By Liz Hull
Children are to have happiness lessons to prevent them becoming depressed.
More than 20 schools are already teaching the classes, which are supposed to help banish negative thoughts.
And psychologists will meet ministers this week with a view to launching the scheme nationwide.
Smiles: Children are being encouraged to think positively to avoid depression in the new classes, being piloted in 20 schools
The Penn Resiliency Programme is the brainchild of Professor Martin Seligman, a U.S. expert in positive psychology.
In the lessons, 11-year-olds are taught how to cope with difficult situations and emotions and to develop positive attitudes, assertiveness, aspirations and a better approach to decision making.
They are encouraged not to think or react like Chicken Little, the hen in the fable who wrongly feared the sky was falling in.
It is hoped that the classes will equip youngsters better to cope with the challenges of adulthood.
Those in favour of the U.S. programme say it has been shown significantly to reduce rates of anxiety and depression in the young.
But critics believe the classes sound much like common sense and are a waste of timetable space.
Professor Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania, said the pilot, which involves schools in South Tyneside, Hertfordshire and Manchester, is the largest in the world.
‘Much of what is currently taught in this area is based on sentiment – it just seems like a good idea. Depression leads to low productivity and poor physical health. Multiply that by a lot of people, and that affects a whole country.’