needed to identify staff that were not only able to participate in the project but understand the concept of mindfulness and be willing and able to embrace it as a way of life. We also knew that the Mindfulness Programme we had commissioned through Living Mindfully would not be completed until after the project’s end date. However, what we were confident of was that the techniques learned in the initial stages, and with support from the already qualified tutor, we would still see benefits to learners and positive outcomes would begin to emerge.

Each member of the project team was asked to devise a ‘mini intervention’. This should:

  • Involve learners- the number would be dependent on:
    • the type of intervention- more complicated interventions may only involve one learner, whereas more simple interventions may involve a group of learners
    • access to learners – some partners may have access to a whole range of learners, others may only have a few
    • the needs of the learners – some may have very complex problems and others less so
  • Use mindfulness in some way to improve some aspect within a learner’s life that could subsequently helped improve their retention, attendance or success
  • Be evidence rich and use a variety of methods to record the intervention and impact
  • Have ‘buy-in’ from the learners to ensure they are fully aware of the intervention they are participating in
  • Involve consultation with another professional, either internally or externally that enables collaboration to make the intervention stronger

The project lead met with each of the project team to help establish and advise on the mini interventions. The planned interventions were:

  • Using mindfulness to improve attendance in year 11 alternative education programme
  • Using mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises with a learner who has severe anxiety to help them cope with the college environment
  • Developing the concept of ‘being kind’ with a learner who has low self-esteem but channels this through aggressive behaviour
  • Encouraging focus by developing kinaesthetic resources to encourage writing skills with a learner
  • Building confidence through mindfulness with learners with learning difficulties
  • Exploring mindfulness and Solution Focused Therapy as a way of seeing a positive future
  • Using meditation in class to see learners’ levels of stress reduce and able to focus on learning
  • Using mindfulness with learners to help close the multiple ‘windows’ and concentrate on the here and now

In addition, the project team would attend the Mindfulness Programme which consisted of:

  • An 8-week, 16 hour Living Mindfully Programme. This consists of:
    • Week 1: Automatic pilot
    • Week 2: Dealing with barriers
    • Week 3: Mindfulness of the breath and the body in movement
    • Week 4: Staying present
    • Week 5: Accepting and allowing- letting be
    • Week 6: Thoughts are not facts
    • Week 7: Taking care of yourself
    • Week 8: Using what we have learned
  • A 6-month Mindfulness Practitioner Support Programme and Personal Practice that includes a series of monthly workshops, lectures and one to one sessions that develops self-practice
  • A 3-day, 24 hour Living Mindfully in Education Programme examining the following:
    • Know your mind
    • Know your thoughts
    • Know your body
    • Know your emotions
    • Know friendliness
    • Know your life

The Mindfulness Programme, in its entirety, would not be completed by the end of the project official end date. However, we were confident that techniques learned early on in the programme would enable the mini-interventions to be conducted in a useful way.

As well as the mini interventions and the attendance on the mindfulness programme, all of the project team would be required to attend a series of meetings. These were scheduled as follows:

  • April 2017- initial scoping exercise with partners to confirm project aims and objectives
  • May 2017- project planning and identification of project team
  • June 2017- clarifying and action planning
  • August 2017- confirming mini interventions
  • October 2017- sharing outcomes of mini interventions
  • November 2017- planning for dissemination

Research Methods and Means of Collecting Evidence

A variety of methods were used to capture evidence from the mini-interventions and the Mindfulness programme. The staff involved in the mini-interventions were asked to choose from a range of evidence, including but not limited to:

  • Course and session planning documents such as schemes of work, lesson plans, learner profiles, initial assessments
  • Resources they may have used either with the learner or for planning purposes
  • Multi-media such as photos, videos, Apps, online learning tools that were used or helped to demonstrate what happened in the mini-intervention
  • Presentation slides, completed flipcharts, post-it notes
  • Results from questionnaires, surveys, tests or assessments
  • Report, action research activities, learner and staff written feedback, anecdotal evidence and research into teaching and learning theories

