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Peer Mediation Conference 6th July 2017

Children from Rhondda Cynon Taff, Cardiff and The Vale of Glamorgan showcase conflict resolution skills to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

Co-operative and social enterprise Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership and Rhondda Cynon Taf local authority hosted a peer mediation conference for children and young people last week.

Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership Chief Executive, Julia Houlston Clark said “The conference aimed to give children and young people who are trained and volunteering as Peer Mediators an opportunity to meet each other and share their skills.”

“Rhondda Cynon Taf have been participating in our Restorative Approaches in Schools programme for 3 years and have seen incredible results. It seemed only right that we co-host this opportunity for young people alongside them. “

“The children and young people were incredible, they showcased what they have learned and their immense skills in putting this into practice at school. We are very grateful to everyone who attended, to Gaynor Davies, Service Director for Access, Engagement and Inclusion at Rhondda Cynon Taf, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. Our biggest thanks and admiration go to the children and young people who absolutely astounded everyone with their knowledge, skills and maturity”

Children and young people attended from Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Eirwg, Aberdare Community School, Llwyncrwn Primary School, Pontypridd High School, Maerdy Commuity Primary School, Ferndale Community School, Oak Field Primary School and Darrenlas Primary School. They spoke about their experiences of being trained and volunteering as Peer Mediators and they demonstrated their skills in workshops attended by both children and adults. Workshops demonstrated circle practice, mediation and the children’s own quality processes in observing each other and feeding back.  

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland attended the conference, participating in workshops and activities as well as sharing the podium with children and young people for a question and answer session. The Commissioner discussed children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and said that she would like to see a ‘Restorative Wales’ for everyone and particularly children and young people. The Commissioner took to Twitter on Friday with the message “Thanks to you and all the skilled children and young people who led today’s inspiring conference.” The Commissioner also promised to Tweet more about the conference, during #rightshour, which takes place on Twitter on Fridays from midday. 

There was an unexpected, special guest appearance from Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Education. Kirsty joined in with activities and thanked Peer Mediators for being part of her national mission to raise standards in schools through their work on wellbeing and conflict resolution. The Cabinet Secretary spoke directly to the children and young people, telling them “we can’t expect you to learn….if people are worried about being at school.” “A sense of wellbeing is crucial in helping everybody do well in school.”

Children and young people demonstrated how they resolve conflicts in the school yard at break and lunchtimes and their teachers identified the children’s roles as hugely positive in freeing up their time to work with more serious needs.

The children fed back that the best things about the day for them were “….meeting other people and talking about my job as a Peer Mediator.” They told the conference organisers and attendees that “… the best thing about being a Peer Mediator is knowing that people that are upset can come to you and you can make them feel better and help them to solve their own problems.”

Adults attending the conference, heard from one of Wales Restorative Approach Partnerships Directors about the potential consequences of not listening actively to children experiencing adverse childhood experiences. He shared his own experience of resulting criminalisation and the ripple effect of this on him and the rest of society.

Julia Houlston Clark said “Our peer mediation programme currently works with children and young people in schools and residential care. However we have previously worked with Peer Mediators in prison too and can see huge benefits for businesses and other contexts.”

For more information on Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership and their peer mediation programmes email contactus@restorativewales.org.uk or call 02920098450.