Peer Mentors Help Young People to Access Services

Responding to a suggestion from a student, a community High School in Northumberland has developed an innovative peer mentoring programme.

At the beginning of Year 12 students are given the opportunity to train as mentors, and the programme is so popular that 28 students are being trained this year. A comprehensive training programme is coordinated by a teacher. Sessions are for 2 hours once a week and cover:

  • Listening and communication skills
  • Exploring our values and how not to be judgmental
  • Health issues including bereavement, self-harm, eating disorders, child protection, sexual health and drugs

Many of the training sessions are run by visitors from specialist agencies who can answer the peer mentors' questions and inform them about the services available to support young people in the local area. There is also a residential part of the training. This focuses on team-building to ensure that the peer mentors are self-supportive as a team.

By Easter of Year 12 the peer mentors are ready. Together with the school nurse they staff 'the hut' (a teacher free zone) on a rota basis. They listen to a wide range of problems that other students come to talk to them about, and give information about agencies that can support them further.

As part of the county-wide 'c-card' scheme, peer mentors assist with distributing condoms. If a young person comes to ask a peer mentor for condoms, they refer them to the school nurse to be registered. The nurse does an assessment using the Fraser guidelines and talks through how to use condoms safely. The peer educators then work alongside the nurse in 'the hut' and distribute condoms when young people come back for more.  Students under 16 see the nurse again on every 7th visit. 

The scheme has now been running for several years. The informal approach of the peer educators has helped to optimise uptake of the scheme by young people and also to increase the capacity of the school nurse. Receiving the same condom distribution training as youth workers the peer educators benefit from valuable learning opportunities and skills development. They take great pride in being part of the scheme.

Contact: Jane Telfer, Northumberland Teenage Pregnancy Partnership