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Charity to help Highland schools by educating peer mediators

By Louise Glen

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Sarah Welsh peer mediation coordinator.
Sarah Welsh peer mediation coordinator.

Highland schools are being offered support to cope with covid-related classroom conflict.

Scottish Mediation has written to the education authority amid concerns about strains on school relationships during the coronavirus outbreak.

The professional body for mediators in Scotland has launched a service supported by the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing fund to help resolve issues during the transition out of lockdown.

The agency says it wants to ensure schools are aware of the new service after hearing anecdotal evidence from parents and teachers about the potential for conflict as families and children try to settle back into a routine.

It is also making education authorities aware of the other services it can offer schools, such as peer mediation training for children and young people and the adults who work with them.

Director Graham Boyack said: “We are hearing genuine concerns for some children about how they are coping emotionally with the return to school and the impact of the events of the last few months on their mental health and wellbeing.

“Some of them may have suffered personal losses or had family difficulties as a result of the pandemic, others may be anxious about the risks of falling ill or are finding it a challenge to cope socially being back among their peers. In every school everyone is getting used to working with changes and adaptations in place to reduce the dangers presented by Covid-19, which has the potential to spill into conflict. Social distancing is not a natural state of mind for youngsters and many find themselves frustrated. We can support people with how to manage this.

“Many parents too will be anxious about the safety of their children. That’s why we’re offering our mediation service and highlighting our training options to primary and secondary schools to help pupils and staff cope with these and other scenarios which they may currently be facing, with the hope of making life at school better for everyone.”

During peer mediation training, children and young people learn how to resolve conflict with their peers as part of a system in which they then cascade what they have learned to others around them.

Sarah Welsh, peer mediation coordinator, said: “We have seen some remarkable results from our peer mediation training, which is about teaching young people how to deal with conflict without necessarily having to go to a teacher or other adult first. It gives them the knowledge to deal with things themselves. Given our social circumstances, these are skills which are perhaps needed now more than ever.”

The organisation was set up to raise the profile of mediation in Scotland. More details about its services can be found on its website or by emailing admin@scottishmediation.org.uk.

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