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Woodbridge: Free school based on teachings of The Beatles’ spiritual guru could open soon

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 October 2011

Barry Spivack and Felicity Kaplan who want to open a Maharishi Free School in the Woodbrdige area

Barry Spivack and Felicity Kaplan who want to open a Maharishi Free School in the Woodbrdige area

A SCHOOL that will follow the teachings of a maharishi who was a spiritual guru to stars including The Beatles could be set up in Suffolk.

The Maharishi School Trust – which would offer classes in transcendental meditation – is exploring the possibility of setting up a free school in the Woodbridge area.

A similar school in Lancashire has faced criticism from opponents who feel Government money would be better spent elsewhere.

As well as traditional subjects the curriculum includes the beliefs of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who is widely credited as having developed transcendental meditation and achieved fame as guru to The Beatles and other celebrities.

The school would be for all 11-18 year olds and would grow a year group at a time, with 24 pupils in each year.

An application has to be submitted to the Department for Education by April next year and it is hoped lessons could start in September 2013.

It would be on a similar model to the Maharishi School in Ormskirk, Lancashire, which has been up and running since 1986.

It became a free school in September this year and its GCSE results are reported to be in the top 2.5% of all schools nationally.

The school describes its ethos as providing holistic development for all pupils, eliminating stress and improving the school’s atmosphere by creating a happy, focused and orderly learning environment.

Children take part in transcendental meditation at the start and end of the day.

Headteacher Derek Cassells said this helps students improve their performance by being “restfully alert” and therefore more receptive to learning.

“Students have testified to the effectiveness to these techniques in both promoting academic excellence and improvements in behaviour,” he said. “That’s a fantastic thing for any school but there are also other benefits, benefits outside of school and beyond. If we want children to do their very best then they need to develop creativity and intelligence, an excellent basis for further study and future life. The quality of students’ awareness is fundamental to successful educational outcomes.

“Likewise, all of the teachers at the school benefit tremendously from their morning and evening practice of transcendental meditation, which gives them the relaxation and alertness to manage every class effectively.

“Based on what I’ve observed with thousands of pupils and dozens of teachers in the past 24 years, it is clear that consciousness-based education is unique in its effectiveness in systematically developing the mental and physical potential of every student.”

However the school in Lancashire has come in for criticism from some Labour MPs who feel the Government would be better off spending money on improving existing schools and building new classrooms.

Barry Spivack, from Rendlesham, is one of the parents supporting the Suffolk plans.

He said: “One of the key things, unlike a lot of free schools, is that the Maharishi School has a track record. Its been going for 25 years in Lancashire and is academically non selective, open to people of all backgrounds.

“Its GCSE results are in the top 2.5%. Although Suffolk is in line with the national average, somehow you would expect the county to do better.

“One of the main reasons for introducing free schools is not just about improving choice but also driving up standards. Students in Suffolk do OK but is that good enough?”

Free schools are state schools, inspected by Ofsted, but have more freedom and flexibility over the length of the school day, the curriculum and how they spend their money.

They are open to all children and are not allowed to make a profit, with all funds raised going back to improve education for pupils.

Dr Cassells is hosting an open evening for any parents with children in years four and five who want to find out more about the Maharishi proposals.

It is happening at Shire Hall, Market Hill, Woodbridge, on Wednesday, November 9 between 7.45pm and 9.15pm.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born on January 12, 1917.

He developed the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique and was the leader and guru of the TM movement.

By 1955 he had introduced the TM technique to the world and in 1958 he began his first global tour.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s he achieved fame as the guru to The Beatles and other celebrities.

He started the TM-Sidhi programme that claimed to offer practitioners the ability to levitate and to create world peace.

In 2008 he announced his retirement from all administrative activities and went into mauna (spiritual silence) until his death three weeks later.

He created charitable organisations and businesses that include nearly 1,000 TM centres, schools, universities, clinics, health supplements and organic farms across the globe.

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