8th October 2021 — A successful scheme built on kindness, caring and compassion is entering its eighth year at Highfield and Brookham Schools in Liphook.
The Peer Listeners project has for the best part of a decade offered younger children at the progressive independent school a friendly shoulder to cry on or a kindly listening ear in times of trouble or upset.
The listeners themselves are a dedicated and trained group of pupils from Year 8 at Highfield, the oldest children at the thriving prep school on the border of Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex.
The children apply for the scheme at the end of Year 7 and are selected via an interview process involving Zoe Thesiger-Pratt, Head of Personal, Social, Health and Economic, and English teacher Lucy Hendry, with around ten pupils typically chosen.
Mrs Thesiger-Pratt, who has been involved with the scheme for the past five years, said: “It gives the peer listeners an element of responsibility and they all love helping the younger children. We talk to them about developing their listening skills and how to be an active listener – just be a listening ear when others are feeling overwhelmed. These are great skills to develop.”
The peer listeners typically deal with issues such as friendships, homesickness or feeling left out.
“For the younger children, it means they have the comfort of someone to talk to who is more like a big brother or big sister. It means they can ask for advice without going to a teacher, as sometimes this can seem a bit overwhelming,” added Mrs Thesiger-Pratt.
Highfield School Headmaster Phillip Evitt expressed his delight that the peer listeners scheme was still as successful as ever and that the future looked bright.
He said: “We take tremendous pride in our pastoral provision and the care and well-being of every single pupil in our schools, so how wonderful it is to see so many of our oldest children volunteering each year to help younger pupils during what can, for them, be worrying times.
“And it is incredibly heartening and gives me a huge sense of joy and satisfaction to see the continuous stream of kindness, care and compassion which runs through our wonderful school, and I have full confidence that these marvellous young people will continue to make the world a better place.”