Kids sit around a table engaged in the Peer Support Program

4 ways the Peer Support Program boosts student wellbeing

Are you looking for ways to build student wellbeing and create a positive school culture? 

The Peer Support Program provides an opportunity to grow student connections, empower students, build resilience, and have fun. 

The program also enables students to learn and practise a range of transferable life skills, via structured modules. 

Peer Support Australia’s CEO Samantha Brown says that many schools are running the Peer Support Program to increase students’ wellbeing which hasn’t fully recovered since the pandemic.

“The program enables students to form connections with peers and across grades,” Ms Brown said. “It also empowers students to step into inclusive  leadership roles, and equips them with skills and tools to navigate life’s ups and downs.”

Here are four ways the Peer Support Program can help improve student wellbeing.

1. Peer Support helps students feel connected at school 

Research shows that a student’s feeling of connectedness impacts their attendance, academic outcomes and mental health. In fact, a feeling of connectedness impacts our physical health too. 

Ms Brown says that building connections between students is one of the major benefits of the Peer Support Program. 

“Students meet weekly in small groups and follow a structured program,” she says. “This format nurtures relationships between peers and across grades.”  

Teacher Leeann Hardes witnessed an increase in student connections at Cardiff Public School, after completing the Peer Support Program this year. 

“They started to broaden their social networks and look for those students in the playground,” Ms Hardes said.

2. Students feel empowered 

The Peer Support Program is led by senior students in small groups, offering leadership opportunities to all students, including those who may not be identified as traditional leaders. 

“The program gives many students the chance to be leaders,” Ms Brown said. “We see young people stepping into Peer Leader roles and delighting teachers and parents with their capacity to lead.”

Ms Hardes agrees.

“The seniors that we were concerned about leading stepped up and, once confident, embraced the opportunity to lead, and you could see their confidence increasing each week,” she said. 

“These were the students that would never have volunteered for any other leadership jobs in the school,” Ms Hardes said. 

Ms Brown added that students take this sense of leadership into their everyday lives, learning that they can have influence and create positive change. 

3. Students increase their resilience 

Resilience is made up of many facets, including a person’s ability to bounce back from adversity. 

The Peer Support Program helps build students’ resilience by nurturing strong, positive relationships, which in turn helps boost overall student wellbeing.

“A feeling of connection is known to improve resilience,” Ms Brown said. “The program also aims to instill young people with a sense of optimism, which helps them look forward to the future.”

There are different modules that schools can choose as part of the program, including optimism, positive relationships, resilience, and anti-bullying. These resources are available to current member schools in Peer Support Australia’s online portal. 

4. The Peer Support Program is fun 

Students enjoy participating in the Peer Support Program. 

“The modules are interactive and engaging,” Ms Brown said. “But it’s also the emerging friendships between students that make the weekly sessions enjoyable.”

According to a recent study by Australian researchers, ‘friends’ is the most-liked aspect of school. 

“Friendships help get students to school each day, and are often the highlight of going,” Ms Brown said. 

Ms Hardes said the program was a highlight for students. 

“The students looked forward to their session each week and would cheer when it was on the daily timetable,” Ms Hardes said. “We have since utilised the groups to engage in education and science week activities.”

“We look forward to running the program next year,” Ms Hardes said. 

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