PUPILS have been recruited to help teachers sort out playground arguments as part of a primary school’s bid to crack down on bullying.

Sawtry Junior School found the traditional method of telling off troublemakers at lunchtimes and breaktimes was not working.

So after studying bullying as part of their personal, social and health education lessons, youngsters were invited to apply for jobs as peer mediators. Their role is to be on duty in the school grounds to deal with low-level disputes.

Acting headteacher Cathy Bailey believes the system will help to achieve her ultimate goal – to get rid of bullying at the Middlefield Road school once and for all.

“It does seem to work,” she said. “Very often a small dispute is very quick and easy to resolve and it means they feel like they are not having something imposed on them.

“If they can sort the problem, it strengthens the friendship and they learn how to sort problems out themselves.”

When a row breaks out, the pupils involved can decide whether they want one of the two peer mediators on duty to become involved to help resolve the issue.

The mediator, dressed in a bright jacket so pupils can see who to approach, takes them to one side and works through a script where they talk about what happened and how to make it better.

Sometimes that isn't enough and an adult does have to get involved, Mrs Bailey said, but often the approach helps to cool any tensions.

Mrs Bailey said: “Punishing people who have done something wrong doesn't seem to be that effective and doesn't mean they're going to stop misbehaving.

“This is a restorative approach that gets them to understand the effect of their actions and come up with solutions themselves.”