Improving outcomes for students and schools
Peer Support Australia explains how it provides school communities with the support they need to improve their relationships, leadership and transition skills and mental and social health.
For more than 34 years, Peer Support Australia has been the go-to-organisation for Australian primary and secondary schools looking to enhance the social and emotional wellbeing of their students.
Peer Support Australia provides support and resources to primary and secondary schools, most notably through its Peer Support Program. For secondary schools, the program has helped students transition, while also providing older students authentic leadership opportunities.
The organisation estimates that more than 500,000 young people in hundreds of schools across Australia participate in the program each year.
The Peer Support Program
The Peer Support Program is an evidence-informed program that centres on peer-led interaction. The program promotes a whole-school culture, in addition to transition skills, leadership, positive relationships, resilience, and mental and social health.
The Peer Support Program helps students entering secondary school life to feel supported. These students are connected with peer leaders from higher grades, who are able to draw on their experience and knowledge from their own transition process, which helps inform their mentorship.
The program opens up channels of communication where members of the school student community are given license to engage with others, become aware of those around them, value their peers and know that they exist in a mutually and active supportive community.
In a 2016 survey by Mission Australia, young people were asked to indicate from a number of sources where they would go for help with important issues in their lives. The survey showed 83 per cent of respondents indicated they would turn to friends – the highest indicated source of help. Peer Support Australia believes it stands to reason that young people need to be equipped with the necessary skills to provide support to other young people.
The Peer Support Program provides this opportunity. Through the process of leadership training, peer leaders explore invaluable skills such as communication, relationship building, empathy and decision making.
Students develop leadership skills, connections, facilitation and an understanding of roles and responsibilities, prior to conducting peer-to-peer sessions with students transitioning to secondary school. These sessions provide a platform of support which aims to help students boost their sense of connectedness with their peers, teachers and community, and increases their self-efficacy.
Furthermore, the Peer Support Program is enabled by a supportive school staff community as all teachers provide support through briefing, debriefing, and supervision during the sessions. It is envisaged that content covered during the sessions is utilised by teachers and students, allowing them to work through everyday scenarios as they arise, and helping students to practice the skills and strategies they have learned.
Peer Support Australia views the work they do with schools as more than just the provision of a program.
Greg Cantwell, Peer Support Australia CEO, explains that the program complements and builds on existing practices at a number of schools across Australia to enhance wellbeing, noting the importance Peer Support Australia places on maintaining ongoing relationships with schools.
“Peer Support Australia places an emphasis on working together with members of the school community, including administrators, teachers, students, and parents to develop a culture that is cohesive and supportive,” Greg says.
Greg says Peer Support Australia offers schools the support they need with dedicated wellbeing education consultants placed across Australia who provide direct support.
Sara deVries, Education Services Manager of Peer Support Australia, explains how schools and Peer Support Australia work together.
“Initially, a core group of teachers from a school are trained by a Peer Support Australia wellbeing education consultant at an Implementation Workshop. It’s a highly informative and effective training which builds capacity within the school to initiate and sustain an effective peer support program,” Sara says.
“Our wellbeing education consultants provide schools with continued support beyond the workshop to ensure wellbeing is embedded across the life of the school.
“This valuable advice and expertise can be accessed through such services such as school visits, in-school workshops, and video conferencing.”
Peer Support Australia says this personal touch from supportive, resourceful, and knowledgeable professionals has contributed to the organisation’s longevity and their ongoing relationships with hundreds of schools across Australia.
There are places available at the remaining 2017 Peer Support Australia Implementation Workshops across Australia. Student Representative Council Workshops are also available. Peer Support Australia has also released its full 2018 workshop schedule, which can be seen on their website:
Learn more about Peer Support Australia and how your school can work together with them to enhance the social and emotional wellbeing of your students at www.peersupport.edu.au or by emailing their education team at: firstname.lastname@example.org