Meditation school to transfer to state sector

The Independent, UK/January 29, 2011

Britain is set to get its first state school dedicated to the values of transcendental meditation. A private school run by followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi will transfer to the state sector in September. The Maharishi School in Ormskirk, Lancashire, has been given the green light to be part of the first tranche of Education Secretary Michael Gove's "free" schools.

Mr Gove announced yesterday that 35 "free school" applications had received the go-ahead. In all, 249 applications have been received by the Department for Education to join the scheme. Under the "free schools" policy, parents, teachers and charities can open schools - funded by the taxpayer.

Pupils at the Maharishi School - for four-to-16-year-olds - have three 10-minute meditation sessions every day. The school has smaller-than-average classes and just 80 pupils. It says meditation calms pupils, making it easier to learn, and claims it could double its numbers with state support. Head Derek Cassells said: "All scientific research shows transcendental meditation brings more balance to the brain... It helps with behaviour and improved relationships with other people."

His school's philosophy is that of the Maharishi, pictured, whose movement gained prominence in the 1960's when The Beatles became converts.

Mr Gove said ministers hoped every new state school would be an academy or "free" school. He spoke ahead of a conference on "free" schools today when he will be accompanied by leaders of the Charter school movement in the United States - which is advising ministers on the "free" schools' policy.

Charter schools do not recognise teacher unions, but Mr Gove said it would be up to individual school heads to decide if they do. US education experts said it was essential schools could "terminate" weak teachers.

Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, said that there must be "reasonable processes in place for terminating non-performing and under-performing teachers."

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