The Dharma School
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|Head teacher||Peter Murdock|
|Location||White House, Ladies Mile Road
Dharma Primary School is the only primary school in Britain to offer an education based on Buddhist values and is thought to be the only Buddhist primary school in Europe. It is an independent school based in East Sussex, on the south east coast of England. The school is open to children aged 3–11 from all religious faiths and cultural backgrounds, providing an academic education based on the National Curriculum, combined with Buddhist teachings to support the development of mindfulness, compassion and communal responsibility. The 14th Dalai Lama is a patron of the school
The school now educates about 80 children in a large historic house and grounds in Patcham, Brighton. Fees are £1,900 a term 2011-2012. Children of all abilities and backgrounds are eligible to attend. The school offers a broad curriculum, with small class sizes and a caring, family atmosphere. There are 10-20 children in each class with a teacher and an assistant.
The idea of founding a Dharma Primary School evolved from the family camps at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire in the mid-1980s. Early in the 90s this interaction between parents, children and members of the Buddhist monastery inspired a group of parents to meet in Brighton with the aim of opening the first Buddhist School for children in the U.K.
Dharma Primary School was founded by a group of parents in 1994, after two years of fund-raising. On 9 September 1994, the school opened its doors to four children in a house in Queen's Park, Brighton. On this day the school received blessings from founder patron, Luang Por Sumedho, a Buddhist monk and teacher, and blessings were also sent from the Dalai Lama, who later became a patron of the school. This was the first full-time school in Great Britain based on the Buddhist faith. By 2000 the co-educational school was teaching children between the ages of three and eleven. By 2005 the number of pupils stood at seventy, with almost equal numbers of boys and girls.
With the support of patrons including Noy Thomson (M.R.Saisvadi Svasti) and Peter Carey, Buddhists and founder trustees, the school moved to The White House, Patcham, in June 1995 with eleven children. A nursery and reception class and three mixed-age primary classes were later established.
Mindfulness in Education
The practice of mindfulness is taught in offices, prisons and the military, and in schools. In the UK, the focus of the Mindfulness in Education movement has been on taking mindfulness programmes into secondary schools, where the approach has been shown to help in managing exam stress. Engaging young children with mindfulness requires an experienced approach that takes into account their shorter attention spans and emotional development. Dharma Primary School integrates mindfulness, as a deeper Buddhist ethos, for very young children. The practice may be of benefit to children during their primary school years when the brain’s limbic system (that controls emotion and behaviour) is still developing; scientific research has shown that core life skills, emotional literacy and personality traits formed during this crucial period help determine how we will function as adults.
The school integrates short sessions of silent or guided meditation several times a week for young children and connects mindfulness with regular daily activities such as eating, working and playing as a way to develop patience, compassion and self-awareness. In daily meditation the older children are given a range of opportunities to reflect on and discuss experiences that have affected their inner world. On Fridays parents are invited to the school puja, during which there is usually quiet time for meditation, after which the children perform or show some work, or a story is told. As well as mindfulness and meditation, yoga is taught to children, alongside mainstream lessons.
- Sums and chants at Buddhist school. BBC Education News, 5 March 2001.
- Nel visits only Buddhist primary school, Newsround,BBC 1, 19 June 2012.
- Christopher S. Queen, Engaged Buddhism in the west (2000), p. 413: "In 1994, after two years of fund-raising and preparation, the Dharma School was opened near the town of Brighton on the south coast. The school caters to boys and girls aged between three and eleven years old."
- Robert Bluck, British Buddhism: teachings, practice and development (2006), p. 23: "Turning to education, the Dharma School opened in Brighton in 1994 as the first full-time Buddhist school in Britain (Medhina, 1994: 209). While its origins were Forest Sangha family camps..."
- The Independent Schools Guide (2006), p. 205
- "Head teacher: Mr Peter Murdock"
- "Head Teacher Kevin Fossey"
- "The Argus,October 16th 1995"
- ,'Mindfulness' Grows in Popularity & Profits.2012
- [Burke, C. A. (2010). Mindfulness-Based approaches with children and adolescents: A preliminary review of current research in an emergent field.<19(2), 133-144.
- [Sussex, August issue 2012, pg 77
- , Our personalities maybe set as early as first grade, 8 June 2010