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The Big 13 – Initiative

Initiative can be seen as the willingness to take the first step, or make the first move.

If no-one was willing to take the initiative nothing would progress. How many people talk wistfully of big ideas they’ve had, but never acted upon? Sometimes the gap between idea and reality is the hardest one to bridge because it requires tangible action.

Taking the initiative includes elements of risk, positive attitude and good judgement. Importantly though, it includes the willingness to ‘go for it’ – which is essential in a fast paced competitive world where every job, business idea and opportunity will have many people chasing it.

Coleridge Primary – Peer Mediators

Looking for work is such a large and essential part of adult life that it seems sensible to offer young people the opportunity to develop and practice the skills required to do so successfully. Part of that is providing an opportunity to pursue opportunities under their own steam. At Coleridge Primary all Year Six Children undertake ‘Peer Mediation’ training to help them develop strategies to handle conflict and challenging behaviour in the playground. The course looks at strategies to communicate, handle conflict and develop tolerance. Following the training children can, if they want, apply for ‘jobs’ as Peer Mediators, working on a rota system over a full year to provide support to younger children in the playground.

Keeley Stevens is the Learning Mentor involved with the scheme since its launch. She said that, crucially, applying for the ‘jobs’ is entirely up to the children:

“The opportunity is there if they want to take it, but filling in the application is something they have to do themselves at home. We are clear we want it to come from them, not a parent filling the form in. The child needs to identify reasons why they would be good, and skills they have to make a success of the role, and that has to be down to them.”

Success is not given – after submitting their applications children are short listed and are invited to an interview. Keeley says this process is extremely illuminating for the children, and some even decide that the role is not for them. But she says that the children who do persevere and are successful get an enormous amount from the experience. She said:

“It gives them a great sense of responsibility. It is a big responsibility they take on, for the whole year, and you see a change in the pupils. They have more self esteem and confidence. In the first few weeks they can be quite shy and reserved about going up to children, but the experience and confidence grows over the weeks and months and they handle themselves differently.”

At the end of the year the Peer Mediators have a celebration in recognition of the hard work and commitment they have shown. Keeley said:

“The scheme is in its third year now and each year it grows in strength and acceptance. At first other children in the playground seemed to want adult intervention, but now it’s the Peer Mediators they approach first. The success is down to the hard work and skill of the children participating – and that has come from them wanting to be involved in the first place.”

Head Teacher Michelle Binns said the effects of the scheme, and the philosophy behind it, were rippling through school and beyond. She said: “Allowing pupils to take the initiative like this is crucial in taking the school forward. The children feel a far greater sense of responsibility for their fellow pupils, the building and the community. We have less vandalism and more parent involvement because the children are taking the initiative, taking ownership and are more motivated and engaged.”