Peer Education

Welcome to the No Knives Better Lives Peer Education Programme. We appreciate that taking a peer education approach is not easy. It takes a lot of time and commitment. However that investment can really pay off in the long-term by making it fresh and relevant to the participants as well as building up a fantastic range of skills in the peer educators. Here are some FAQ's. If you have a question not answered below, just click the button to send an email.


What is peer education?

UNESCO explain that "a ‘peer’ is one that is of equal standing with another; one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status. The term ‘peer education’ would indicate a process whereby those of the same societal group or social standing are educating each other." Essentially young adolescents are going through a transition where they like to talk to their peers and hear what they have to say, literally on any subject. No matter how young adults feel, it is hard to know the lingo of the moment or the types of things that young people are doing when adults aren't around. It is difficult for adults to truly know what it's like to be a young teenager growing up in Scotland right now. Therefore involving young people to deliver important messages can make a big difference to how it is received. 



What are the benefits of peer education?

There are many benefits to using a peer education approach. Not only are you giving a young voice to the learning activities and resources, you are also giving the peer educators a whole new set of skills. By drawing on that credibility, peer education helps to create positive role models and create new norms and behaviours. We know that a lot of the violence that occurs is cultural, where violence has in some ways been normalised. We can break those cultural norms by building up strong young people that can confidently guide their peers to another way of seeing the world.



Should the peer educators be left do deliver this by themselves?

No, definitely not. This whole programme is based on the premise that you are an expert in your field of work. You've probably had to undertake training or have lots of experience under your belt. We want you to bring all of that to this programme. The difference is that you are supporting a small group of peer educators to contribute whatever they can to the experience. That might change over time, at first you might be leading a lot of the activities with support from the peer educators and over time they might take more of a lead on the activities, discussions, quizzes and stories. Work out what is best for you and your group members. At the same time we're not expecting you to train the peer educators to deliver everything. Start with one or two activities on one topic and build it up from there.



What can go wrong?

Obviously we hope that nothing will go wrong and you run the best sessions possible. However we have to keep it real and the chances are that all the usual risks in working with young people are just as likely to happen here. The additional things to be aware of are trigger points - it's possible that these sensitive issues trigger a traumatic experience for either a peer educator or a group member. Either way, you need to have a plan for how you will respond sensitively to that situation (e.g. ask the group to take a break while you speak to them and help them compose themselves or look at follow-up actions). Giggling fits, people not turning up, disagreements, even anger can all crop-up. Make sure you have a good risk assessment regime and better still involve the peer educators in preparing it and working out how they will mitigate each risk.



Do I have to use peer educators to work with these resources?

These resources are free for you to use for educational and training purposes. We know what it is like working with young people. A conversation comes up and you need to be quick on your feet and engage them in a deeper conversation. Perhaps you're doing some street work and you hear about some gang activity, so you want to try this out with them to encourage them to think about their actions. If this helps you, then go for it! We'd love to know how it goes and the ways it worked best and with whom. Nevertheless, we really would encourage you to consider trying a peer education approach. We have a series of practitioner events and PEP Talks to guide you through the process. Wouldn't it be fantastic to be part of a practitioner network where we can all support each other to make this work? Sign up for the PEP Talks and we'll see you there!



Is there an age limit?

Generally, we recommend that your peer educators are at least 16 years old. The science tells us that the teenage brain is still developing right up until the age of 24 so even at 16 there's a lot more developing to do. But sweet 16 is a good age to start. The more lived experience and connection the peer educators have with the topic, the better as they can empathise with other young people struggling with the issues raised. For the participants they can be as young as 10 or 11 (P7 at school). However it's important that you know your audience in advance. You don't want to start talking about knives and violence with very young children that are never likely to have any exposure to this issue. However some of the topics like resilience and alcohol are widespread and can apply to most parts of Scotland. Think about the age and context of the group you are delivering this to.