Big Sisters and Peer Mentors
Every year 7 girl has a member of year 12 chosen for her to act as a “Big Sister”. It is a great way of helping the younger girls settle into the Senior School. They have someone to whom they can turn to and ask the simplest of questions or share any worries they may have. The girls see the Big Sister as someone who has been a year7 girl herself a few years ago and so will understand any little fears or worries they may have, which they may not feel comfortable mentioning to a teacher. As the following quotes from yr 7 girls show:
“My big sister is really fun. You can tell her anything. We are also interested in the same things so it is very easy to have a conversation with her. Another thing that is fun is that she is my house captain so I see her at all the inter-house competitions. It is really nice having her as I am the youngest now in the school so it is nice to have a friendly face around the school. It doesn't make the 6th form seem so scary after all! She has helped me get involved in lots of things that I would never have thought of trying out before. In general all the 6th form are really friendly. Once when I got lost a 6th former saw me and helped me find my way to where I was supposed to be. “
“I thought that the big sisters really helped welcome me into the school as well as everyone else. But having somebody who isn't a teacher but has been at the school a long time is actually a very good experience. I know that because of them I have older, responsible, and kind girls to talk to. They help so much with problems that I have had and have fixed them almost immediately.”
“My big sister has been nothing but friendly and helpful, every time we pass each other in the corridor she always greets me kindly. She also helps me in the ICT room. Some times I am the last one out of the room and her face expression would not be “hurry up I am waiting for you to go” but it will simply be," hello, please take your time so you don't forget anything and have a wonderful day."
However, it is not just the younger girls who benefit from this, the Sixth Formers also gain leadership skills, the ability to converse with younger pupils, feeling a sense of fulfilment when they have been instrumental in helping and “made a difference”.
Many of the Sixth formers have been at Notre Dame for a long time, they have gained many skills along the way and they feel that they can show their appreciation by participating in this programme remembering how important and helpful it was to them when they were in year 7.
“I like getting to know the year seven girls- I was very nervous when I came into the senior school in year 7, as it was a huge transition, so I try to talk to the girls as much as I can, and have made many friends in year seven, especially my little sisters!
I like being a role model to the year seven girls because it encourages me to get to know more of them and it’s so nice to see them in the corridors and have a quick conversation with them in between lessons.
I think it has definitely influenced me to be more open minded, and definitely happier in the school environment to be friends with girls in other years- its lovely to feel looked up to, as it inspires you to be a better person so your little sisters can aspire to be good too.
I really like how confident my little sisters are, they’re chatty and enjoy the school environment, and aren’t afraid to call me in the corridor to talk which I love!”
“I had a Big Sister when I was in year 7. It was great as I only have brothers at home, so she was like a proper sister to me. She looked after me and helped me get used to the new school. She could answer a lot of silly questions that I wouldn’t have asked teachers. It is really nice to now be in the other role and feel that I can help the younger girls feel happy and confident in the school too”
The Peer Mentor system has also been successfully in operation for many years. This is another way of supporting girls in the lower school in particular. Students are recruited mainly from Year 10. They have an introduction into basic counselling skills and then organise lunchtime activities for the younger girls. These girls will continue to offer help and support when they progress into the higher years. Obviously the “Big Sisters” leave to go to university so the Peer Mentors are able to help support and help the girls in years 8 and 9. As members of the Peer Mentor Team move higher through the school they are also able to help support girls in Years 10 and 11. This means that all girls have people similar in age to turn to for added support in addition to the Pastoral Staff.