How we did it

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
Sixth-formers in Bradford are learning mediation techniques from peacekeepers who worked in Kosovo. Jenny Taylor explains Buttershaw high school is developing a peer mediation scheme with the help of staff from the department of peace studies at Bradford University. Ten sixth-formers are currently on a 14-week training programme with people with experience of mediation in war zones, such as Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

It's not just training for situations in school; they're receiving important life skills training, too. After training, they will work with key stage 3 students. If there are areas of conflict, potential conflict, or bullying, the team will help to mediate. The sixth-formers will work in pairs, and year heads will be able to refer to either myself or a learning mentor if they feel further help is needed.

Peer mediation is one of a range of inclusion projects that were introduced at Buttershaw to protect vulnerable students. In collaboration with statutory and voluntary agencies, we have developed an alternative curriculum for Year 11 students.

We offer places on this curriculum to students in Year 10 who show signs that they are finding it difficult to maintain a full-time place in school, or are at risk of permanent exclusion, or whose attendance is poor.

Parents are invited to the school with the students and given a presentation on the options available to help their children remain in school. These include a programme in a nearby youth club which covers personal development, but also practical help such as cookery lessons. One group of boys has been assembling a car using a kit. Some have work experience placements, such as those who visit a city farm to study animal care and horticulture. Another group attends Keighley college to learn basic construction.

The alternative curriculum is held two days a week - on Tuesdays and Thursdays - and most of the students are in "proper" school for the rest of the time. We have some specialist provision from voluntary agencies, such as youth groups, to help students with behaviour problems to work on their personal development skills.

We also have a reading partnership where sixth-formers are trained to work with Year 7s with reading difficulties.

Special needs funding was devolved to schools in Bradford about five years ago, so we have the freedom to use our money creatively. We also get money via the standards funds and pupil retention grants. And this year we have received funding under the Government's behaviour improvement programme.

The Buttershaw estate is in a deprived area. Crime is high, and there are a lot of social problems. This has an obvious impact on learning and attainment, so we have to have plenty of support mechanisms in place for our students. But it isn't just about the learning; it's also about their emotional wellbeing.

Jenny Taylor is assistant head of inclusion at Buttershaw high school in Bradford. She was talking to Martin Whittaker. Do you have a success story to share?Email: susan.young@newsint.co.uk

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