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Peer mentoring supports students in secondary schools transition

Group of students stood in a classroom with assistant principal Ed Davis and Grace Cloke and Anna Smith from the Mental Health Support Team.

This free to use programme aims to help children in their transition to secondary school. It can be a daunting prospect for some children, and can trigger feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, confidence, or friendship difficulties.

But the transition to secondary school is being made easier thanks to the peer mentoring programme. Secondary school students are trained by our Mental Health Support Team so that they can then offer support and advice to children coming from primary school.

The Mental Health Support Team completed the Anna Freud Peer Mentor Programme with several secondary schools in 2023 and have received positive feedback from schools, pupils, and staff.

It is hoped that more schools will sign up for the programme in 2024, to ensure all year 6 primary school children have equitable access to support in their transition to secondary school. All peer mentoring support is carried out with parental consent.

Callington Community College introduced the peer mentoring programme in September. For any new year 7 pupils who are struggling with the transition, help is at hand from year 8 peer mentors.

“The Mental Health Support Team from Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said that I could run a programme where they would be able to train a number of our year 8 students, who would be able to act as peer mentors for our new year 7 students. They can chat about any concerns they have, but sometimes just as a social conversation. The best way to judge its success is that it has continued throughout the year, and the year 7s and year 8s have maintained that connection.”

Ed Davis, Associate Assistant Principal at Callington Community College

Moving forward the plan will be to train year 7 students in preparation for the arrival of those making the transition from primary school this September.

“The year 7 students, who are trained, will be connected to a tutor group, so within that tutor group the peer mentors will be there as a point of call. They will be able to talk directly to those students who are there to support them. As they begin in year 7 they will recognise that the year 8s are there to support them as well.”

Ed Davis, Associate Assistant Principal at Callington Community College

All 8 secondary schools in east Cornwall have now signed up for the programme. As well as Callington, they are Budehaven Community School, Launceston College, Sir James Smith’s School (Camelford), Saltash Community School, Torpoint Community College, Looe Community Academy, and Liskeard School and Community College.

There are also 65 primary schools across east Cornwall, who have been invited to take part in the programme. One of those is Stratton Primary School in Bude. They signed up for the programme last year, and already, a number of year 6 children have benefitted from support from students at Budehaven Community School.

“We started peer mentoring last summer. It’s a way of buddying up year 7 students at Budehaven, our local secondary school, with year 6s who are moving to Budehaven. Hopefully, that gives them more confidence and somebody they can talk to. We have identified a cohort of children that have been accessing extra support at primary school that may then need extra support when going to secondary school.

“This has been really important for children that have some vulnerabilities. To give them some opportunity for support before they were there (secondary school) and for them to know that was going to be accessible to them is really important.”

Becky Bridgman, Deputy Headteacher at Stratton Primary School

Historically, peer mentoring support has been available to students for a number of years. But it is that high level of trained support, with the help of the Mental Health Support Team, which allows students to access support specific to their needs, such as signposting.

“It’s a wonderful programme that we’re really excited about. Every child that needs that support can get it. It has so many impacts. It’s not just helping the children coming up from primary schools. It helps the pastoral staff and reduces their workload.”

Grace Cloke, East Cornwall Mental Health Support Team Manager

“The feedback has just been amazing. It’s really lovely to hear what the mentors are taking away from it as well as those they are supporting. There are a number of children transitioning into secondary school who don’t necessarily want to speak to adults when they need some support. So having peers they can go to is really important and it creates some really good links.”

Anna Smith, East Cornwall Education Mental Health Supervisor

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