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Open Letter to Secretary for Education

Open Letter to Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education 
Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Dear Nicky Morgan,

We are members of the Peer Mediation Network, an experienced group of UK conflict resolution practitioners and educators. We are writing to ask what steps the Department for Education can take to help promote peer mediation in schools.‎

“…pupils have been trained as ‘peer mediators’, who work in the playground to ensure there is harmony in their play. This works extremely well.”
OFSTED on ‘outstanding’ behaviour and safety at Birley Community Primary School, 2013

Peer mediation is conflict resolution for young people by young people. Trained in the same process used in industrial disputes, inter- national relations and family breakdown, students mediate problems to find win-win solutions. They develop excellent life skills including active listening, cooperation and problem-solving.
“To watch them grow as people with their increased skillset is hugely rewarding”
Sarah Bohan, Director, Key Stage 3, Bacon’s College

You will be aware of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child’s recommendations that the UK intensify efforts to tackle bullying and violence in schools and implement both teaching and training for peace[1].

We know mediation skills help individuals build‎ resilience and create more peaceful communities. Ofsted consistently praises peer mediators[2] for their contribution to schools' behaviour and safety, and your department’s research highlights the efficacy of peer mediation in reducing bullying[3].
“I’m a professional mediator, but these students do the job as well as me”
PJ Kirby QC, 2015
Most important of all, young people tell us peer mediation makes a difference‎ in their lives. They learn about the ethos of volunteering from taking on these roles during their break and lunchtimes.

Indeed, as the UK government promotes greater use of mediation for families, communities and in the justice system, it makes sense for young people to learn about it early. 
“It’s made it a safer place and there aren’t so many arguments because if an argument starts its more likely to get sorted out quicker and we’ve got better lessons because the lessons aren’t taken up by teachers trying to sort out what happened at playtimes.”
Holly, Year 6, Arbourthorne Primary School, 2015

Our respective organisations have helped hundreds of primary and secondary schools[4]‎ and thousands of young people to establish and maintain peer mediation schemes as part of a whole school approach, but it remains a lottery which schools and which pupils actually benefit. The savings in costs and staff time spent on student disputes are also significant for schools’ budgets.
Funding and government support for mediation and restorative approaches in schools has been variable, making provision haphazard. ‎It is time for this to change. We believe that, as conflict is a part of life all people will experience, developing the knowledge and skills to resolve it positively should be a high priority in schools. What will your office do to address this need?

We would like to meet with you or your colleagues to discuss this further.

Yours sincerely,

The Peer Mediation Network 

[1] UNCRC, 2008, Consideration Of Reports Submitted By States Parties Under Article 44 Of The Convention http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/AdvanceVersions/CRC.C.GBR.CO.4.pdf

[2] https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=site%3Areports.ofsted.gov.uk%2F%20peer%20mediation

[3] Fran Thompson and Peter K. Smith

Goldsmiths, 2011, The Use and Effectiveness of Anti-Bullying Strategies in Schools https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182421/DFE-RR098.pdf

[4] http://www.peermediationnetwork.org.uk/peer-mediation-schools
Educate and Disarm- Quaker Peace & Social Witness,
10 Feb 2016, 05:48