Is Peer Mentoring the Answer?

​Lately We’ve been listening to a lot of teenagers who struggle with school.  The ones we know are usually ASC students and struggle with social relationships, organisation, sensory issues and find school enormously challenging.  Especially in mainstream schools. This can be enormously isolating for them.  One of the things we like to try is finding them a peer mentor.  An older student or mixed age student group seems to work well, as they have the advantage of having been through some similar difficulties already.  If the mentor has ASC too, it can benefit them both.  But how do you organise a peer mentoring so that it IS successful…

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​Here’s an account of one school that has taken Peer Mentoring seriously. @LaurenCasey_LMC works at a mainstream school in Barking, Essex and writes about her experiences so far…

Peer Mentoring

Mentoring has been part of school life for a number of years now, however, this year it was decided that the SEND department would try peer mentoring and have different year groups mixed in.

At first, this idea was given a mixed review – some staff said it would be too difficult, some staff questioned how tasks could be done as different year groups have different needs;  I, on the other hand, welcomed the change and put my  “let’s give this a go”  head on.

We have been back to school now 5 weeks and have had mentoring for 4 of those weeks.  It only happens once a week, for 20 minutes and is a compulsory session. I have two years groups mixed together;  for me it’s year 9 and year 10.  We are currently making a ‘getting to know me’ poster – we brainstormed all together what should go on the poster, I typed it up and it is in each student’s folder so they know, when they walk into my classroom, what they have to get on with.  The laptops are out, the radio is on and their folders are on the desks…it’s quite a chilled out 20 minutes.

School also introduced a points system so good behaviour is awarded positive points and bad behaviour is awarded negative points – obviously the number of points varies on the behaviour.   So one of my noticeboards in my classroom is dedicated to mentoring.  All the student’s names are on the board with their points next to their name – I’ve also made a little rosette for 1st place.  This has also had a positive effect of the students as they encourage each other along. One student, this week, finally moved herself out of negative points and was congratulated by her peers.  Our ‘leader’ was also congratulated and a bit of light hearted banter enthused everyone when I said he could have 3 weeks off school to let everyone catch up.

One of my mentees had an issue with lateness.  He came to sit in my ‘hot-seat’ so we could discuss this and he told me the bus he gets on is sometimes too packed so he has to wait.   Before I had a chance to say anything or work with him to think of ways to overcome this, my group of mentees were asking him which bus stop he goes to, explaining to him the other buses that go to that stop, where he could get off the bus to get to school…the list was endless.  I was extremely proud of all my mentees that day and when I looked at the student he had a big heart melting smile across his face.  He struggles to make friends and is normally a very shy young man.  You could see the thought process happening – these people are actually trying to help me and they aren’t being mean.   Needless to say, he hasn’t been late to school or for any lesson since last Wednesday which is a massive achievement – especially as we have only been back 5 weeks and he was already top of the late list with a total of 13 lates!

So all in all, yes peer mentoring does work. Embrace it and watch before your very eyes how wonderful young people can be.

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​Thanks Lauren for this interesting account.  We look forward to seeing how it develops over the year.

What we’d like to do at Reachout ASC is put together some resources and advice for our schools on how to support and develop Peer Mentoring.  What ideas and experiences have you had that you could share here? 

There are some obvious questions such as: 

  • ​How do you choose peers that will build positive and balanced relationships?
  • What choice does the mentored pupil have in choosing who they want to have mentoring them? 
  • Do groups like Lauren’s work better than 1:1 mentoring?  

I’m sure you will all be able to add more things we need to consider. 

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