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Best Practice Guidelines

This guide is primarily aimed at organisations who provide training to schools for peer mediators. It will also be useful for school staff so that they can be aware of what they should expect from service providers.

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We realise all services have finite resources available to them, and few will be able to achieve all that is recommended here. This document is to provide something to aim for.

‘Good Practice’ is the minimum that schools and trainers should aim for. ‘Best Practice’ is in addition to points covered by ‘Good Practice’.

Peer Mediation Network, March 2007.

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What is peer mediation?

Mediation helps people to resolve conflicts by finding their own solutions, using impartial third party mediators.

Peer mediation involves children and young people who are trained to mediate conflicts between fellow students.

How does it function?

Mediators work in pairs.

Confidential: The content of the mediation can be discussed in the debrief with the other mediator, or, if needed, with the mediation coordinator, but is otherwise confidential. The exception is if mediators feel the case is ‘too hot to handle’. It should be explained to the parties in the introduction that under some circumstances, including if they are told about something that ‘will harm you or others’ they will inform the mediation coordinator.

Voluntary: Cases can be referred by staff, but mediation is voluntary, so both parties must choose to be there.

When

Most schools have mediation occurring at lunchtime; three services saw mediations during breaktimes; one service mentioned mediations during lessons; two secondary programmes supported mediations after school.

Where

Mediations should take place in a quiet, designated space. This may be outside in the case of a primary school but the disadvantages are: other pupils can see who is visiting the mediators, other pupils may disturb the mediation and it is unsuitable in bad weather.

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Party Meetings

Best Practice

Secondary mediators are trained to meet each party separately first in more complicated cases.


Support from staff


Adults are usually not present during mediations but are within call.

The scheme coordinator must support and ensure that debriefs happen between mediators where they discuss how the session went, what was done well and what could have been done better.

The scheme coordinator must be on hand to support mediators for difficult cases.

There should be regular meetings of the whole group of mediators at least monthly.

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Contact beforehand

    Good Practice

·         Consider if more conflict resolution groundwork needs to be done in school before a peer mediation scheme can be set up.

You will need to assess:

·         Willingness for the school to take on a whole school approach to conflict, which may involve some cultural change.

·         Commitment from the Head, Senior Management Team and Governors.

·         Long term commitment and sustainability – ensure there is an enthusiastic senior staff member with time available.

·         Foundation skills of pupils (eg listening and communication skills)

·         What other peer support and participation schemes already exist in the school and how well they function.

·         Present levels of conflict (pupil-pupil, pupil-staff, staff-staff)

This can be done by sending questionnaires to the head and staff (and secondary students), and a follow-up school visit.

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    Best Practice

  • In depth Conflict Audit which can be a baseline for later evaluation of how the scheme has affected levels of conflict in the school. (i.e. a systematic assessment of the above)
  • A ‘Service Level Agreement’: This contract will clarify what the service and the school will provide. Eg the school must commit to providing a training room, staff present in pupil training, private designated space for the mediations, ongoing staff support for the mediators etc and the service commits to post-training support and regular monitoring eg spot checks.
  • ‘Levels of Readiness Criteria’ to be agreed and schools to look at before work begins, looking at how mediation fits into an overall ethos of participation.

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Preparing for Training

Foundation Skills Work

Good Practice

·         Pupils will need to have some understanding of conflict resolution and the skills needed to have successful mediations. This should be planned with the scheme coordinator using a programme provided by the service, or resources such as ‘Let’s Mediate’ (primary) or ‘Mediation Works!’ (secondary).


Best Practice

  • The longer spent working with potential users of the mediation scheme, the more effective it will be. One service provides six circle time sessions (on emotions, communication skills, and mediation awareness) to all years. Another provides twenty hours ‘peacemaking skills’ training to the relevant year group. (This includes communication, affirmation, anger management, co-operation, problem solving and critical thinking.) 

Awareness raising

Good Practice

·         Aim for all pupils and staff to be aware of the following:

·         What the mediation scheme aims to achieve.

·         What will be happening in terms of the training and who will be involved.

Be aware that parents may have concerns unless the scheme is explained carefully. It will help if the school can explain how peer mediation will be a development of its existing bullying, behaviour management and inclusion policies. Communication with parents could also emphasise  the confidential and voluntary nature of mediation, and explain that serious problems will be handed on to staff.

·         Staff and pupils to have some understanding of the mediation process.

·         With the year groups that will contribute mediators, further work must be done on what makes a good mediator, with opportunity for questions, discussion and to check for understanding of what mediators do and ongoing time commitment.

·         Other ways the service can support this work include providing a lesson plan, providing a sample letter to parents, presenting an assembly.

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Best Practice

·         Work in each form must be carried out by staff who have attended training by the service. This could be the mediation coordinator delivering training to each form with the form teacher present, each form teacher or the mediation service itself.

·         At least one hour’s work must be done with each form in the school to raise awareness about what mediation is.

·         Raise awareness among families about the peer mediation scheme.

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Selection of pupils

Good Practice

  • Deciding on the process must involve collaboration between staff and service provider. The selection process needs to be open, clear to everyone and seen to be fair.
  • Following the lesson on ‘What makes a good mediator’, pupils can select themselves or nominate others. The selection process could then involve classes voting by secret ballot, interviews by the school council and/or by staff.
  • Some places can be left for staff to choose. This can ensure that there is a cross section of the school community based on socio-economic background, ethnicity, gender, academic ability, neighbourhoods and friendship groups.

 

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