Banbridge students learn mindfulness skills in ‘Compassionate Schools’ project Posted on 22 November 2021

More than 350 Year 8 students in Banbridge have been learning mindfulness and relaxation techniques as part of a health and wellbeing programme supported by Clanmil Housing.  
The Growing Together Compassionate Schools Project began on 14th September and continued until the end of October 2021, taking place across three secondary schools in Banbridge.  

Students from Banbridge High School, St Patrick’s College and New Bridge Integrated took part in the programme – which included a series of health and wellbeing ‘Connecting Through Compassion’ workshops – learning about mindfulness and relaxation to help reduce the stress around starting a new school. They also discovered techniques to help improve focus and concentration during the school day and at home.  

Banbridge schools project participants

The 11 and 12 year olds have benefited from interacting with their peers from different backgrounds across the three schools and have been sharing what they’ve learned with other young people. Some of the resources they’ve produced are a video that includes messages of encouragement and mindfulness games that can be used in pastoral classes, as well as creating worry jars, gratitude jars and good luck cards.  

The participants have also been keeping in touch through virtual Zoom sessions, to build upon what they’ve learned in the initial workshops.  

The programme was facilitated by mindfulness specialist and founder of the Connecting Minds project, Laura Donaghy, who described the benefits: 
“Social emotional learning among our young people promotes brain development, supports positive psychological health and enhances emotional intelligence. Mindfulness cultivates integration, creating an inner sense of calm and clarity for the student.  Mindfulness also cultivates an interpersonal way of being integrated into the community. The students become more empathetic, compassionate and connected.” 

Laura continued: 
“It has been a pleasure working with both the students and teachers of the three schools in the Banbridge area and Clanmil Housing Community Cohesion team. I am honoured to have been able to facilitate an online, cross community and interactive space for the students of Banbridge, resulting in such positive outcomes for all involved.” 

Austin Kelly, Community Cohesion Officer with Clanmil Housing said:  
“As part of Clanmil’s commitment to developing shared neighbourhoods, we were delighted to work in partnership with three secondary schools in Banbridge to deliver this project. We hope that the young people will share what they’ve learned with others, including their friends, family and the wider community.”  

 Joanne Hylands, a teacher at Banbridge High School, described the programme as “a great opportunity for the three schools to provide workshops that encouraged positive social interaction”. 

She added:  
”In times of increasing financial constraints, the support of Clanmil Housing is invaluable. Many young people have struggled with isolation and anxiety caused by lockdown restrictions and this project has really helped them find ways to cope. It has been really encouraging to see young people from different schools and backgrounds working together and reaching out to their peers, to help them make the transition to secondary school.” 

Clanmil has allocated £4,670 to the project as part of a Good Relations Plan within Hawthorn Gardens in Banbridge, its shared neighbourhood development which opened in 2019.  

Hawthorn Gardens is one of the initial 10 T:buc developments, which were a headline action in the NI Executive T:buc Strategy.  

Clanmil Housing continues to work in partnership with the local Advisory Group stakeholders, and with residents to develop the scheme’s Good Relations Plan.    
The Compassionate Schools Project is supported through the NI Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy, which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.   
The Hawthorn Gardens shared housing development is also supported by the Department for Communities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. 

A total of £2,401,983 was invested in the scheme’s development and associated five-year Good Relations Plan. This includes the Housing Association Grant of £2,058,506 and TBUC/ Good Relations Support of £343,477.  

Clanmil Housing Association currently has five shared housing developments across Northern Ireland and is promoting a further three.  

The Hawthorn Gardens Good Relations Plan includes ‘Bridging’ events which are delivered to the wider community to encourage a range of good relations outcomes which include Health and Wellbeing, Education and Training.

The Executive Office - Together: Building a United Community   
Department for Communities - Shared Housing Programme