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Harrow school, where pupils learn yoga and meditation, named one of ‘the top 10 best in the world’

A Harrow school where children are encouraged to take philosophy, yoga, and meditation classes has been shortlisted for a prize of $50,000 (£39,000) at the prestigious World’s Best Schools Prize. Avanti House Secondary School is one of 10 potential winners in the community collaboration category. The awards are made up of five categories, with a shortlist drawn up for each.

Avanti House, a Hindu secondary school in Stanmore, has been praised for its ‘unique values-based educational model’ in response to the pressures of education and exams. It is the second North London school to be nominated for the ‘World’s Best School’ prize after Barham Primary was shortlisted last year.

Harrow school, where pupils learn yoga and meditation, named one of 'the top 10 best in the world' Harrow Online
Avanti House Secondary School, Harrow. Avanti House is a state-run Hindu school for 1,190 students. Image Credit: T4 Education. Permission to use with all LDRS partners

The school has been described as a ‘trailblazer’ due to its ‘holistic approach’ to education, with a focus on enhancing pupils’ wellbeing by ‘integrating spiritual, mental, and physical health’. Alongside traditional subjects, classes including philosophy, ethics, yoga, and meditation are incorporated into the curriculum – rather than as extracurricular activities – to ensure all students participate.

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A vegetarian meal programme is provided to align with the school’s health-orientated approach. It is designed to help students understand ‘the importance of diet in overall wellbeing’, as well as to foster environmental and sustainability awareness amongst students.

The school leadership is said to be ‘pivotal in cultivating an environment that values spiritual insight and character formation as much as educational excellence’, whilst creating a culture of ‘respect and mutual understanding’. The principal and deputy principal were praised for ‘driving the school’s vision’, with a focus on inclusive practices and community engagement.

Principal, Simon Arnell, said the school is ‘incredibly proud’ to be shortlisted for the award and highlighted its emphasis on mental, physical, and spiritual health for both staff and students. Mr Arnell told the LDRS: “Staff and students participate in a range of activities such as yoga, mindfulness and student retreats, sanga, journaling and we have a superb vegetarian menu served to all during our communal lunchtime. All of these are not simple additions to the school day but are intertwined within our curriculum.”

Harrow school, where pupils learn yoga and meditation, named one of 'the top 10 best in the world' Harrow Online
Pupils at Avanti House Secondary School in Harrow taking part in a meditation class. Alongside standard classes, pupils are taught philosophy, yoga, and meditation. Image Credit: T4 Education. Permission to use with all LDRS partners

He added: “The impact of this has gone beyond the exceptional attendance of students and the examination results but how students are contributing within and outside of the school community and leading healthy lives. We are looking forward to the next steps, and working with amazing schools internationally through T4 has really excited our staff and students highlighting the power of educational collaboration.”

The prize was founded in 2022 by T4 Education, in collaboration with Accenture, American Express, and the Lemann Foundation. The winner in each of the five categories – community collaboration, environmental action, innovation, overcoming adversity, and supporting healthy lives – will get an equal share of the $250,000 (£195,000) prize money. Avanti House is one of the potential winners in the ‘community collaboration’ category.

The top three finalists in each of the categories will be announced in September, with the overall winners to be revealed in November. The nominees will be judged by a panel of global leaders, including academics, educators, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, government, and the private sector.

Kingsford Community School, a state secondary school in Newham, has also been nominated for an award in the ‘overcoming adversity’ category. It has been praised for ‘turning adversity into excellence’ by confronting issues with knife crime and other ‘deep social challenges’. Of its 1,500 students, 72 per cent speak English as a second language, with nearly half receiving free meals.

London Deputy Mayor for Children and Families, Joanne McCartney, said: “I’m delighted that Kingsford Community School and Avanti House Secondary School have been nominated for these prestigious awards. Both schools are leading examples of what is great about London, with the teachers helping to create brighter and healthier futures for their students. These nominations are a testament to the hard work of the staff, students and communities of these remarkable schools.”

Harrow school, where pupils learn yoga and meditation, named one of 'the top 10 best in the world' Harrow Online
Avanti House Secondary School Principal, Simon Arnell. Avanti House Principal, Simon Arnell, said the school is ‘incredibly proud’ to be shortlisted for the award. Image Credit: Avanti House Secondary School/IMAGENA FOTOESCUEA.

He added: “Trailblazing London schools like Avanti House Secondary School and Kingsford Community School, which have cultivated a strong culture and aren’t afraid to innovate, show the difference that can be made to so many lives. Schools everywhere can now learn from their solutions, and it’s time governments do so as well.”

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