New study investigates the effectiveness of a peer-mentoring school intervention in the UK

Stapley, E., Town, R., Yoon, Y., Lereya, S. T., Farr, J., Turner, J., Barnes, N., & Deighton, J. (2022). A mixed methods evaluation of a peer mentoring intervention in a UK school setting: Perspectives from mentees and mentors. Children and Youth Services Review132, 106327.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Peer support has become increasingly popular in the UK.
  • However, despite the usage of these schemes in the UK secondary schools, their efficacy varies.
  • This study assesses the effect a cross-mentoring program intervention (“More than Mentors”) has on mentors’ and mentees’ mental health, well-being, & resilience.
    • It also examines mentors’ and mentees’ perceptions of the overall intervention impact.
  • Mentees’ overall mental health improved.
  • The intervention also increased mentors’ sense of school & home participation.
  • Individuals (regardless of their roles) who participated in more sessions encounter fewer issues associated with their prosocial behavior, conduct, hyperactivity/inattention, & mental health.
  • Mentees identified the following as mechanisms of More than Mentors: having a relatable source of help, having someone be there for you, and receiving goals & advice.
  • Mentors identified the following as mechanisms of More than Mentors: gaining new skills & knowledge, program facilitators, feeling supported during training, and fellow mentors.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Peer mentoring is a popular type of school-based support. However, peer mentoring models can vary substantially and evidence for the efficacy of such support is mixed. 377 participants took part in ‘More than Mentors’, as either mentors or mentees, in select London-based secondary schools. Participants completed standardised measures to explore changes over time in their wellbeing, resilience, and mental health. A subsample also completed qualitative interviews about their experiences. Multi-level modelling analysis revealed that mentees experienced improvements in their overall mental health and mentors experienced improvements in their sense of participation in school and home life. Higher numbers of mentoring sessions attended also yielded positive effects. A thematic analysis highlighted the mechanisms behind impact, including for mentees, the importance of having someone to talk to, and for mentors, gaining new skills and knowledge. This study provides preliminary evidence for the positive impact of a peer mentoring intervention on select outcomes for mentors and mentees in a UK school setting.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Schools are being increasingly looked to by UK government as important sites for the provision of preventive support in relation to young people’s mental health and wellbeing (Department of Health & Department for Education, 2017). Peer support schemes have gained increasing popularity as a form of such support provision (Knowles & Parsons, 2009). Cross-age peer mentoring is a common type of peer support scheme being implemented in UK secondary schools (Houlston et al., 2009). Yet, peer mentoring models can vary substantially and the evidence for the efficacy of such interventions is mixed, with much of the evidence thus far stemming from programmes in the USA (Busse et al., 2018, Karcher et al., 2010). There is a need, therefore, for further mixed methods research using standardised measures and in-depth interviews to examine outcomes for mentors and mentees for specific peer mentoring programme models in a UK context. This study sought to investigate the impact of More than Mentors, delivered within eight London-based secondary schools from 2017 to 19.

Another mixed methods evaluation of More than Mentors has recently been conducted with a different London-based secondary school cohort, delivered as part of a preventive and early intervention programme called HeadStart (Panayiotou et al., 2020). This study had a pre-post quasi-experimental design, with an intervention group and a control group. Panayiotou et al. (2020) found that More than Mentors had a significant positive effect on mentors’ wellbeing (as measured using the SWEMWBS), but had no significant effects on mentees’ wellbeing or on mentors’ and mentees’ problem-solving skills and goals and aspirations (as measured using the SRS). In addition, number of mentoring sessions attended did not have a significant impact on outcomes for mentors and mentees. It is possible that differences in programme delivery and study design contributed to differences in our findings (Panayiotou et al., 2020).

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