A PRIMARY school that made pioneering strides in teaching children conflict resolution skills has been crowned Young Mediator of the Year by a national organisation.

Cherry Fold Community Primary School in Burnley came together with Smile Mediation, a social enterprise from the town.

It promotes conflict resolution across the North West and has won the National Mediation Award jointly with the school, in 2018 and again in 2020 to develop a project that would teach children to use mediation rather than conflict to solve playground arguments.

Headteacher Esther Selway introduced a range of approaches to teach children how to communicate with each other, how to empathise, and improve listening skills and as a result not only did playground arguments decrease, but pupil achievement has risen too.

Ms Selway said: “It’s made a difference; we’re seeing the skills in the classroom a lot more.

“The children who have those skills are using them and managing themselves better.

“New arrivals stand out as they often don’t know how to resolve in the same way as the Cherry Folders who have had this new approach embedded.”

Over the last three years 30 children aged nine and ten, along with 20 teaching staff, have been trained in essential conflict resolution and communication skills, with workshops designed by Smile Mediation to help them understand the nature of conflict and the importance of listening to others.

Previously the impact of playground arguments had been a cause of concern with some members of staff having to spend up to 15 minutes per day settling disputes between children.

However, the children have flourished thanks to the programme taking pride in their achievements and passing on their newfound skills to friends and family members.

Ms Selway said: “We’ve been training our friends to peer mediate; we know the ground rules and the promises and we are explaining what do if it’s too hard for them”.

“The staff have embraced the magic of mediation and the power of good listening; we are no longer rushing to fix problems or lay blame."

Smile Mediation chief executive Karen Ainsworth said: “The award is so, so important for the children, for the school and for that neighbourhood. It's really positive news and recognition of what they’re doing.”