RISING stress-levels of pupils in secondary schools have led five Church of England schools in the diocese of Durham to set up “prayer spaces” for pupils to go to, during break and lunch times.
One head teacher said that it had had more of an impact on student well-being than any other school project. Teachers report a change in attitude towards prayer, faith, and God, as well as more willingness to talk about feelings and issues.
The prayer-spaces project, funded by a charity, the St Hild and St Bede Trust, was run in five C of E secondary schools: the Venerable Bede Academy, Sunderland; Ian Ramsey Academy, Stockton; St Aidan’s Academy, Darlington; Whitburn Academy, South Tyneside; and St Hild’s School, Hartlepool.
The executive head teacher of two of the schools, Ian Ramsey and Venerable Bede, Gill Booth, said: “We initially chose Year 7, as they also have to contend with the transition from primary to secondary school. However, many other students were involved, as the prayer spaces were left open during break and lunch.
“The feedback was extraordinary, with students reporting that they felt peaceful, and enjoyed exploring their feelings in a place where no one would judge them. No project that we have used in school has had a bigger impact on student well-being than this one, and it is something that many of our pupils would like to see as an annual event.”
The spaces were accessible for all students, whether they believed in God or not.
The Head of School at Venerable Bede, David Airey, said that teachers recognised that schools could not diagnose mental-health problems, and that GPs needed to be involved for some students.
He went on: “A prayer space, be it a spiritual or reflective experience, offers a really important opportunity. It gives young people some avenues and some space to explore how they are feeling about themselves and the world around them; and, even more importantly, an opportunity to let go of things they are holding on to.”