British schools recognised for peace work as war continues in Ukraine

School peer mediators trained by a Quaker-rooted charity were recognised for their work in resolving conflicts at the National Mediation Awards in Parliament on 8 December.

Peer mediators from Greystones Primary School in Sheffield celebrate their win at the National Mediation Awards, photo credit: Amy Beedle for Quakers in Britain

Greystones Primary School, Sheffield, and Bacon's College, Southwark, were joint winners of the Peer Mediation Scheme of the Year Award 2022, presented by BBC newsreader Joanna Gosling.

Greystones has been involved with peer mediation on and off for 25 years, originally as part of a pilot project which led to the formation, by local Quakers, of CRESST, the Sheffield-based conflict resolution charity. CRESST supports the school by training up new peer mediators each year.

Quakers work to end war and violence and build a more peaceful world, and this includes facilitating peace education across the country, working with educators, young people and partners to develop and share creative peace education resources and practice.

Impossible to choose

The judges found it impossible to choose between the sixth formers of Bacon's College and the Year 6 students from Sheffield, so the two schools share the award. All Saints CE Primary School and Five Acre Wood SEN School were also shortlisted.

Like many schools, Greystones and Bacon's include pupils from conflict zones with 10,000 Ukrainian refugee children currently attending British schools, along with 5,400 from Afghanistan.

Schools utilising peer mediation say it gives pupils more confidence and better communication skills as well as creating a more peaceful environment within the school.

Bacon's and Greystones were chosen for their innovative approach to school mediation, ability to deal with conflicts at school and the promotion of mediation at school.

Their Year Six peer mediation scheme is oversubscribed, with many of the children having used its services themselves in the past.

Personal development at the forefront

Headteacher Chris Jennings said of peer mediation: "The personal development of the children is at the forefront, but also their ability to deal with some of the complex situations and demands of the world that they're moving into."

Children appreciate the confidentiality of the scheme, rather than being embarrassed in front of classmates, and that peer mediators do not shout or give punishments. They also feel that unlike adults, peers support both sides and take time to listen.

Some of those first peer mediators from Greystones Primary are now young adults who have carried their peer mediation skills into adult life.

"I try to keep an open mind and will often seek out an alternate opinion to my own to try to better understand something," said one.

The peer mediation award was one of 16 presented at the event celebrating excellence in mediation organised by the Civil Mediation Council, Family Mediation Council and College of Mediators.

Watch our video about Greystones Primary