Maharishi School Trust seeks three more Transcendental Meditation Free Schools as BHA expresses concern

The Maharishi School Trust has announced that it is seeking to establish three more Free Schools, following having successfully set up its first in Lancashire last month. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed serious concerns about the spiritual and pseudoscientific aspects of the schools’ teaching, and about the schools’ admissions policies.

The schools, proposed to open in 2013, would be located in Suffolk, Richmond-upon-Thames and north London. Unlike the Lancashire school, which converted from a private school, these schools would be brand new. Maharishi Schools teach Transcendental Meditation (TM), a meditation technique based upon the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The TM movement adheres to a number of beliefs based on spiritual teachings that lack evidence, including levitation, and that would be at odds with a rational, naturalistic view of the universe. Furthermore, there is no robust evidence to show that TM is more effective than other meditation and relaxation techniques, or well-taught health education.

The BHA is also concerned that the schools’ admissions requirements that ‘It is expected that at least one carer/parent also learn TM at the same time as the child’ in effect places a requirement of faith-based practice upon the carer/parent.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘The BHA have serious concerns, which we have been voicing for some time now, that Free Schools are extremely attractive to evangelical and pseudoscientific groups, who previously would not have been able to set up state-funded schools. The fact that the Maharishi School Trust is now proposing to create three schools, which would not previously have existed even outside the state sector, shows that this concern is becoming a reality.

‘Just as we oppose schools that propose to teach a particular faith as true, or as we oppose the teaching of creationism, we would also oppose schools that teach other beliefs not supported by scientific evidence but instead based on irrational dogma.’