Professional Learning

The mindfulness course commenced in September and completed at the beginning of November 2017. Nine practitioners were identified from learningSkills and the partner organisations. Most of the practitioners had heard of mindfulness as a concept and two had briefly practiced it. They had identified themselves as participants for a variety of reasons such as:

  • They had seen the benefits mindfulness had on others and wanted to replicate it
  • Wanted to learn more so they could support their learners who were struggling with depression and anxiety
  • Was a ‘good fit’ with their role in their organisation
  • Wanted to explore it in the hope it would improve some aspect of their own lives, particularly stress and anxiety levels

All practitioners particularly enjoyed spending time on themselves, away from the pressures of work and home and used it as some self-therapy. Many found it challenging to focus their mind for a full 2 hours but recognised that it was important to go through this process to enable them to understand how a learner may feel undertaking mindfulness.

Most of the practitioners identified that they often operated on ‘automatic pilot’ and had multiple thoughts in their head throughout the day. One practitioner identified early on that they were prone to over-analysing situations and tried to solve problems that were out of their control. They discovered that they held their stress and tension in their shoulders and neck but learned to breath correctly to release this.

The practitioners reported that their own stress levels reduced and they had developed some useful techniques for switching off. Although in its early stages, they were able to report how they would use some of the techniques with their learners such as:

  • Using breathing exercises to regain composure when stress levels increase
  • Using the ‘home base’ and a body scan as a means of distraction when learners may become distressed or angry
  • Being able to advise learners on how to deal with anxiety and stress
  • Able to justify trying techniques because others have found them successful
  • Using breathing exercises with learners to improve mood

Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

Case studies reflecting upon the impact of each of the interventions are included in the appendices.  Although the full impact of the project is yet to be realised the following has been noted:

  • Tutors use a variety of techniques to assess learners’ ‘readiness to learn’ and make adjustments to their planning to reflect this.
  • Strategies to relax and reinforce the tutor/ learner relationship have resulted in more mature learner behaviour and improved classroom management.
  • The organisation and content of sessions has become more learner centred and responsive to learner needs e.g. Access to classrooms 2 hrs before to catch up/revise resulting in lower anxiety levels for learners.
  • Marking policy adjusted to allow more time for quality feedback.

Substantial impact on the health and well-being of tutors has been noted since the techniques have been adopted. This in turn has impacted upon the well-being of learners as staff have been able to confidently share techniques that have worked for them e.g. using breathing exercises to regain composure when stress levels increase, change mood, using the ‘home base’ and a body scan as a means of distraction when distressed or angry.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisational practices

Through the project we have worked with a range of sub-contractors and services which has resulted in a more joined up approach, more accurate referrals and the acquisition of some simple but effective counselling skills for discussing concerns with learners which we can now implement.

What each organisation brought:

  • Introduced to a range of services which will enable us to refer learners more easily such as counselling
  • Use of simple counselling techniques that can be used when discussing concerns with learners
  • Sharing the impact of mindfulness with Darlington local authority
  • Joined up approach to learner referral between Prime and Subcontractor

As a result of the Mindfulness project, learningSkills have seen a number of changes to our organisational practices:

  • A roll-on-roll-off programme for all new learners to be introduced to mindfulness on a one-to-one basis prior to joining the classes, has been rolled out. This prepares the learners for the meditation they complete within the sessions.
  • Designing a mindfulness curriculum for learners.
  • Designated team of mindfulness practitioners who can be utilised for early intervention with staff and learners
  • Introducing mindfulness concept to all tutors at a CPD event with a view to many more tutors adopting mindfulness, training to be practitioners and using it to help learners
  • Introducing more opportunities for staff to practice mindfulness and other similar programmes such as yoga and meditation through a fully funded programme of events

Learners have clearly benefitted from the techniques, with some asking for and being granted the chance to practise mindfulness independently within the centre.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression.

