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Peer programmes reduce bullying

Children who take part in peer support programmes are helping to reduce bullying and truancy in schools, according to a report by the charity ChildLine.

The study found that the scheme enabled teachers to spend less time resolving pupil disputes, freeing them to teach. ChildLine has trained thousands of children to counsel and help others.

Support includes peer mediation, where children are trained in conflict resolution, and befriending schemes, to help prevent pupils feeling lonely or isolated. Listening-based projects allow children to talk about their problems.

"Every school should have one - how peer support schemes make schools better", says that the most unlikely children often made the best peer counsellors. It said that teachers were often surprised by who volunteered.

"The ones who want to help others are often the ones who aren't the best behaved or the highest achievers. Just because you are a straight-A student doesn't mean you are emotionally literate enough to help other people," it said.

Mike Ward, deputy head of Flegg high, in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, told researchers that the impact of peer support in his school had been dramatic. "Bullying rates have been drastically reduced, our exam rates are better and attendance figures are the best we've ever had," he said.

ChildLine said about 10,000 children contacted it last year concerned about another's welfare. "Becoming a peer supporter is a safe, supervised opportunity for children to develop the skills and understanding to enable them to help each other," the study found.

The report is available on www.childline.org.uk

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