For many years, dynamic Birmingham teacher Sidney White was welcomed by sixth forms in city schools and further afield to open discussions on peace-related issues. In this and other related activities he had the support of fellow Quaker, Paul Cadbury, then chair of the Barrow Cadbury Trust. One project was helping to set up and distribute Concord films. Vintage films in Concord’s archives show the vast crowds in Trafalgar Square Aldermaston 1959, And the Fence Came Tumbling Down, the story of the occupation and and return of Greenham Common and The Arms Race Within which records the journey across America of a train bearing atomic warheads, equivalent to 1,500 Hiroshimas, being met with opposition all along the tracks.

He would have welcomed the establishment of Peacemakers, a charity run by the West Midlands Quaker Peace Education Project (WMQPEP), with over twenty-five years’ experience of working on conflict resolution and peer mediation. This term they are working in six schools and have formed a partnership with Handsworth Association of Schools to support peer mediation across the consortium.

WMQPEP has just launched a new project, piloted in three primary schools, using techniques of restorative justice in a primary school setting. Sara Hagel of Peacemakers explains:

‘It is not a one-day visit, with a CD or DVD left behind’, it is a journey. It is about doing something over a long period. In this case it will be over two years. And alongside the pilot we are developing teacher-training modules.”

Restorative approaches – introduced as a whole school policy – aim to avoid situations in which schools resort to more extreme measures of behaviour management, such as exclusion, by empowering teachers, lunchtime supervisors and pupils to tackle problems themselves. They have been found to have a major impact on the learning and teaching of the school community, forging more respectful and productive relationships and successfully addressing behaviour and attendance issues. 

Schools are invited to join their Peer Mediation Conference 2012. Invitation packs have been sent to 18 schools where WMQPEP has trained peer mediators. Each school can send 6-8 young people and 1-2 adults for a day of learning and celebration of what mediators are doing in West Midlands Schools. Those who would like to come to find out more about peer mediation should contact ellis@peacemakers.org.uk

The project is part of the nationwide peaceful schools movement with ‘restorative’ schools in Bristol, Cardiff, Kent, Hull, London and many other places.

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