A table showing significantly improved attendance, success and retention rate from 2015-2017

Although there have been extensive improvements to quality procedures, there is also strong evidence to suggest that mindfulness has contributed to improved performance at Gateshead learningSkills.

Not all learners who participated in the project were on a Study Programme or Traineeship, but a significant proportion were. Therefore, this is the measure that will be used to judge some of the impact.

There have been some significant improvements in the attendance, success and retention of learners, as can be seen in the data table above. However, it should also be recognised that this cannot all be attributed to the mindfulness project. The team who delivers the programmes (who all took part in the project) had also been through a change in management since September 2015. Many of the changes, such as new policies and procedures, action plans to ensure success, strategies to report and improve attendance, could have also contributed to the improvements. However, there is strong evidence from the mini-interventions to suggest that mindfulness has also contributed to this.

Outcomes of the Mini-Interventions

circles of paper with 'arguments dad man' and 'close arnt clean' and 'not wanting to come' and 'staying up late'

The mini-interventions were brief, mainly due to the delay in the start of the mindfulness programme. Some of the interventions changed, either before or during the activities. This was expected as some of the tutors had not yet met their learners (it was the week prior to the Autumn term) and others identified that what they had planned would no longer work due to time constraints, reluctance from the learner or learner readiness to make a change. One intervention (using scaffolded learning to engage a learner in writing tasks) did not directly include mindfulness at all but was a very useful project with a successful outcome.

It could be argued that through scaffolded learning activities, the learner became more focused, engaged, confident and aware of own abilities – all of which are principles of mindfulness. However, even in a small space of time, some progress was evident:

