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Hornchurch pupils use innovative healing-based approach to combat playground problems

PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 January 2017

From left to right, Kayleigh Duck, eight, peer mediator Ruby Howard, 11 and Ronnie Hardy, nine. Photo: Ann-Marie Abbasah.

From left to right, Kayleigh Duck, eight, peer mediator Ruby Howard, 11 and Ronnie Hardy, nine. Photo: Ann-Marie Abbasah.

Archant

A handful of schools around the borough have adopted an unconventional method of resolving issues between pupils.

Based on a technique used within the criminal justice system, the restorative approach centres on honest discussion after a perceived wrong.

Suttons Primary School, Suttons Lane, Hornchurch, has been trialling the scheme for six months and staff are overjoyed at its success.

“Before we had a detention room. Children were being told off and we had a punitive set of consequences,” said deputy headteacher Karen Blake.

“We don’t do detention any more, we talk to our children. Our school is a much happier and calmer place.”

Peer mediators aged between seven and 11, wearing tabards, stand in set places in the playground at lunchtime so other children experiencing problems know where to find them.

When a conflict arises, a mediator asks a series of set questions to enable those involved to have their say in the hopes of reaching a resolution.

“I like going round and helping everybody and seeing them after an argument happy and getting on with each other,” said Baylie Parsons, 10,

Aaron, nine, added: “We know we’ve made a difference when we see them the next day playing catch with each other.”

Havering Council’s attendance and behaviour support officer, Joanne Brown, said the project is being piloted at seven primary schools and one secondary across the borough.

Where more serious disputes occur, teachers adopt the same method as the peer mediators.

“It’s far more effective to talk to children. Some children come to school with a lot of baggage and have things on their shoulders and just want somebody to talk to,” added Mrs Blake.

Lexi Watts, nine, came to the rescue of a younger pupil who was upset because she felt she had no one to play with.

“I asked her if she wanted a hug and then she wasn’t unhappy any more,” said Lexi.

Restorative Now director Janine Carroll added: “A restorative culture in a school models the skills we all need to resolve conflict in relationships.

“Sound teaching and learning can only take place in the presence of strong healthy relationships in the community.”

The council now hopes to roll the project out to all secondary schools in the borough.

Visit romfordrecorder.co.uk to see a video of pupils demonstrating the technique.


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