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Children and young people, Community Safety, Education and learning

Speak out to stop bullying

Children and young people who are victims of bullying at school are often told they ‘shouldn’t suffer in silence’ – and their first response should be to tell someone. But what happens if children are too scared or embarrassed to talk to their teachers, or even their parents?

Andreia Borges is an 11-year-old primary school pupil at Wyvil School in Lambeth who doubles as a ‘Peer Mediator’. She is someone who is the same age as the small minority of young people whose lives have become tormented by school bullies. Andreia is a friendly face who provides a kind ear. She doesn’t take sides, she doesn’t go and tell everyone what has just been said – in other words she has been taught to keep her services private. Andreia is that ‘someone else’ who children can turn to instead of their teachers or parents. And she is exceptional at it.

As part of Anti-Bullying Week 2010 Andreia has been crowned Healthy Minds Peer Mediator of the Year in Lambeth. She was voted as the overall winner by her fellow peer mediators from primary schools across the borough. The ground-breaking service, which was commissioned by Lambeth Council through the organisation Healthy Minds, based at the Hurley Clinic in Kennington, is a method of involving young people in managing conflict using non-threatening and co-operative methods that promote inclusiveness, respect, and self esteem.

The peer mediator does not decide on the solution for those in conflict but through a series of steps they help children come to an agreement on how to sort out their problem through discussion. Peer mediators are available during lunch and break time to mediate fellow pupils who have had a disagreement, fight or any other form of conflict. Discussions take place in a quiet and private area in the playground or in the school building. However, there are limits and a peer mediator has to be able to refer to a teacher when the situation becomes too complex for them to handle. It is a voluntary process and children refer themselves – they are not sent there by teachers. Most schools in Lambeth now have between 12-20 mediators who work in pairs. There is a rota for the mediators – on average they will mediate about once a fortnight. Peer mediators generally run the service with some adult support organising the rotas, publicising the peer mediation service and organising regular meetings to discuss how the service is running.

Andreia, said: “A good peer mediator is someone who is a good listener, patient with others, good at cooperating, able to keep things private, caring to others and sensitive to their feelings. It is successful because we are allowed to work out how to solve children’s problems without teachers getting involved – and away from the classroom and other children. It is also something that brings us all together at the school, we are better friends with one another and the playground is a happier and calmer place because of it. It has made me realise how badly children can suffer because of bullying and that we are making a big difference in helping them sort their problems.”

She added: “I hate bullies, and I was bullied once upon a time – which is what made me become a peer mediator in the first place. I think children who are bullies have often been bullied themselves and it is up to us, teachers, and parents, to stop this from happening. It’s been a great experience for me and the other peer mediators to get involved in and I am very grateful to my teachers for bringing it to my school.”

Cllr Pete Robbins, Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Service, said: “I am delighted to say that on the whole I meet happy children who are clearly flourishing in their school environment and made lots of friends. However there are a minority of children in Lambeth, like in all schools up and down the country, who sadly suffer from bullying – and we refuse to shy away from that fact. The Peer Mediation service is hugely innovative and presents another way of reaching out to these children who may otherwise have felt marginalised, and perhaps unable to discuss their problems with a teacher, parent, adult, or friend. I can’t speak highly enough of Andreia and all the other Peer Mediators for their hard work and urge them, and future generations, to keep it up!”

Andreia will collect her Peer Mediator of the Year award at the The Healthy Minds award ceremony which will be held at City Hall on Monday, November 15. The ceremony will be attended by peer mediators from across the borough, and hosted by CBBC Presenter Abs, and DJ Choice FM’s Abrantee. Other award categories include: ‘School with the most enthusiastic, responsible and committed mediator’, ‘Funniest mediator in School’, ‘Best Coordinator in Lambeth’, ‘Best Peer Mediator Uniform’, ‘Smartest Mediator in Lambeth’, and
‘The school with the most mediators’. The Princess Diana Trust will also present anti-bullying awards at the ceremony.

For further information on Peer Mediation, contact Anita Gee Healthy Minds on 07983 422818. Alternatively email anitagee@nhs.net.

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