Those Present: Tricia Opalko, Dean Bickford, Nick Griffiths, Ed Robinson and Julia Evans

Discussion Topic: How does the school help you to be a good friend?

Infants (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2)

Do you think you are a good friend and why?
All of the children thought they were good friends. Some of the reasons the children gave were, “I play nicely in the playground, so I have lots of friends.” “I play with others and let others join in my games”, “you don’t have friends if you are not nice”. One child said the good thing about being a good friend is that you make more friends.
The children said they played some good games in the playground and look after children if they get hurt by accompanying them to see a teacher.

How do teachers help you to be a good friend?
The children said the teachers teach them how to be a good friend. For example, not to fight with your friends.
When asked what you should do if you were upset, the children said they would tell a teacher. The children were then asked if they knew why they should report bad behaviour. One child recognized that you should report it to a teacher because otherwise the child will keep doing it. Mrs Opalko clarified with the children that they must always report bad behaviour because it’s not being a good friend.

What happens if you haven’t been a good friend?
The children said if you are mean to others they “will tell a teacher on you and then the teacher will tell you off.”
The children all knew that if you kicked or physically hurt someone then you would be given time out (missing your lunchtime break). Mrs Opalko explained that the reason for this is that it sends a clear message that physical violence is not tolerated and no child should come into school worrying they could get hurt.

What is the friendship bench?
The children told us, “if you don’t have any friends you can sit on the bench and someone will see and come over and play with you.”
A final comment from a year 2 pupil was, “our school is a friendly and safe place”. For the governors this was a lovely note to finish on.

Juniors (Year 3,4,5 and 6)
How does the school help you to be a good friend?
All the children agreed that friendship was very important, one stating “it is good to have friends, they can help you feel better about anything”. Some further comments from the children were; “Cathy (Mason) helps you, she’s amazing!” “Cathy helps you whether you have big or small problems,” “the teachers make sure there are no bullies in school”, “there are year 6 peer mediators to help sort out friendship issues in the playground”.
The children discussed the buddy bench and told us “if you don’t have anyone to play with you can sit on it and someone will come and play with you”. The teachers encourage children not to walk on by if you see someone on the buddy bench. One child told us they had felt very lonely last year so they sat on the bench and other children came and played with him. When probed further by Mrs Opalko as to why he was lonely, the child said it was to do with arguments with friends and said that peer mediators also helped with this. The child said he has learnt to be a better friend and is no longer was lonely.
The children explained to us how they are taught to be a good friend in PSHE (physical, social and health education) and sometimes they would have friendship specific lessons. They told us about the friendship bucket, this is when children are taught to say and do nice things to others and this fills their metaphorical bucket. Being unkind takes things out of their “bucket”.  They also told us how they sometimes hear a story relating to a friendship issue that might have occurred that week in the playground and without mentioning names they discuss it as a class. They are then given an exercise for the week.
Another example of a lesson the year 4 children told us about was when they got into pairs and discussed something. They each wore a pair of pretend glasses. If they had differing opinions they were then encouraged to swap glasses and try to see the issue from someone else’s perspective. The children all agreed this was a very interesting lesson.
Year 3 classes made “beating the bully” posters in class with their teachers after a lesson on bullying. We asked the children if they thought there was much bullying in the school. They said there is the very occasional incident but generally no.
In year 3 and 4 lessons, the children are taught that teachers are there for them. The children can come and talk to a teacher anytime and the teacher will help sort out the problem. The children confirmed to us they felt they could talk to a teacher if there was a problem.

What is and who are the year 6 mediators?
A couple of year 6 children told us that those children who will be fair and helpful are chosen, “sometimes it is better to get help from a year 6 instead of a teacher”. The peer mediators get a badge to wear so they are easily identifiable to other children. The peer mediator will listen and help sort out a problem or argument.
At the conclusion of our meeting, one child said “there is always someone to help you in our school if you are feeling sad.”
Additional note: when all the children had left, a couple of governors who had never participated in the formal chat with children before said they were notably impressed by the children’s confidence in talking to the adults and how intelligent and articulate many of the answers were. We are very proud of our children.

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