Peer support schemes use trained students to prevent and respond to bullying. Evidence shows that peer support can be effective in addressing and, importantly, reducing bullying in schools.
Peer supporters roles vary from schools to school but their general roles are to educate their peers on bullying, lead on anti-bullying campaigns, promote a culture which celebrates and tolerates difference and help keep their peers safe.
Peer support schemes use the knowledge, skills and experience of children and young people in a planned and structured way to understand, support, inform and help develop the skills, understanding, confidence and self-awareness of other children and young people with whom they have something in common. Peer support methods include both pro-active and reactive strategies. Peer support is very popular in the primary and secondary sectors, with many schools running more than one scheme.
The Use and Effectiveness of Anti-Bullying Strategies in Schools
Department for Education (2011)
Is there only one type of peer support scheme?
No. There is a wide variety of peer support schemes to consider. Below are examples of the different types of training schools use:
- Initial training for staff and students to equip those involved with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and practical guidance on establishing a peer support programme
- Using an external trainer external trainers may inject a fresh perspective, devoid of any institutional partiality. Students may be more likely to share honest views, express interest and have a greater sense of engagement in activities led by external facilitators.
- Lead school staff play a very important role. To have a safe and successful scheme running, peer supporters must feel they can share their concerns and ideas with a staff member who will take their views on board. Having a staff member lead on and work with peer supporters throughout the duration of their support highlights the importance and value of the work of the peer supporters.
- On-going and refresher training. One-off initial training is not enough to sustain peer support programmes in school. Staff and students need ongoing support with occasional ‘refresher’ training.
Whichever type of peer support scheme you choose for your school, providing the right support is vital. Find out some key things to consider here.