PUPILS from a Dorset school were given mindfulness sessions by an army officer.

Year 6 pupils from Bovington Academy have been given strategies in how best to handle stress while they transition from primary school to secondary school by Major Pat Burgess, a serving army officer.

The sessions were organised by Sara White, principal of Bovington Academy, where roughly 70 per cent of the students are from families with a military background, and were arranged after Ms White became concerned about the additional uncertainty pupils moving to secondary school are facing due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms White said: "There is more worry about secondary transition this year and it has created a little more unrest for the children. There is an element of worry because it's change and with change always comes that slight anxiety about something new.

"In the past, we've been able to visit secondary schools and been able to take children there, but government guidance has not allowed that this year.

"Secondary schools have provided virtual transition sessions but it's not the same as face-to-face and it has created a little bit more unrest around what is happening.

Dorset Echo: Major Pat Burgess giving an assembly on mindfulness to students at Bovington Academy Picture: Aspirations AcademiesMajor Pat Burgess giving an assembly on mindfulness to students at Bovington Academy Picture: Aspirations Academies

"A lot of positive has come out of lockdown; our pupils have adapted and developed different skills. However, it's really important to equip children with the ability to adapt and to let them know it's okay to be worried about change but to have the strategies to cope.

"This is where the mindfulness sessions with Pat have been so useful in providing that support for the children."

Major Burgess has been interested in mental health, resilience and mindfulness since 2009 while he was serving in Afghanistan. He runs mindfulness classes for both military and civilian staff at the Armour Centre in Bovington.

Major Burgess said: "We've been focusing on a combination of breathing techniques to help them feel calm if they find themselves feeling anxious, asking them to talk about their feelings and also to focus on the positive - change is good.

"Helping them to understand that change is the only thing you can count on. Nothing stands still."