Children would learn meditation techniques used by the Beatles at a proposed new Maharashi free school. Pupils as young as four would meditate at their desks twice a day, if the Maharishi School Trust wins permission to open at the former Oldfield House Special School site, in Oldfield Road, Hampton.
The trust, which already has a school in Lancashire, said its methods helped youngsters think more clearly but its plans to come to Richmond have already caused controversy.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) expressed concerns about its spiritual and “pseudoscientific” teaching and councillors have said some parents would prefer a more mainstream school to ease the lack of classroom places in the borough.
Councillor Malcolm Eady, education spokesman for Richmond’s Liberal Democrat group, said: “It might appeal to a few of our parents but I don’t think it’s going to appeal to the majority.
“Really we should be looking at sorting out provision of primary and secondary school places in the current system before offering the site to a free school.” The new school for children aged four to 18 would open in 2013 under the proposals.
Pupils at the Maharishi school would learn transcendental meditation, a technique based on the teachings of guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who became spiritual adviser to the Beatles in 1967.
Richy Thompson, of the BHA, said: “The BHA has serious concerns, which we have been voicing for some time now, that free schools are extremely attractive to evangelical and pseudoscientific groups, which previously would not have been able to set up state-funded schools.”
The Maharishi Free School, in Lancashire, has posted on its website the proposals for Richmond.
It said Ofsted rated the school outstanding in 11 areas and its GCSE results were in the top 2.5 per cent in the country.
It stated: “Maharishi Free School offers your child an education which includes a simple mental skill that helps to fulfil their potential.
“Children take part in transcendental meditation at the start and end of the school day. It enables students to improve their performance by being restfully alert and more receptive to learning.
“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.”
Parents will get the opportunity to find out more at an open day at 10am on Saturday, December 10, in the Oldfield Centre, Oldfield Road, Hampton, followed by a second at 7pm on Thursday, December 15, in Clarendon Hall, Richmond Road, Twickenham.