School trains girls to help their peers

Nottingham Girls’ High School has enlisted the help of a leading psychologist to further develop its pastoral care

Educational psychologist Dr Val Besag has coached a team of 32 students from Nottingham Girls’ High School, giving them the tools and advice they need to understand group dynamics amongst girls and what makes them tick. The girls were trained in communication, counselling and problem-solving skills, with the goal of becoming long-term peer coaches within the school – helping fellow students with friendship troubles and other problems.

Nottingham Girls’ High School identified Dr Besag as an authority in the area of peer support and included the session as part of its pastoral care programme, designed to support the personal, moral and social development of students. Working alongside the staff pastoral team, the peer coaches will go on to help other girls understand how conflict is caused and how best to resolve it.

Parents and staff also took part in a parental seminar led by Dr Besag, to make them alert to problems that their children may be having, what they should be looking for and how they can support girls with any friendship difficulties.

Sue Gorham, head at Nottingham Girls’ High School, commented: “Investing in a renowned and well-respected educational psychologist is demonstrative of our commitment as a school to providing first-rate pastoral care. Girls can be quite good at keeping their problems from others – especially from adults – and usually turn to their peers for support when experiencing friendship difficulties, so it’s important that everyone is educated and aware. The girls can carry these skills forward, sharing them with their peers and setting the standard for how to properly address and resolve conflict within friendship groups.”

For the rest of the year the peer coaches will put their training into practice by identifying and supporting girls who are struggling. Other schools in the Girls’ Day School Trust – of which Nottingham Girls’ High School is a member – have shown interest in the scheme.

“Dr Besag’s insight will develop the girls’ social responsibility and foster a caring learning environment where students are supported by an expert team of staff and peers,” said Sue. “Wherever they are, girls will encounter friendship troubles in one way or another – it’s simply a part of life – but with this network of support firmly in place, designed with girls in mind, we can help them along the way.”

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