Children and young people who have helped their peers overcome bullying have been recognised at a special award ceremony.
The Healthy Minds Awards Ceremony saw Emilia Barker, who is 11 years old and from Reay Primary School in Kennington scoop the title of ‘Peer Mediator’ of the year for her outstanding work in helping others beat the bullies. The event, on Monday 12 November, was attended by broadcaster Vanessa Feltz, Cllr Rachel Heywood from Lambeth Council, Kate Hoey MP, Abs – CBBC presenter, and DJ Abrantee (DJ at Choice FM).
Lambeth’s ground-breaking ‘peer mediation service’ was commissioned by Lambeth Council through the organisation ‘Healthy Minds’, and is a method of involving young people in managing conflict to promote inclusiveness, respect, and self-esteem. Lambeth was the first South London Borough to deliver the pioneering service nine years ago, and now most schools across the borough have between 12-20 peer mediators and other local authorities including Southwark, Wandsworth, Croydon and Bromley are adopting similar schemes.
Lambeth’s Best Overall Peer Mediator’ was announced after being voted for by their fellow peer mediators from primary schools across the borough. Peer Mediator of the Year Emilia Barker has been a mediator for about a year and a half. Staff at school praised her for her being a fantastic listener who is calm and caring:
“Emila is organised, she had a clear voice which gives great instructions, always does her job, fabulous listener, she’s calm and quiet. She knows her job inside out, and does her job really well. She’s always prepared for the unexpected and she really, really enjoys doing her job. She is caring especially with the younger children.”
Cllr Rachel Heywood, Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Service, said: “The children that I meet are happy and really enjoy going to school in Lambeth, but some children inevitably suffer from teasing or bullying, and we all have a responsibility to tackle that. The Lambeth Peer Mediation service, enabling children to help each other, is a really innovative way of tackling bullying and making all children happier at school. The Peer Mediators in Lambeth are a real inspiration and I can’t thank them enough for their hard work and urge them to keep it up!”
About two hundred pupils from more than twenty schools in London attended the event at City Hall on Monday 12 November.
Healthy Minds trains young people to mediate conflicts in Lambeth schools preventing disputes escalating into violence and thereby benefiting the whole community. Peer mediation not only reduces conflict and bullying in schools and the local community – it develops life skills (confidence, problem solving, leadership) among young people and many of them take on leadership roles within their communities.
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. 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. 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.