The Peer Support Program has been running since 2001 and has become a popular programme for our senior students. A student centred program run by the Year 11 and 12 leaders, the focus of Peer Support is on making the transition for Year 7 students into high school a more enjoyable and exciting experience whilst building a culture of leadership throughout the secondary school years.
Year 11 leaders, operating in small teams of 4-6, work with their allocated Year 7 pastoral care group (PCG) each week, discussing numerous issues present in school today, including bullying, racial discrimination, cyber-safety, homework and organisation, making friends and building relationships, family life and communication, and drugs.
The running of the program is a journey of three phases filled with laughter, tears and a great deal of warm fuzzies. In the first phase, potential leaders are invited to apply for the program in Year 10, completing an application form, attending a number of meetings and then a three-day training camp. This camp is designed to teach about and explore with the applicants their roles as Peer Support leaders and how to successfully manage this role. Through many a late night, numerous animated discussions and a great deal of fun, the applicants leave the camp with a great deal more knowledge and a greater sense of unity as a peer group.
Having completed the camp Year 11 students are then divided into 6 groups, one for each PCG and mentored by our Year 12 leaders. They plan, organise and run lessons with their allocated PCG during PCG2 time. During these lessons they get to know the Year 7 students quite well and can support and encourage them outside the classroom when they see them.
These lessons enable our Year 7 students to know some of the older students around the school and develop a feeling of community and belonging. They also feel confident to approach an older student and some of the “scariness” of high school is diminished.
Lessons with the Year 7 PCGs are scattered over Terms 1, 2 and 3, and number up to about 10 sessions. Under the supervision of the Year 12s the Year 11 leaders develop leadership skills and confidence that stands them in good stead for other Year 12 leadership positions. At the end of Term 3 the Year 11 students apply to be Year 12 leaders and 12-13 students are chosen to take over the Year 12 mentoring role.
We again, take these students on camp and develop further leadership skills as well as building them into a cohesive group that can work well together and alongside their peers in Year 11. One of their first tasks is to organise and run the Year 11 camp so time is also spent working on this task.
The Peer Support Programme has become an excellent learning experience for our students and has produced confident, capable and enthusiastic leaders which contribute greatly to our school by building a community of students who care for those younger and aim to help the Year 7s particularly in their transition to High School.