Beat the bullies

27th January 2006 at 00:00
Thornhill School's approach to bullying is not unique but it is very much in keeping with the idea of a joint approach from pupils and staff to support pupils who need help. We have 60 trained peer mentors in Years 9 to 11 who have gone through a two-day course with input from a number of providers such as domestic violence, psychological services and anti-bullying specialists. The "team" members are instantly recognisable by the purple braid on their blazer cuffs.

The peer mentors work as advisers to pupils. They also develop and deliver lessons to Year 7 pupils during the school's citizenship and guidance time, highlighting how to take the initiative to overcome problems. As part of this, they organise games to help the group bond together and develop team spirit. They are also available before and after school and at breaks to discuss problems with pupils, and they work closely with the school's learning mentors to help vulnerable pupils. Their main task is to act as a "conduit" to advise and point the "victim" in the right direction as to their next course of action. It's not one of mediation or being involved in the "no blame" approach.

Peer mentors also visit Thornhill's feeder primary schools, delivering assemblies and talks and acting as role models for the younger pupils. They help out when Year 6 pupils are here on induction days and open evenings and when pupils transfer to our school during the course of the year.

The TARAH (Thornhill Against Racism and Harassment) group has been in existence for almost 10 years and it has really developed into an integral part of pastoral care in the school. The scheme has recently received the Princess Diana Memorial Award and we have been recognised by the education authority as a school of good practice in anti-bullying issues.

Trevor Harvey, Ann Greenfield Thornhill School Business and Enterprise College, Sunderland

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