Educational Peer Buddies to Young People - Positive Help

BY David Doig Foundation

Positive Help, established 1989, supports people suffering from and affected by HIV living across Edinburgh and the Lothians to lead more independent and fulfilling lives. Positive Help identified that there were many young who have been affected by HIV in their families, for example, being recently bereaved, living in a chaotic family home or being affected by poverty. These environments are often unsettling for children’s learning, meaning children are unable to complete their homework and have low confidence, which overall impacts their education and performance.

The ‘Peer Buddy’ is a mentor project, where a young person is matched with a mentor to learn in a safe environment outside of their home. The young people are offered the opportunity to complete their homework, and receive life skills development, emotional support and a good role model.

The David Doig Foundation grant funded the peer buddying project where 14 young people received a safe place to learn which gave them time to focus on themselves and their education, greatly boosting their literacy, numeracy and IT skills, confidence and increased career and life aspirations.  At school teachers commented that the children had greatly increased their attainment and overall improved their attitude to learning creating improved classroom environments and behaviour not only for themselves but their school peers.

The Taylor family received support from the peer buddy project. Ian is a young boy with 2 brothers, Jack and Sean who were living in a chaotic family home, suffering from significant abuse and neglect and had recently moved into care. The eldest son Ian has learning difficulties and has struggled transitioning onto secondary school. The two young brothers also have autism and were suffering from anxiety. The study buddy project stepped in to offer increased support to the children by offering each child 2 study buddies meaning more time could be spent on each child and support could be offered on varied days of the week suitable to the children’s schedules. The children were also connected with volunteers who provided additional respite hours, and combined with study buddy support, this has greatly improved the children’s engagement at school.

During the Covid pandemic, Positive Help have also found that they are supporting more and more young people with additional support needs and other complex issues - where deemed appropriate and beneficial, they are providing these young people with two Study Buddies, to offer additional support and an additional postive and reliable adult role model.

There are many positive outcomes asssociated with this support.  Intially, sadly, many of the young people struggle with school subjects and. managing relationships with peers and teachers and wish to leave school as soon as possible.  But the sessions they receive through Positive Help results in improved confidence and academic performance which enables them to see that, although school can be challenging, they can cope with it and do well.  Many children in this position have turned things around and are now pursuing a level of education that would previously have been unobtainable. 

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