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Evaluation of a HeartMath / Safe Place Programme with Schoolchildren in West Belfast, Ireland

Fintan Connolly B.Pharm M.P.S.

Sponsored by Greater Falls Extended Schools in conjunction with Barnardos, September 2009.

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.

Summary 

Schools today have perhaps the greatest  influence in meeting the needs of children outside the family environment.

It is widely accepted that emotional health is an important factor in the foundation for success not just in school but in everyday life. The Behaviour and Attendance Strategy in England( DfES 2005) highlighted the importance of supporting pupil emotional health and wellbeing to academic engagement and attainment. The Action for Children campaign urges child care and educational practitioners to collaborate on innovative strategies that promote the emotional well being of children. It appears that there are many calls for change in the current provisions for children.

In this pilot project, seven schools in the “Greater Falls Cluster” of Extended Schools were chosen to participate; three Primary and four Post Primary.

The purpose of this project was to investigate the efficacy of the HeartMath /Safe Place Programme as a means to improve student emotional self regulation and associated improvements in emotional stability, relationships and overall student well-being. It was anticipated that this type of improvement would also lead to enhanced classroom behaviour, organization and function.

The results of this project have shown that the children involved displayed significant improvements in various aspects of behaviour such as:

  • Reduction in emotional symptoms
  • Reduction in conduct problems
  • Reduction in hyperactivity
  • Increase in pro-social behavior
  •  

    The strong, consistent pattern of results of this project suggest that the HeartMath / Safe Place programme offers a practical, physiological based intervention to improve behaviours appropriate to learning in a school environment. The integration of programmes such as this which are designed to foster emotional self-regulation and well-being could have an important place as part of the educational curriculum.

    It is important that children experience throughout their school life what it’s like to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure and that these needs become a classroom and school value. Once this is addressed, they are more likely to become self confident, independent, responsible, caring, civic-minded individuals.