Schools and colleges are rapidly learning how to harness the resources of trained and supported students in building a community in which fairness and respect for students and staff, the small and the large, male and female, are the order of the day. Once appreciated, the power of the student body for good is as obvious as that of wind and water, although, like wind and water, it has usually been easier to see their destructive power, their gales and storms.
Even for those students who might agree with the hackneyed notion that they are in the "best years of their lives", life in school, with its exams, friendship troubles, changes of rooms and staff, and increasing piles of work, is stressful for most and intolerable for some. I dare say that many staff would sign up to this statement too! This is why Peer Support Training aims to do something for the whole school community, something that can be recognised and owned by all: the caretaker, new student, sixth former, teacher and management team alike. That something is often practical and tangible - a place to talk and someone trained to talk to who understands the system. Less tangibly, it's about the atmosphere of the school, fostering an openness which enables everyone to succeed and contribute.
Peer Support is also about mental health - fostering the abilities and resilience of all, and preventing people's coping abilities from being overwhelmed by stresses in their environment. This entails some serious consideration of the philosophy of the school or college in supporting those (staff included) who are struggling with mental health or stress issues. This includes those who "suffer in silence", until they crack, or "disappear" A crucial element of this thinking is about good knowledge and connections with support and referral services locally. Admittedly, with overstretched public services this is not always easy, but with persistence much can be achieved.
The site aims to provide practical information for those who work with groups of young people, increasing awareness and sensitivity to the stresses and difficulties they face, while learning how to harness their resources in a creative way alongside the efforts of adults in the organisation. It will therefore introduce you to ideas about recruiting and training a Peer Support Group, using your own efforts or via consultation or direct input from us.
I have personally found the experience of providing training great fun as well as hard work; it has been rewarding to see the signs of growth in the participating students, and gratifying also to witness the commitment of staff in supporting their students and ensuring the scheme has the best chance of actually working for the school community.
Finally, I am convinced that this is a training that lasts, for the individuals and in the community that embraces it fully. Many important positions call for "people skills": Peer Supporters can claim to have received specific training and experience while still in their teens, in skills such as listening, empathy, assertiveness and problem-solving. Quite an investment!Students as Helpers
Defining the Role
Stresspoints in School and College
More Serious Problems in School
The risks and benefits of running a Peer Support Service
Use of Films in Training
Use of Songs and Lyrics in Training
Last updated March 2010.