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News > Alumni News > 'Life changing' school mentoring programme inspires Allanian to pursue a future in counselling

'Life changing' school mentoring programme inspires Allanian to pursue a future in counselling

15 Dec 2022
Alumni News
(L-R) Francesca, Mahir, Anna, Mrs Downie, Tom and Imogen
(L-R) Francesca, Mahir, Anna, Mrs Downie, Tom and Imogen

A MENTORING programme that teaches Year 12 students counselling and listening techniques has been described as ‘life changing’ by Allanian Katy Lyall.

The Peer Mentor and Listening Skills course, which gives students a greater understanding of mental health and safeguarding, as well as teaching them active listening skills, continues to prove popular among those wanting to develop transferable skills to use in future careers.

On completion of the 20-week course, students are matched to younger pupils and support them on a 1 to 1 basis as peer mentors, meeting weekly to offer a listening ear and to work on goal setting and action plans.

The programme inspired Katy, Class of 2020, to take a BA Hons in Guidance and Counselling at Northumbria University. She said: “I developed a lovely rapport with the younger student I was matched to and our mentoring sessions became the highlight of my week.

“Completing the course and being in a mentoring role just felt right to me, so when I came across a degree in counselling it was like a lightbulb moment! I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had in school, it really was life changing.

“It‘s so important, now more than ever, that we all look after our own mental health and have open conversations about it. For a school to offer a listening skills course like this is something I really hope becomes embedded into the curriculum on a national level.”

Jo Downie, Director of Pupil Wellbeing, has been running the course for the last 13 years. Formerly known as Link, it was first introduced by Steve Hamilton, retired Head of Boys’ School and a qualified counsellor, and the Senior School’s Special Educational Needs and / or Disabilities Coordinator, Susan Shaw.

Mrs Downie said: “I have adapted the course to include more information on safeguarding and mental health, but at its heart it teaches students basic counselling techniques and gives them practical skills to become wellbeing mentors in Year 13.

“Students are matched with younger pupils who might need support with things like boosting confidence and self-esteem, organisation, or friendship issues. The two then meet once a week, in the Snug or the Library, for between six to eight weeks.” 

Mrs Downie, who delivers the course on Monday lunchtimes throughout the Autumn and Spring terms, said it is very popular among students completing the Gold DofE, and those interested in pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, education and psychology.

She added: “As well as gaining useful inter- and intrapersonal skills, another benefit of the course is that students become better equipped to help themselves, and their friends, in times of crisis.”

Year 12 pupil Imogen Golding-Douglass is one of 24 students taking the course this year and thinks it will support her aspirations to work as a lawyer, specialising in clinical negligence. She said: “It has been a crucial first step in learning to create a rapport with people.

“In a very emotive field, it’s incredibly important that I am able to communicate effectively and calmly, something that the course has made me far more able to do. I am already noticing my ability to communicate more clearly with members of the public in my volunteering placement, and, as time goes on, I am keen to see how those skills will develop."

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