Better Buddies customised for Berengarra School

A key feature of the Better Buddies Framework is its flexibility which allows it to be adapted to meet the needs of individual schools. Berengarra School's Welfare Coordinator, Catrina Salton, has worked with colleagues and students to modify the Framework to meet the specific needs of this alternative Victorian school.

Berengarra is a non-profit co-educational secondary school that meets the individual needs of students of normal intelligence but who have social and emotional problems.

2 - Berengarra School"Berengarra School is a school for students with social and emotional issues," Catrina said.

"As a therapeutic school we are always seeking ways to increase the positive mental health of our students, which is why we decided to implement Better Buddies as part of a Bullying Awareness Project."

Forming part of their literacy and personal development studies, the Bullying Awareness Project involved students in a variety of activities on the issue of bullying.

"After watching the film Bully, we asked the students to put together a written response about the issues in the film.

"We also discussed a variety of bullying issues with the students, including the use of labels, technology (social media in particular), resilience and what they can do to prevent bullying from happening.

Berengarra School then buddied up with a neighbouring primary school, Sussex Heights Primary School, which is also a Better Buddies School.

After only a few weeks, Catrina saw huge success in the buddy pairs.

"We've had about 19 students buddy up with a younger student from Sussex Heights Primary School, and we have seen wonderful results for both sides.

"The older students who are usually quite anxious are really benefitting from the responsibility of having a younger buddy, because they feel valued and respected which is great for their low self-esteem.

"We have near perfect attendance on the buddy meeting days, which demonstrates how important the program is for the students.

"The younger buddies are loving it too."

After five weeks of successful regular meetings between the buddy pairs, the two schools celebrated their new partnership by holding a purple-themed gala day.

"The gala day was a huge success and an amazing experience for all students involved.

"The students participated in a variety of games and activities, including bullying awareness sessions, and a gift bag exchange between the buddy pairs to commemorate their time together.

To conclude the gala day, students participated in the balloon release activity.1 - Berengarra School celebrating buddies

"During this activity, students wrote down the name of someone they believe needs a bit of extra support, or described a problem they have struggled with in the past, and placed it into a balloon.

"The purple and yellow balloons, to mark the colours of The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, were released into the sky to mark the conclusion of the partnership between the two schools.

"It was a beautiful moment for everyone involved."

With the support of the students and colleagues, Catrina has demonstrated that the Better Buddies Framework can be successfully implemented in an alternative secondary school setting, and in turn, can improve the students' experience at school.

See more of the Berengarra students journey on the School's website.

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