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Peer Mediation Working Group at National Education Conference

Peer Mediation Working Group at National Education Conference

Last week the CMC Peer Mediation Working Group took part in the National Education Union Conference at the Bournemouth International Centre. The group was represented by Chair Michele Wheeler who is the peer mediation lead at Mediation Hertfordshire, volunteer mediator and peer mediation trainer Polly Walker, Ben Harper who is the Peer Mediation Coordinator at Quakers in Britain and CMC Programme Manager Victoria Harris.

Between 3-5 April members from the CMC Peer Mediation Working Group visited the Bournemouth International Centre for the National Education Union Conference. The purpose of the visit was to promote peer mediation projects in schools, a project that teaches pupils mediation skills and enables them to volunteer to help their peers to resolve conflict.

The team had an early start, setting off at 4am to set up the CMC exhibition stand in good time for the teacher delegates arrival on day one. Fuelled by a 6am Starbucks at Fleet Services the group arrived in good time for the event.

Victoria Harris

CMC Programme Manager Victoria Harris explained that  ‘upon arrival at the BIC, the stand space allocated to the CMC was huge and it was a good thing that we had travelled with so many resources to decorate the stand and to encourage interaction. One such tool included ‘lucky dip’ conflict scenarios so that delegates could consider their own response to a conflict situation and could chat with the team about the value of understanding differing conflict personalities.’

When talking to children about conflict the Thomas Kilmann conflict model is often depicted as animal types and there were posters on the stand depicting a collaborating owl, an accommodating teddy bear, forcing shark, compromising fox and withdrawing turtle.

With the pop-up stand, lightbox and a rolling video showcasing peer mediation all in place, the team handed out hundreds of leaflets over the three days and noted enquiries from schools who were keen to implement peer mediation in their own school environment.

‘We will be responding to these enquiries and linking schools with peer mediation providers to ensure that more children become aware of what mediation is and how it works’ said Victoria. ‘With mediation becoming embedded in our civil justice system it is vital that the next generation have this awareness.

Another key benefit from the Conference, was hearing first hand from teachers the struggles they face to manage conflict and what would be helpful for them in both a primary and senior school setting. This will all be fed back to the working group by its Chair Michele Wheeler at our next meeting on the 16 April.’

The team also heard how challenges in the classroom had increased post pandemic and it was striking the number of teachers who indicated that they would soon be leaving the profession.  Whilst conflict in the classroom may not be the primary reason for teacher turnover it was clear that for many, it had played a significant role. It was apparent that this is a much-needed project and the team gave tips about finding funding for the project as well as tips for sustaining a peer mediation programme to contribute to an overall restorative culture in schools.

Thank you to Baroness Blower, former General Secretary of the NEU, who called by the stand to offer encouragement and advice to promote this work and a massive thank you to Michele Wheeler and Polly Walker, both from Mediation Hertfordshire and to Ben Harper from Quakers in Britain for giving your time, energy and enthusiasm, at this event.

If you are interested to join the CMC Peer Mediation Working Group please contact Victoria.

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