  • Using mindfulness to improve attendance in year 11 alternative education programme (Appendix 1):
    • The participant, Lana, was experiencing some very challenging personal circumstances including being identified as high risk of child sexual exploitation, anxiety, substance misuse (used as a way of coping with complex emotions)
    • The mini-intervention explored breathing techniques and ways to close off intrusive thoughts and feelings
    • Lana reported she enjoyed the session and enabled her to momentarily take her mind off the other things happening in her life
    • Mini intervention was stalled when Lana experienced some health issues and a crisis relating to a close member of her family
    • The last meeting with Lana was, however very productive. Used the Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence activity to determine reasons why attendance was poor. This explored the relationships between people, circumstances and events. This identified poor attendance wasn’t just due to being tired or not wanting to come but was related to deeper influences. Lana was able to ‘reframe’ her non-attendance as ‘doing the best she can in challenging circumstances’ rather than ‘being bad’ or ‘not bothered’.
    • Although too early to tell whether the mindfulness course has had any impact on her personal resilience, Lana did enjoy the sessions. She has engaged very well in her subject specific work – much more than before the mini-intervention. The breathing techniques have helped her sleep, which has been a barrier to improving her attendance in the past.
  • graphic organiser with breathing, mantras and a grounding pebble in the pocketUsing mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises with a learnerwho has severe anxiety to help them cope with the college environment (Appendix 2):
    • Young learner with mild to moderate learning difficulties and mental health needs
    • Listens to peers’ life experiences and changes them in to her own personal experiences
    • Becomes upset when peers challenge this behaviour
    • Uses breathing to focus learner until her anxieties reduce and she can return to class
    • Working successfully and learner is starting to recognise the triggers for her anxiety
  • Developing the concept of ‘being kind’ with a learner who has low self-esteem but channels this through aggressive behaviour (Appendix 3):
    • Used with a client whose emotional responses to situations and other people were immediate and instinctive and often angry, leading to aggression and difficult situations
    • Identified positive mantras that can help with grounding and self-celebration
  • Building confidence through mindfulness with learners with learning difficulties (Appendix 4):
    • Learner is 21, shy and has mild learning difficulties
    • Has difficulty focusing on classroom and homework tasks as easily distracted
    • Practices breathing exercises of 60 seconds, several times a day to enable him to learn to focus his attention
    • Initially reluctant (as he felt shy about doing it) and easily distracted
    • Now successfully manages to do this several times a day and keeps a mood diary to reflect on his thoughts and possible triggers
  • Delivery Mindfulness to learners on Study Programmes and Traineeships (Appendix 5):
    • All learners were experiencing challenging lives which resulted in poor attendance, behaviour and focus
    • Explored an 8-week course, integrated into their usual learning programme
    • 5 learners participated, all of which saw benefits within some aspect of their lives
    • Some learners stayed on beyond their end date to complete the mindfulness programme
    • All embraced the practice and some have seen significant improvements in their lives
  • Using a meditation App in class to see learner’s levels of stress reduce and able to focus on learning (Appendix 6-8):
    • Looking to see if learners focus could be enhanced and whether they could develop healthier relationships with others to combat reports of bullying
    • Used a 10-minute mindfulness practise with learners at the beginning of each teaching session
    • Learners responded exceptionally well and wanted to ‘return the favour’ by doing something nice for the tutor
    • As the programme developed, learners were less agitated, had more positive behaviour, reported feeling happier and were becoming kinder to one another (thoughtful responses and compliments amongst learners)
    • Timekeeping and attendance improved slightly and seeing less use of mobile phones
    • Learners appear more focused and follow instructions better
    • Some learners are using the App at home
  • Improving erratic attendance, aggression and disruptive behaviour (Appendix 8):
    • Worked individually with two 14-year-old learners in alternative education
    • Developed/ negotiated ground rules for the mini-intervention with the learners and ensured these were abided by throughout
    • Identified the triggers for aggressive behaviour was not being listened to and unfairness
    • Discussed positive and negative emotions, the purpose of emotions and there is no such thing as a ‘wrong emotion’
    • Followed on with discussion on actions resulting from emotions, learners felt things escalated too quickly for them to have control.
    • After discussing the effects of emotions on the body the learners were able to identify racing heart, faces becoming warm, shoulders tensing up.
    • Practiced ways to control actions such as breathing exercises, ways of sitting/ moving/ standing to feel more grounded, safe places/ safe people they can go to and places/ people they should avoid when at crisis point.
    • Initial feedback is positive. One learner has been able to (nearly) always remove themselves from negative situations. The other, where crises were happening on a daily basis, has been able to remain in lessons for one full week.
  • Improving learners’ engagement in writing skills through scaffolded learning (Appendix 9):
    • Examined learner avoidance strategies and delay tactics, levels of engagement, concentration, quality of written work and their emotional journey throughout the writing process
    • Learner on Programme of Study in Construction, working towards E2 English and is 17 years old.
    • Part of a roll-on, roll-off class and vast majority of learners come from a disadvantaged area of the community, have multiple challenges in their personal lives and have negative pre-conceptions of learning built from poor experiences of learning at school
    • Week one provided learner with linear list on how to complete a writing task which resulted in initial disengagement and avoidance to reluctant completion which lacked focus. Learners’ emotional state was negative throughout and displayed signs of anxiety.
    • Week two provided learner with similar writing task with scaffolding to provide support and encouragement. Initially given a reading task on the topic (as the learner had better reading skills). Following this, there was a discussion on the content of the text, which the learner actively and confidently engaged in.
    • Learner given a short break and returned to the writing task which was well received. After some initial self-doubt, they worked independently, applied a lot of knowledge from the previous reading and discussion. He took care with the task with evidence of proof reading and correction of errors, and stretched and challenged himself to add features to his writing. Learners emotional state throughout was calm, focused and did not distract his peers or allow his peers to distract him.
    • Week three aimed at reducing the learner’s initial self-doubt when completing a writing task.
    • Used a range of kinaesthetic resources such as flash cards, watched a video, discussed topic with peers, internet research, independent reading task.
    • The final activity involved writing a response to a colleague which the learner completed without hesitation, confidently sharing his opinions in the reply. He displayed no self-doubt and his emotional state was happy, positive and confident

Concluding Remarks

Learning from this project

This project has found that, even in a short period of time, mindfulness can contribute to outstanding teaching, learning and assessment if used in the right way. We have seen the beginnings of some significant shifts in attitudes, behaviours and beliefs from learners who have undergone the mini-interventions.

