Honing the skills for lifelong success

Mediation network can be used in any setting to help young people to deal positively with conflict, writes Graham Boyack

Peer mediators from Baldragon Academy in Dundee at the Mediate 2014 Scottish Mediation Network Conference
Peer mediators from Baldragon Academy in Dundee at the Mediate 2014 Scottish Mediation Network Conference

Young Talk is a peer mediation network developed as a pilot project by the Scottish Mediation Network to support and empower young people in Scotland to deal positively with conflict through the use of peer mediation.

So, what is peer mediation?

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Peer mediation is the process whereby children and young people help their peers resolve arising conflicts and disagreements. Peer mediation services are most commonly used in schools, but can be set up in any relevant setting. The conflicts that peer mediation address can range from verbal disputes and spreading rumours to fights in the playground. Thus, peer mediation is simply pupils helping their peers to resolve conflict in positive ways. Children and young people undergo peer mediation training which provides them with the skills to become peer mediators.

More about Young Talk

Over recent years a number of schools and organisations across Scotland have introduced peer mediation services. Young Talk seeks to provide an external mechanism for supporting peer mediation services in schools and organisations as well as for establishing good practice, and enabling young people to continue their learning and development in mediation. Furthermore, Young Talk aims to provide opportunities for young peer mediators in Scotland to come together, connect and share ideas. The project also seeks to support schools/organisations in improving the sustainability of their peer mediation services. Like any skill, mediation needs to be practiced and developed – and in the case of peer mediation it needs to be done in a way that meets young people’s needs. Thus, Young Talk sets out to fill the gap in existing learning, networking and support provision for peer mediators in Scotland.

The project, developed by the Scottish Mediation Network, is funded by Young Start through the Big Lottery Fund for the two first years of establishment (2015-17), during which the long-term sustainability of Young Talk as a peer mediation network will be developed. A peer mediation network 
co-ordinator is currently employed for the project.

So why do it?

Extensive research shows that peer mediation teaches children and young people alternative strategies to aggression and withdrawal and thereby contribute to a healthy and safe school environment. Specifically, studies demonstrate that peer mediation is very successful in improving school climate by improving relationships between peers, reducing student-to-student conflict and reducing suspensions and discipline referral. Results from peer mediation studies show that when conflict arises and is dealt with by a peer mediator, there is around a 90 per cent agreement rate and satisfaction of outcome by the pupils involved in the mediation. Similarly, teachers and parents are also highly satisfied with the outcomes of mediation sessions

Research has also shown that peer mediation significantly improves problem solving skills, leadership abilities, assertiveness skills, communication skills as well as other interpersonal skills. They are also successful in increasing empathy, trust, and tolerance among these pupils. For peer mediators, learning the mediation process has been shown to increase self-esteem, and also improve academic achievement through cognitive development. Studies have also shown that peer mediation provides pupils with skills to use outside of the classroom – demonstrating that these skills are transferable across different areas of life.

Where does it fit in?

Peer mediation equips schools with the necessary tools to meet pupils’ psychosocial needs and thereby enhances multi-faceted learning and as such aligns with the goals of The Curriculum for Excellence, including the health and wellbeing outcomes. It innovatively uses an extra-curricular distraction as a teaching tool and broadens the scope for learning in schools, and the role of the school in providing children with essential life skills. This meets both the needs of children and young people, educational institutions, and the needs of teachers and staff within educational institutions, in a cost and time efficient way. 
Peer mediation and its outcomes also aligns with GIRFEC, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as national and local anti-bullying policies for schools in Scotland.

How to get involved?

Young Talk is open to all schools, organisations and young people who have undergone peer mediation training, but also to those schools, organisations and individuals who haven’t had training but are interested in or affiliated with peer mediation. Furthermore, SMN offers a two day peer mediation training at a low cost. In order to find out more about Young Talk, and peer mediation in general. Contact our peer mediation network co-ordinator at [email protected], or call the Scottish Mediation Network Office at (0131) 5561221.

Graham Boyack is director of the Scottish Mediation Network www.scottishmediation.org.uk