Within what national policies and educational frameworks do peer mediation work? And what are the specific links?
The Curriculum for Excellence – what does it say?
The curriculum for Excellence aims to “achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18. The 3-18 curriculum aims to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need to flourish in life, learning and work. This means making practical changes in order to ensure that children experience their rights on a day to day basis. Making rights ‘real’ for children requires creative thinking. We know that no one change will deliver the changes we want to see and it is important for us to use the range of tools available to us.”(http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/).
Furthermore, the curriculum aims to develop four capacities, helping children to become: Successful learners, Confident individuals, Responsible citizens, and Effective contributors. Finally, the Health and Wellbeing Framework in Relation to the Curriculum for Excellence “reflects a holistic approach to promoting the health and wellbeing of all children and young people. In order to develop the four capacities that the Curriculum for Excellence aims to develop, children should feel they are: Nurtured, Active, Achieving, Respected, Responsible, Healthy, Included, and Safe”
Lastly, Personal Development is also a National Qualification Subject Area within the Curriculum for Excellence.
How does peer mediation ties in with the Curriculum for Excellence specifically?
Peer mediation training and programmes equip schools with the necessary tools to meet pupils’ psycho-social needs and thereby enhances multi-faceted learning and as such aligns with the goals of The Curriculum for Excellence (= to ensure all children and young people develop attributes, knowledge, and skills to flourish in life, learning and work, Scottish Executive 2004). The Curriculum for Excellence aims to enable each child to become a successful learner, confident individual, responsible citizen, and effective contributors – this means finding innovating ways of using resources to broaden the scope for teaching, and the role of the school in providing children with essential life and social skills. Peer mediation essentially uses a valuable, existing extra-curricular distraction (interpersonal conflict) as a teaching tool, and enables pupils to learn from an already present and vital part of their school lives. This meets both the needs of schools as educational institutions, the needs of children and young people to flourish, and also the needs of educators within schools, in a manner which is cost and time efficient. Peer mediation training allows for schools to tap into their students learning potential while creating balanced, safe and positive learning environments.
From the research and evidence from peer mediation we can see that it ties in perfectly with the Curriculum for Excellence goals, in creating successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. As mentioned in the next bit on ‘Outcomes’ as well as under the section ‘Research on Peer Mediation’, peer mediation enhances learning on a variety of levels, including academic learning and life skills. This happens partly by creating a school environment with less conflict and distraction, leading to better learning environments, and also more teaching time with better quality. It also happens by enhancing perspective-taking skills (an integral part of peer mediation) which then improves other cognitive skills in the young brain, leading to more successful learning. Peer mediation also improves the confidence and self-esteem of children and young people, alongside respect and empathy as children and young people are given the tools to handle social situations, and also to reflect on inner mechanisms. Furthermore, it promotes responsible behaviour through creating a sense of ownership and importance for peer mediators within the school that come with the peer mediator role. It allows children and young people a positive model, not least for those who may be struggling to find a place or identity within the school (often with behavioural issues as an outcome). Through peer mediation pupils have a direct and tangible way of contributing to the well-being of their school, a way that involves them being active, inclusive and helping others, while working hard within a very useful position that is appreciated by peers and teachers alike.
What other national policies, strategies and approaches are relevant to peer mediation?
- Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) is a national approach for people to work with all children and young people within the U.K. GIRFEC is being threaded through all existing policy, practice, strategy and legislation affecting children, young people and their families. It builds on certain core principles, including 1) promoting the wellbeing of individual children and young people 2) putting the child at the centre, 3) taking a whole child approach 4) building on strengths and promoting resilience and 5) promoting opportunities and valuing diversity.
- A national approach to anti-bullying in Scotland was developed by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Anti-Bullying Steering Group to communicate and promote a common vision and aims in Scotland for anti-bullying. This involves 1) developing positive relationships amongst children, young people, and adults which are mutually respectful, responsible and trusting, 2) promoting the emotional health and wellbeing, building capacity, resilience and skills in children and young people 3) preventing and deal with bullying through a range of policies, strategies and approaches
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Many of the UNCRC articles are relevant to peer mediation, but especially Article 29: States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
— The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
— The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.
