Post-Covid and in an ever-changing society, more and more adults and children are struggling with mental health issues. To combat some of these struggles and improve mental health, Puriton Primary School is implementing a peer mentor programme.  The programme is informed by research undertaken by the Anna Freud Centre and aims to enhance self-esteem, confidence, self-efficacy and coping and problem-solving skills.  It is aimed at Year 5 pupils who will have extensive training and then share their skills with the rest of the school over the next two years.

The peer mentor programme consists of eight one-hour training sessions, which will include elements of safeguarding training. At the end of the sessions, the Year 8s will be certified ‘peer mentors’ who, alongside supporting peers, will play active roles in our whole school approach to promoting well-being.

To become a peer mentor, pupils were asked to write a letter of application to Puriton’s wellbeing lead. Successful applicants were invited to interviews. They were asked a range of questions and asked to respond to a variety of scenarios by the wellbeing lead, chair of governors and headteacher. This was a daunting prospect, but all candidates responded thoughtfully and confidently and offered great suggestions about how Puriton can improve wellbeing. Six pupils were appointed peer mentors and eagerly await their training from Young Somerset.

When asked about their experiences so far, Darcey said: “It prepares you for when you are older and apply for an actual job.”

Olivia explained: “I was nervous in the interview but felt proud after I did it. I put myself out of my comfort zone and completed the interview!”

Cassie shared that she enjoyed receiving immediate feedback from the panel. When they said, “Excellent answer,” she said that she knew she was doing well.

They all added that they are looking forward to completing the programme and learning new skills to help other children.

Lucy Green, Puriton’s wellbeing lead, shared her thoughts on the initiative.  “The children and I are very excited about the launch of the scheme. The whole process has already taught them many skills that will be beneficial later in life. Children often find the prospect of seeking adult support overwhelming, so the peer mentor scheme is designed to promote the idea that children can seek support from people their age. It also gives our children a voice in when we’re thinking of ways to improve wellbeing at our school.”

Puriton can already see the benefits of the scheme and is excited to see how it develops.