Getting started

30th November 2007 at 00:00
Four East Renfrewshire primary schools, in addition to St Mark's, have already had staff and pupils trained in peer mediation.

At St John's Primary, in Barrhead, the move into mediation grew out of an established buddy system, says Margaret McPherson, depute head. "It seemed a natural progression to take the P6 buddies and train them as peer mediators when they went into P7. The two systems have different aims, and more formal training is needed for mentoring. But it does give older pupils the chance to develop their skills of working with younger children."

Pupils volunteer for mentoring and 10 are selected by staff. In the first year, Sacro trained the depute head, pupil support assistants and the children. "So this year we were able to train the new mediators ourselves," says Mrs McPherson.

Weekly meetings with staff allow pupils to raise issues and concerns, but the mediators are given a great deal of autonomy. "It means they really believe in it and feel it's their own. So they designed the posters to advertise mediation around the school. They wrote letters to parents, which we pulled together and they approved. It is important that parents understand what we're doing."

Peer mediators use their skills even when not on duty, she says. The role-playing has given this year's crop a clear idea of what they will encounter: "Once they have told us their stories, we repeat them to make sure we have understood, "says Caitlyn Clemenson, 11.

A mediator needs well-developed listening skills, says Grant McMillan, 11. "You need good ideas, so you can make suggestions on how they can think about their problems."

No matter how skilled the mediators, they won't be able to help solve every problem, says Kristy McShane, 11. "People come to us to help them, but sometimes we can't. You have to accept that."

But the desire to help people is the motivation most often expressed by mediators at St John's and St Mark's. "You're learning something that will still be useful when you leave school and meet people with problems," says Kirstie Wallace, 11.

The pupils who receive training gain immensely valuable life skills, says Catherine Dillon-Ruddy, headteacher. "It is an investment by the school, and the responsibility is good for them. You can see the effect. You can see them maturing."

- www.sacro.org.uk

More information and resources, including 'Peer Mediation in the UK: A guide for Schools': www.betterbehaviourscotland.gov.ukknowledgepupil_to_ pupil.

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