- The Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA), UNICEF. RRSA recognises achievement in putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) at the heart of a school’s planning, policies, practice and ethos. A rights-respecting school not only teaches about children’s rights but also models rights and respect in all its relationships: between pupils and adults, between adults and between pupils.
- Additional Support for Learning Act (2004 & 2009) is the legal framework underpinning the system for supporting children and young people in their school education, and their families. This term applies to children or young people who, for whatever reason, require additional support, long or short term, in order to help them make the most of their school education. Children or young people may require additional support for a variety of reasons and may include those who: 1) are being bullied, 2) have emotional or social difficulties 3) are living with parents who have mental health problems 4) are particularly able or talented 5( are not attending school regularly.
How do peer mediation outcomes actually tie in with these policies, schemes and approaches?
Peer mediation has many wide-spread benefits and the full extent of these benefits have not yet been determined in academic research. The following are peer mediation outcomes and benefits based on current, existing academic research within the field (as well as supported by extensive anecdotal evidence), which are relevant to the policies, strategies and approaches mentioned above.
Outcomes for school/organisations including relationships within these settings:
- A well-conducted peer mediation programme teaches children and young people alternative strategies to aggression and withdrawal that promote constructive ways of dealing with conflict as well as open and positive communication within the school. As a consequence a safe, inclusive and nurturing school environment is created. This includes physical, psychological and emotional safety of children and young people.
- Student-to-student conflict is highly reduced, similarly suspensions and discipline referrals are much reduced, and relationships between peers are significantly improved, as well as relationships between pupils and teachers – again contributing to a healthy and inclusive school climate.
- Peer mediation programmes are highly effective in reducing bullying (in all shapes), and participation in peer mediation programmes are have a positive impact on both the children who are being bullied, and the children who are bullying others.
- Peer mediation training provides teachers/adults with tools to assist children and young people in growing into healthy, successful, responsible and contributing individuals, and to prevent and deal with bullying.
- Results from peer mediation programs show that when conflict arises and is dealt with by a peer mediator, there is around a 90% agreement rate and satisfaction of outcome by pupils. Similarly, teachers and parents are also highly satisfied with the outcomes of mediation sessions.
- Enhances learning not only through more time for learning due to fewer conflicts, referrals and disciplinary measures (which take up both pupil and teacher time and resources) but also through teaching pupils perspective-taking skills which develops their cognitive abilities and leads to greater academic achievement.
Outcomes for individual children and young people:
- Improvements in controlling anger and developing appropriate assertiveness skills
- Improved problem solving skills, communication skills, and interpersonal skill (= vital social and life skills).
- An increase in empathy, trust, tolerance, respect, and fairness in pupils, much due to increased perspective-taking abilities.
- Improvements in language skills and the type of language that promotes positive, non-violent conflict resolution.
- For peer mediators themselves, learning the mediation process and being part of the peer mediation programme significantly increases self-esteem and confidence
- Improvements in leadership abilities for peer mediators.
- Peer mediators experience empowerment, inclusion and the ability to actively make a profound difference in the lives of others – an ability which they greatly value and use.
- Pupils are given the responsibility/opportunity to actively take part in forming their school communities and shaping their relevant situations/experiences positively, in other words peer mediation allows children and young people to be included in the decisions that affect their lives.
- The contribution of peer mediators is valued by adults and other peers alike – this has a positive, upward spiral effect for the peer mediators and spreads to other areas in their lives.
- Being a peer mediator has the most strikingly beneficial effects for vulnerable children who may be displaying extreme behavioural or emotional problems.
- Many of the benefits and effects above are corner stones in building a competent workforce, and indeed a healthy society.
Outcomes for the wider communities of children and young people
- Significant improvements in the communication strategies pupils use to resolve conflicts in their homes and in their wider communities.
- Improved perspective-taking abilities as well as developed communication and conflict resolution skills in family arguments (between parents and children/young people) and arguments in the wider community.