Buckinghamshire Freemasons visit Alfriston School

The Heart of Bucks' Foundation, in conjunction with Buckinghamshire Freemasons, has been pleased to grant £40,000 to various Youth Social Projects in the County. Almost £5,000 of this went to Buckinghamshire Mind for use in helping to fund their Peer Support in Schools initiative.

Alfriston School, in Beaconsfield, recently hosted John Clark, the ProvGM Designate of Buckinghamshire, and the AsstProvGM, Graham Dearing, at the first of the school assemblies to introduce their pupils to the programme.

This initiative is one of a range of services provided by Bucks Mind and is available to both primary and secondary schools across the county. Currently, a total of nine schools, five secondary including Alfriston and four primary schools are participating. The programme is in its second year, and all those schools that participated last year have renewed their contract for a second year; the plan is to continue expanding to more schools next year.

Sharron Harrison, Team Lead for Young People's Services for Buckinghamshire Mind, said: "Our youth team will come into school and train sixth formers or year 5/6 on mental health awareness and help them become peer supporters to the students in younger years. We also help and support the Peer support service in schools. Different schools use different names, some call them 'buddies', 'believers' or 'peer listeners' but their role is universal. We want to empower not only the peer supporters but the whole school in tackling the stigma behind mental health and encourage students to seek and support as and when they need it.

We provide full training for students including mental health awareness and key aspects of their role such as responsibilities, communication, listening skills and safeguarding. Schools can then add to this in an interactive was to help the students feel knowledgeable and confident in their new role. We provide full support to the school with regular contact, training and meetings. During this time, Peer Supporters can review what is going well and not so well and we can identify further training needs."

The volunteers for this initiative, at Alfriston School, were led by Jemma and Laura, and their team explained to the assembly how the programme would work.

The girls gave a short play on the types of issues that the team could help with and details of the volunteers who will be available during play time and in a drop-in room on certain days of the week. There is also a dedicated notice board in the school to keep the pupils informed of updates to the programme and who their peer supporters are. The team will be there to help all the pupils with any issue that is of concern to them and it is all dealt with in confidence and with the full support of the School staff and Buckinghamshire Mind.

John Clark added: "It was inspiring to see these girls leading this initiative at their school and I am really pleased that we, in Buckinghamshire Freemasonry, were able to help in this very important project as part of Buckinghamshire Mind's ongoing work with mental health issues in our county."

Buckinghamshire Mind can be found at: www.bucksmind.org.uk

Picture shows: LtoR: Graham and John, with Laura and Jemma at the new Peer Support notice board.