Every year, a group of Year 8 students apply to become part of Longhill’s Peer Mentor Programme, which aims to help nominated primary school children with their transition into life at senior school.
After a 6-week training programme, the Peer Mentors consolidate everything they’ve learnt by going away for a whole-day workshop at the Woodingdean Youth Centre. There they practise active listening, talk about diversity and difference, act out various what you would do if scenarios, understand the difference between mentors and friends and learn about confidentiality. Jill Robson, who runs the Peer Mentor Programme, explained, “They work so hard. I am so proud of them, really proud of them; some of them are only 12 years old and have such a level of emotional literacy and emotional intelligence which is higher than a lot of adults. They are so committed to the Programme.”
Mentors will have one or two primary children paired with them, depending on the mentors themselves and the children who need assistance. Jill went on, “Some of the mentors are the high flyers who have lots of support at home, but some of my mentors don’t. They have made their own decision that they would like to help someone else and that is their motivation – it’s a real desire to help others.”
“At first I thought they might just be motivated by going bowling,but actually that’s just one day and the training level is so full on that if you’re not committed to it then you won’t make it.”, she said.
When the new children start at Longhill, some of them may only need help for a few weeks, some for much longer. The Peer Mentors will be working with them in the summer term before they join us at Longhill, in conjunction with the Transition Team, who are practised at picking up on anyone who needs help. Each primary school can refer up to 6 children to us for peer mentoring. Some have more children needing help, so we have a ‘reserve’ list; people who are flagged up, but that we can’t accommodate on the Programme, are notified to the Transition Team who work in close collaboration with the Peer Mentor Programme.
There are now 17 newly-trained mentors and by half term they will have met up with the Year 6 students who they have been matched with for lunch and an informal chat here at Longhill. The second meeting involves taking the mentors and the primary children for bowling and ice cream, which is a longer session. Finally the primary children will come over for a tour of the school after Year 11 has gone and before they come in again on New Intake Day.
“Being a Peer mentor is like a job.” Jill explained. “They have to fill in an application form, then be interviewed by the current peer mentors and we all decide together. The current peer mentors are very stringent in their requirements, as they know first-hand what the position entails.”
How does Jill see the Programme progressing in future? “Some of last year’s mentors are still with us. I have four from last year that can help the new Peer Mentors. They have been supporting the new group and eventually I see the students themselves running the programme with me just advising, supporting and facilitating. This Programme is of so much value to all the students involved in it and I see it as self-perpetuating.”