Pupils at Jo Richardson School step in to resolve conflicts

Teenagers have spoken about an inspiring new project which has taught them to resolve conflicts and arguments in the playground and beyond.

The peer mentors at Jo Richardson School, Gale Street, Dagenham, have been picked to tackle disgreements and spats between other pupils because as fellow pupils, they know best.

The school spent two years trying to get the project up and running.

Now 25 teenagers have undergone intensive training since Easter to hone their skills to help resolve minor conflicts among pupils and ease any tensions before they turn into full-blown arguments or bullying.

Deputy headteacher Michaela Boller said: “The idea that young people understand young people’s conflicts better than teachers – that’s the thing that got us thinking.

“The idea is to empower students to deal with their own conflicts.

“There are things that adults consider silly, like being called names on Facebook. We would just ignore it but for young people it’s crucial. Their role is to act as a bridge between the two parties.”

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Vanna Malia-Barker, 15, said: “We were taught skills that we didn’t know we had.”

One student witnessed a punch up after mediation but they were left to get on with it as part of the friends’ “repair and rebuild” process

Joshua Bolton, 14, said: “We had to be impartial and had to let them make their own decisions. We led them on the way to that stage.

“You tell them the rules – no swearing – then ask them questions about their feelings, and what the would like to get out of this.”

Emma Halahan, 15, said: “In the pre-meeting they get to talk about their emotions. It gives you a place to start.

“When it comes to the joint meeting they were a bit more chilled and comfortable.”

Anyone involved in a dispute can walk out at any point during the meeting.

The main goal is to come to an agreement, even if it means the two parties agree not to be friends anymore, and the paramount skill is to remain impartial – something which the students demonstrated perfectly in a role play last week.

“In pre-meetings, you can get two totally different stories,” Joshua added. “When they’re in the same room, the real story comes out.”

This article features as part of the Post campaign Choose Your Future.