November 2, 2020 |Blog

Most teachers understand that wellbeing and learning are entwined. The principle objective of Peer Support is to foster student wellbeing by providing a peer network for social and emotional learning through positive experiences.    Peer Support Australia, through Implementation and SRC workshops, dynamic peer interaction, ongoing consultancy support and evidence informed resources help build professional confidence that empowers teachers to implement Peer Support within their school setting.  
Participation in this program enhances professional confidence and enables teachers to develop further leadership skills that will assist them in other professional endeavours within the school. Kate Carlin from Triabunna District High School in Tasmania has shared her experience of Peer Support and the professional learning experience offered.

“Participating in the Peer Support training was so motivating. I took everything I needed to start up the PSP within my school. The addition of resources to the online site has been a definite positive and I use the site at least weekly. The support offered by Peer Support Australia has been excellent. I have been fully supported throughout the implementation process… The training of leaders was such a positive in our school. Our two Outdoor Education teachers ran the sessions and spoke very highly of the program and how easy it was to follow and teach to our students… I look forward to 2021 and being more confident and with one program under my belt to make it an even better program”

Staff participating in Peer Support workshops are invited to deepen their thinking and explore the many facets of wellbeing that underpin the Peer Support best practice model. The existing supports and links to National and State/Territory frameworks and curriculum in each sector strengthens professional understanding of the importance of wellbeing and its critical enablers to learning. Clare Howlett from Merewether High School commented,

“The Implementation Workshop developed my familiarity with the quantifiable benefits of the Peer Support Program. I feel that I have consolidated my understanding of the research that underpins the Program’s success. This will help me to better communicate the importance of the Peer Support Program to staff, parents, and students.” 

Evaluation feedback from Peer Support workshop participants affirms that the experience is valued, and that the learning is challenging, transferable and potentially transformative of teachers’ thinking and practice.  Another critical success factor in professional learning for implementing Peer Support and effectively running an SRC, is for staff to be able to explore avenues for enabling authentic student voice. Tracy Gnauck, Relieving Assistant Principal from Wyee Public School provided some insights into her professional learning experience.

“The SRC workshop gave me the knowledge and tools to have the confidence to support students. As part of the workshop, designated time was set aside to go through some of the activities that can be implemented at my school. Ongoing support is readily available, and I know should I need to contact Peer Support I will receive a prompt response. I thoroughly enjoyed the SRC workshop and I now feel confident in implementing and maintaining an effective SRC.”  

The Gonski report of 2018 recognises student voice as an important mechanism for increased engagement, wellbeing and achievement. The power of student voice in creating feelings of safety and security for students is shared by the Commission for Children and Young People – Victoria
“Children have the right to give their views and opinions about decisions that affect them and be listened to. Empowerment is about helping children to have their say …. Children are more likely to speak up about concerns about feeling unsafe if they feel their views are valued and welcome.”.  

Safety, security and agency are more important than ever for students in this current COVID climate of change and uncertainty.   Professional sharing of practice in enabling authentic student voice through Peer Support is a key component of Peer Support professional development. Participants comment on the value of sharing successful practice in this area.   Nirasha Pandi from the Catholic Regional College, Melton, Victoria commented

“At the time I completed this Implementation Workshop, I had already run our Peer Support Program for our Year 7 students for the first time. I had based all my knowledge on the resources that had been passed onto me. Participating in this workshop allowed me to gain a better understanding of the core values behind the Peer Support Program and how beneficial the program is to both the Year 7 and 10 students, if implemented properly. It was also beneficial to hear how other schools run or plan to run their program within the curriculum and other school programs. Following my participation in this workshop, I came away with some ideas of how I can improve my running of the program next year from the selection of the Peer Support leaders to the organisation of the program.” 

We invite you to join the growing number of schools and teachers who are engaging in Peer Support Australia’s professional learning and consultancy to enhance your confidence in implementing wellbeing peer to peer in their school setting.

Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2018). Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra. https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/child-safety/being-a-child-safe-organisation/the-child-safe-standards/standard-7-empowering-children/
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