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Mindfulness training

Source: PSE - April/ May 16

Ken Harrison, strategic lead of HeadStart Knowsley at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, explains the positive benefits mindfulness courses have delivered across the area.

In Knowsley, we believe that helping young people to develop their emotional resilience skills enables them to better deal with difficult circumstances and make better-informed life choices. 

This is the principle which underpins our successful Big Lottery-funded HeadStart Knowsley programme. We began developing the initiative in early 2014. Bringing together a range of partners from across the borough – health organisations, the emergency services, the local authority and the voluntary sector – we designed an initial programme to boost the emotional resilience of 10-14 year olds. 

We have taken a whole community approach to emotional wellbeing, aiming to embed mindfulness within our schools, communities, local families and businesses. 

Working alongside Mind Flow Ltd, a specialist mindfulness company, we have delivered training to help children, young people and adults to understand themselves, their minds, emotions, bodies and relationships with others. 

These sessions provide those individuals with the tools and strategies to cope in an adaptive way with stress, challenges or difficulty in their lives. 

This ‘Stop-Gap-Go’ approach is not a quick fix. It is a relational, interdependent methodology which sows the seed for long-term systemic change. 

In our schools 

Pupils, parents and teachers at Huyton Central School took part in an initial programme of mindfulness training in 2015. The school is now engaged in a pilot study in which teachers and teaching assistants are receiving training to cultivate and embed mindfulness practices within their classes. 

The staff are taught on site over an eight-week period and are required to carry out home practice, keeping a reflective journal of the process. They deliver a short mindfulness session to their class each day, undertake theory assessments and – post-programme – take part in supervision sessions. 

In our community 

We are currently working with community leaders in Knowsley on a ‘train the trainer’ initiative for individuals who have already been through the eight-week, mindfulness programme. This will give those individuals the skills to deliver the programme within their own community, following our seven-step approach: 

  1. Take part in eight-week mindfulness course
  2. Reflection and practice
  3. Teacher training course
  4. Community mindfulness activities (arts/yoga)
  5. Training to deliver the eight-week course
  6. GP referrals – eight-week community programme
  7. Community of practice – the teachers receive long-term support, nurturing and supervision 

We are holding positive conversations with Knowsley Clinical Commissioning Group and local GPs about referring people who show early signs of anxiety and depression to attend the mindfulness course. 

In the workplace 

Businesses in Knowsley are encouraged to think positively about their employees’ emotional wellbeing and resilience through the Knowsley ‘Working Well’ programme, which was an award winner in the Royal Society of Public Health 2015 Health & Wellbeing Awards. We are delivering mindfulness sessions as part of the programme to help local business leaders and their staff manage their emotions, combat anxiety and stress, and avoid burnout. 


In each community setting that we deliver mindfulness projects, a key element of the work is to evaluate effectiveness. 

Through the ‘Stop-Gap-Go’ process, we obtain quantitative data before and after each programme to measure the difference made to each participant. We have been delighted to note significant improvements within every test conducted with each group. These findings are supported by our qualitative findings. 

The positive impact of the Knowsley HeadStart programme is perhaps best summed up by the parent of a child with special educational needs, both of whom have taken part: “My son has developed greater self-awareness. We are always doing the mindful practices together, it is wonderful. This programme has been a wonderful shared experience. It has taught me to take time for myself and not to feel guilty, as many of us mothers with children with special needs often do. My son has now had his medication significantly reduced, and I am convinced that it is due to this programme.”

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