Serpell Primary School, VIC, helps buddies support each other

Serpell Primary School is one of 37 pilot Better Buddies schools who introduced the Framework to their school community in 2007. A large primary school in Melbourne's north-eastern suburbs, Serpell's learning community is made up of a diversity of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

The Better Buddies values of caring for others, friendliness, respect, valuing difference, including others and responsibility have been adapted into the school community and in turn, have helped build relationships between a diverse range of students.  Better Buddies has also been a great support for younger buddies who might otherwise have felt overwhelmed among the large student population.

Parent Yael Cohn is very impressed with the support from the school and the Better Buddies program during her son's transition into prep. She spoke about his experience with his buddy.

1 - Buddies at Serpell Primary School, VIC"My son is Jewish Australian born with a Romanian and English background and his buddy is Australian with a Chinese background," she said.

"The quality time they spend together and sharing stories of their families and cultures is a great way to open the door to acceptance of multiculturalism and assimilation in schools, promoting a future generation that embraces diversity."

Many parents experience anxiety when their children start school.  It can be a difficult transition for parents and children alike.

"Knowing your young child has an older buddy to look out for them and support them can help ease parents' minds." said Yael.

As much as Yael was enjoying her son's involvement in Better Buddies, she had additional concerns at the prospect of her son interacting with a buddy, as he has a severe nut allergy and is anaphylactic.

"I raised my concerns with the school and was very pleased with their response," said Yael.

"With the help of the school nurse, a form was developed and given to my son's buddy so he knows about his allergy and what to look out for," said Yael.

"The form explains in clear language what the allergy is and how his buddy can help keep him safe.

"The schools response was fantastic and the form they developed not only supports my son, but also the 21 other anaphylactic children in the school and their buddies.

"It is now part of the school's policy to include this buddy support for all anaphylactic children."2 - Serpell Primary School, VIC buddies form

As well as building relationships between diverse students and supporting those with specific needs such as high-risk allergies, Assistant Principal Sue Young also sees Better Buddies as an ideal tool to enhance students' leadership skills.

"Being an older buddy is an important responsibility," Sue said.

"Students approach this role with sincerity and work hard to support their buddies in many different situations" said Sue.

"Where the younger buddy has a potentially life-threatening allergy, the older buddy steps up to the added responsibility to do what they can to keep their buddy safe. They also learn the importance of seeking help if they are unsure about a situation."

Older buddies also recognise the challenges of working with a new buddy and take pride in the responsibility and leadership practices that come with the role.

"I felt nervous and excited all at the same time," one older buddy said.

"It is a big responsibility as the younger buddies are just starting school and we need to show them the right way to do things and set a good example.

"A challenge is their dependence on you when they start school as they want you to play with them and look after them all the time.

"I enjoyed the connection with my buddy and knowing that I had to help them and could help them."

Better Buddies
Better Buddies