Some learners have successfully adopted mindfulness as a way to deal with on-going stress and anxiety, enabling them to continue with their learning despite multiple challenges at home. Others have used it (specifically the breathing techniques) to help them overcome short-term anxiety in the learning environment for example, when facing an exam or difficult task or when confronted with challenging behaviour from another learner. Others have learned to be kind to themselves, recognising that they are their own worst critic and are actually coping very well under difficult circumstances.

The practitioners have also learned that they can become better teachers, counsellors and support workers through practicing mindfulness. They deal better with stressful situations and can manage their anxieties more effectively. Some practitioners reported feeling more able to cope with challenges in the classroom and were more aware of how to reduce learners’ anxiety levels.

Another factor was the opportunity to take time out for themselves to complete the mindfulness course. All of the practitioners recognised they had busy lives, rarely taking a moment for reflection. The 2-hour mindfulness course enabled them to do this, and do it in the company of like-minded individuals. As well as practicing mindfulness together, they shared ideas, helped solve problems and advised on projects.

Throughout, many of the practitioners were surprised at the learners’ readiness to accept mindfulness. After some initial hesitation with one or two participants, all of them actively embraced it, keen to see some positive impact on their lives. In a number of cases, participants asked to continue with mindfulness despite the intervention or their course finishing.

However, time was a major factor in the overall success of the project. At the outset, we understood that the whole of the mindfulness programme undertaken by the practitioners would not complete within the project timescale. However, there were capacity issues which resulted in a 3-month delay in the programme starting. This meant that the mini-interventions were also delayed, not wanting to commence them until the practitioners had at least an awareness of mindfulness. This resulted in the impact of the mini-interventions not being fully realised. However, despite this, there were still some very encouraging results.

In addition, due to a change in staffing, the project manager at learningSkills changed mid-way through the project. It was identified at this stage that the project had not moved quickly enough, was behind schedule and lacked some focus around the practical elements of the project.

Another factor that hindered the success was the capacity of the practitioners to compile the evidence from the mini-interventions. Their busy schedules resulted in the interventions being completed, but being ‘evidence weak’, relying on anecdotal evidence rather than data. However, this only happened in two of the ten interventions and we are satisfied that the results were seen despite being ‘evidence weak’.


The full impact of the project has not yet been realised. There have been some small but significant shifts in both tutors’ approaches to teaching and learning but also the approach of learners. For example, we have started to see an increase in learner’s willingness to participate actively in learning, rather than be passively taught. This is especially true with younger learners who are beginning to take ownership of their learning. Tutors have become more reflective, giving more thought to the planning of sessions that will be truly inclusive to all on an educational and emotional level. Many learners appear to be developing more empathy, resulting in a more pleasant learning environment with fewer instances of poor behaviour. Learners are being kind to themselves, recognising the difficult challenges they face on a daily basis. This in turn is resulting in them being kind to others.

However, the timescale for the project was too short. There have been some increases in attendance, retention and success but it is difficult to isolate whether it was as a direct result of the mindfulness project or whether other factors (such as a change in management within the Study Programmes and Traineeships) has influenced the increase. Whilst learners have benefited from the project it is impossible at this stage to know whether the benefits will be seen long term. The tutors who participated in the mindfulness training certainly enjoyed the programme and had a desire to fully embrace a ‘mindfulness lifestyle’. As the training continues and the reality of completing a daily mindfulness practice is recognised, it will be interesting to see whether all tutors have the time and the resilience to continue to the end of the programme and eventually teach it to others.

learningSkills are interested in ensuring that the project continues. We will be monitoring the outcomes of the Mindfulness training, further mini-interventions and attendance, success and retention rates for courses where mindfulness is used to see what the full impact is.