Peer educators scheme, Girlguiding


Girlguiding has trained senior members to become peer educators to younger girls.

  • They deliver education modules on health and wellbeing issues developed with expert organisations
  • Dozens of peer educators have been trained, delivering hundreds of sessions

ACTION

A joint report published in May by the Commons health and education select committees found schools were struggling to provide sufficient time and resources for pupils' wellbeing.

Attempting to address gaps in PSHE provision is a peer education scheme run by Girlguiding. The project was established in 2003 but has evolved to feature four core elements developed with other organisations covering: resilience, self-esteem, healthy relationships and health and wellbeing.

Girlguides aged 14 to 25 are trained as peer educators to deliver "fun, safe and challenging sessions" on these topics.

One of these, 19-year-old Liddy from the North East, was trained as a peer educator in November 2015. Describing her own experience of classroom-based PSHE as "atrocious", she says the peer education scheme "definitely fills a gap for those girls not getting enough PSHE support in school".

Liddy explains that she signed up for the initial two-day peer educator residential training course when she recognised girls in the Brownie group she led needed more support.

"I saw girls in my [Brownie] group as young as seven with low body confidence, and I wanted to do something that would help them overcome this," she says.

The course teaches the peer educators about recognising problems, how to run sessions, communication techniques and responding appropriately to safeguarding concerns.

Girlguiding expects its peer educators to be able to deliver sessions on each of the four core elements as any of the topics can be requested by its groups.

Peer educators are rewarded with a pin badge for the number of sessions they hold: bronze (after four sessions), silver (25 sessions), gold (50 sessions).

The Free Being Me element, developed with World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and the Dove Self-Esteem Project, covers body confidence and self-esteem issues, a growing issue for girls and young women.

"There is so much pressure on body image," says Liddy. "It's everywhere; in the media, from your friends and family - you can't avoid it."

The Think Resilient element, developed with charity YoungMinds, provides tools to build mental wellbeing,

The Healthy Relationships module offers advice on how younger girls can forge strong friendships with peers, while resources for teenagers, developed with Against Violence and Abuse and Women's Aid, explore issues around healthy romantic relationships.

The last element, Youth Health, empowers young people to make their own decisions about alcohol, smoking, drugs and sex and was developed with the Department of Health.

Liddy delivered her first peer education session to her own Brownie group on Free Being Me which saw all of the 20 girls aged seven to 10 take part.

"They were really open to it," she says. "It's based around fun activities so it's learning in an enjoyable way.

"By the end of the session they were all inspired and said they were going to tell their friends about it which was great."

Now in her second year at university, Liddy no longer offers peer education sessions.

The courses are also designed to provide a foundation for future development - the Think Resilient module has a Take it Forward resource that guide leaders can use to do activities with the girls to carry on the benefits of the peer education sessions.

Findings from Girlguiding's Girls' Attitudes Survey are used to inform its peer education programme. For example, Think Resilient was released last year in response to data that showed the extent to which girls were experiencing problems with their mental health.

The 2015 survey found mental wellbeing had become girls' top concern and further research uncovered two thirds of girls reporting they knew someone their age who had experienced a mental health problem.

IMPACT

Girlguiding says new data on the number of girls receiving its peer education sessions will not be available until after an overhaul of the charity's whole programme of activities is completed.

Girlguiding pinpoints the success of its peer education scheme to one key factor: being girl-led means members are keen to listen to their peers who share similar life experiences.

"I can remember what it feels like to be 12 and that really helps to engage with them," explains Liddy.

This article is part of CYP Now's special report on PSHE education. Click here for more

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