Negotiating those awkward teenage years in what is a close-knit boarding environment presents its own pressures and challenges. As a new arrival in Faulkner’s you may be faced with navigating the sometimes-tricky transition from prep school to senior school or, as a senior pupil, find yourself going through the stress of public exams and meeting multiple coursework deadlines.

If I am able to make someone’s experience here a bit easier or more manageable then I know I will have accomplished something truly special.

Peer Mentor

The Peer Mentoring Programme forms an integral part of our pastoral offering. We strongly believe in the benefits of pupils helping others and by placing senior pupils at the heart of our offering, we have seen them thrive in their roles as Peer Mentors.

Research has shown that peer mentoring can increase self-efficacy, self-reflection and enhance problem-solving and decision-making abilities. It also fosters a sense of inclusion and belonging – values integral to providing a happy home from home boarding environment.

Putting pupils at the centre of our pastoral offering

Perhaps unsurprisingly, pupils are often uncomfortable speaking directly to a teacher if they have an issue and may feel that they have no outlet to voice their worries.

They would much prefer to speak to one of their peers as they are easier to relate to. This idea runs at the heart of the programme, recognising that our senior pupils are best placed to provide advice to their younger peers as they are likely to have been in their position before.

All Peer Mentors receive Child Protection and Mental Health First Aid training and learn about the importance of confidentiality and spotting the early signs of health issues.

How does it work?

Pupils can book a session with a Mentor via the internal pupil portal. It is an anonymous system where they can choose who they see but the Mentor does not find out who they are seeing before they meet.

Naturally, the programme has a focus on our youngest pupils and Mentors have weekly scheduled time in Faulkner’s Common Room. There are 26 Mentors in total, three mentors from each senior girls’ House and two from each senior boys’ House.

I have worked quite closely with Faulkner’s and have seen a difference after they have spoken to someone who has been through the same experiences. It has certainly opened my eyes to the need for a programme like this.

Peer Mentor

Because there is a least one Mentor from each House, they are also available during prep time in their own Houses, which has proved popular among their housemates with whom they have existing relationships. Even if they do not use the booking system or in-House systems, badges make our Mentors highly visible around the College.

In particular circumstances, Mentors are obliged to inform a member of staff of an issue, which can put them in a tricky situation when finding the line between their responsibility as a Peer Mentor and loyalty as a friend. However, the College has a strong pastoral network of in-house listeners and counsellors to call upon.

Developing skills

Peer mentoring allows our pupils to develop skills that they would not necessarily pick up in other aspects of College life, for example, the ability to empathise and react appropriately to certain situations.

It can be easy to be caught off guard by what someone might say in a conversation. To be able to show that you care, not just in what you say but also by your body language is very important to creating a successful outcome.

Communication skills are equally important. The ability to listen carefully and respond appropriately are transferable skills that will be valuable long after leaving Bradfield. Likewise, problem solving and getting to the root of an issue are highly relevant during their academic studies and co-curricular pursuits.

A rewarding experience

Mediating between pupils and teachers and taking on that responsibility gives our Mentors a great deal of confidence. They become compassionate people and see their role as an opportunity to give back to the College and build more meaningful relationships with pupils across year groups and Houses.

Bradfield is a big school but it is easy for pupils to feel lonely sometimes. To be able to show those pupils that they are not alone and have someone to talk to who will listen is key to their wellbeing.

Peer Mentor

Many of our pupils feel very strongly about mental health and wellbeing and want to raise awareness of these issues among their peers and beyond the College confines. In the first year of the scheme, over 80 Sixth Formers registered an interest, showing the extent to which these issues matter to their generation.

Not only does peer mentoring enhance skills and experience that can be transferred into personal and career life, it connects pupils, leaving them with cherished memories and friendships that last well beyond school.