New Student Support Service readied to roll

Assistant Head and Head of Sixth Form, Rebecca Baxter, talks UCS.org.uk through the new Student Support Service which is presently in production and which will combine peer mentorship with pastoral support as an enhancement to the existing pastoral provision.

What will be the format, focus and priorities of the service?

About 12 students from Transitus (Year 12) will offer one-to-one support to pupils across all year groups. Pupils will be able to book a slot with one of the support students in order to discuss any issues they might have – issues that they might not feel comfortable talking to their Form Tutor or Deme Warden (Head of House) about. The focus is on offering key pastoral support through peer support, and broadening our pastoral provision through this new initiative. The priority is really to make sure that all pupils know how to contact the Student Support Service and – crucially – when.

How and when will a pupil make contact with the service?

The Student Support Service will run through a Google site, where pupils can see who the volunteers are and what they ‘specialise’ in. Here they can then email the relevant volunteer and book a time. As for ‘when’, the answer is whenever the need arises and there’s a problem that a pupil doesn’t feel comfortable talking to staff about, or a problem that another student would understand better.

Who will be involved, in terms of both students and staff?

The current cohort of Transitus (Year 12) volunteers, along with myself – Ms Baxter – and Miss Kumarasinghe, the Director of Wellbeing.

What is the motivation for establishing the service?

There are often times when students are going through something, have a problem, are struggling with something, that they just don’t want to talk to their Deme Warden (Head of House) about; or don’t feel that a grown-up would know what to say or how to help. It’s a gap, and the SSS has been founded to create a place for such peer support to exist. I am hoping this will encourage students to talk more openly and access much-needed support.

Please describe the story so far.

Our first ever Sixth Form Union, in 2021–22, was very keen on setting up a means of offering student support. Indeed, one of the Wellbeing Officers – Oliver Sykes – came up with the idea, and really was fundamental in the initial discussions and set-up. It has since developed into a fully fledged initiative. The structure of the service has been created, advertised to volunteers, and they are now undergoing their training. In January they will start running the service, and it is hoped this will be largely within their control.

What are your hopes for year one of the project?

I would like the school community to know it exists and understand firmly how to access it. It would be wonderful if students actually did use it as well!

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