What is Peer Support?

The Peer Support Program is a whole-of-school approach to support students’ mental health and wellbeing. It’s a student-led program that is backed  by research and endorsed by state education departments.

The program involves senior students being trained as Peer Leaders, and leading small groups of younger students in weekly structured sessions.

Participating in the program equips kids and young people with the skills and tools to build strong relationships and positively navigate life. Students learn the social and emotional literacy skills to better manage life’s ups and downs.

Watch teachers and students from Peer Support schools discuss the program.

Support wellbeing and mental health across the whole school community

The Peer Support Program helps primary and high school students develop the skills and relationships to support their mental health. It does this by providing opportunities for students to develop strong relationships, and explore topics related to wellbeing.

The program explores four key concepts: resilience, sense of self, connectedness, and sense of possibility.

Students discuss and participate in activities that reinforce their understanding of each topic. The small group discussions are led by senior students, who undergo Peer Leader training, and follow a structured session outline.

The program helps:

  • Build strong relationships
  • Empower students
  • Nurture a sense of belonging and inclusiveness
  • Foster an anti-bullying culture

Choose which topic to run in your Peer Support program

Schools can select from a range of modules, including resilience, relationships, optimism, and anti-bullying. Each module is run weekly over an 8-week period using the resources provided by Peer Support Australia.

The program is evidence-based  

The first iteration of the Peer Support Program was developed more than 50 years ago, and has since evolved to its current format, using an evidence-based approach.

Deakin University reviewed research into our program, and found that:

  • 69% of younger students who participated in the Peer Support Program reported greater feelings of acceptance and inclusion.
  • 80% of Peer Leaders felt they experienced personal growth, 82% felt they improved their leadership skills, and 89% improved their confidence.

Many schools report that their students have better relationships, an increased sense of personal responsibility and agency, and a greater feeling of belonging.

We’re endorsed by Education Departments

The Peer Support Program is a preferred NSW Department of Education provider of wellbeing programs for both resilience and sense of belonging. We are an endorsed program on the SA Department for Education External Wellbeing Programs Directory. And our professional learning has been accredited by the ACT Teacher Quality Institute.

We offer a best practice approach to student wellbeing programs

The Peer Support Program is run by your school under a licensing model with Peer Support Australia. We provide the training, resources, support and licence needed to implement and run the program.

Our approach is supported by a scientific body of evidence.

The Australian Centre for Education Research (ACER) conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 78 evaluations of school wellbeing programs. (This is the best quality research.)

It found that the most effective wellbeing programs are those that:

  • foster school belonging and engagement
  • provide mentoring
  • build social‑emotional skills.

The review reinforced the importance of teacher professional learning.

The review also identified factors common to wellbeing programs with the most evidence of impact on student outcomes. These include:

  • shorter programs of up to one school term (fits into a crowded curriculum)
  • delivered over a number of regular sessions (builds student capacity)
  • universal interventions that raise awareness (builds the whole community)
  • delivered to small groups of students.

These identified factors speak to the structure and approach of the Peer Support Program.

You can find a summary of the ACER review here.

What is Peer Support? A male and female high school student are having a positive conversation while at a computer.

Principals give a high rating to Peer Support Program outcomes

A 2021 study published in the journal School Mental Health looked at mental health and wellbeing programs in Australian schools.

The researchers surveyed 597 school principals/ leaders at NSW primary schools. They looked at five core social emotional competencies: recognising and managing emotions and behaviours, setting and achieving positive goals, appreciating the perspectives of others, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, and making responsible decisions.

The Peer Support Program was the most commonly used program. The program had, on average, been in use in schools for more than five years and been targeted to students at all or most stages. Principals rated the effectiveness of our program 2.28 (with highest score being 3).

Implement the Peer Support Program in your school.