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Got a problem? Sort it yourself

Last week's international mediation conference in Glasgow (see below) included a session in which pupils from 15 schools and their teachers turned their attention to peer mediation.

Around 50 schools in Scotland are now said to be using peer mediation in which pupils volunteer to become mediators and, after receiving training and supervision, try to resolve problems when called in by other young people.

Richard Hendry, who chairs the education initiative group of the Scottish Mediation Network, said he was impressed by the increasing uses of mediation, evident at the conference. "This is very encouraging and the support from the Scottish Executive is a particularly positive move," Mr Hendry said.

The Executive is funding pilot "restorative justice" schemes in Fife, Highland and North Lanarkshire, which include peer mediation among young people as one of the approaches.

St Mark's primary in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, has been running peer mediation for almost three years and was short-leeted for one of the Scottish education awards last March. In an interview with The TES Scotland at the time, Patricia Kennedy, the headteacher, commented: "One of the big gains is that my teachers and I no longer have queues of kids at our doors, waiting for us to sort out who has fallen out with whom and why."

Anne Healey, the then depute head, said: "The children learnt about confidentiality, not blaming or taking sides, listening to the views of others, and helping them find mutually acceptable solutions to problems."

There were 30 applicants for the 14 P7 mediators chosen by the school last year - who were then selected and trained by the previous year's crop.

"Basically, the youngsters run it themselves," Ms Healey said. "I have been amazed at how well they do the job and at the difference it has made to the school."

Erin Sullivan, one of last year's young mediators, said that listening is the first essential step and the process cannot be rushed. "I knew you'd have to be patient to be a mediator but I didn't realise just how much patience you would need," she said.

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