Category: Peer Educators

Rewarding and fun: working as a Peer Educator

Over the last few months we’ve been blogging about the work our Straight Talking Peer Educators do in schools, drawing on their own experiences to educate young people about early parenthood and helping them learn about making healthy choices.

But the scheme has a lot of benefits for the Peer Educators themselves, too.

That’s because the point of Straight Talking’s Peer Educators scheme is not only to reduce teenage pregnancy and child sexual exploitation in the UK, but to support teenage parents to achieve economic wellbeing and quality of life.

Paid work with training

The work is paid (including expenses), with full training, and flexible enough to fit around childcare and other needs – so it offers really good work experience for young parents, many of whom have not had a career before, and opens the door to potential longer term employment.

As well as the training the Peer Educators receive through Straight Talking – which includes things like classroom management and presentation skills, and workshops on the subjects covered in the sessions, including child sexual exploitation – they can take advantage of further training through Gateway. This includes things like our own Safeguarding and Health and Safety courses, and courses from external providers, such as Umbrella sexual health services.

Two of our Peer Educators, Che and Casey, have already moved up to become Assistant Co-ordinators, a salaried part-time role with more responsibilities, including things like interviewing new recruits and calling schools to book sessions.

“Sometimes problem-solving in the classroom means managing challenging groups of students; having behaviour management training from Straight Talking has made me more confident when overcoming this problem and has helped improve my decision-making skills.”
— Natalie, in her latest feedback

New confidence and new friends

When delivering sessions in schools or youth groups, the Peer Educators are the experts. With the support of their colleagues and the training they’ve been given, they use their own experiences to share knowledge and open up discussions with the children, and get the whole classroom listening to and engaging with the topics they cover. All of our Peer Educators say they find the work empowering and rewarding, and that it is helping them to build confidence in other areas of their life, too.

And, importantly, working for Straight Talking also offers the opportunities for new friendships. Being a young parent can be very isolating, but working for Straight Talking means they have the opportunity to meet and work with others who understand what it’s like and can empathise. Many have gone on to make friendships outside work with other young parents, which could otherwise have been difficult.

Overall, the Peer Educators that have worked for us so far have found it an incredibly positive experience. Don’t take our word for it, though: listen to our Peer Educators talking about what it’s like to work for Straight Talking!

Straight Talking Peer Educators

Straight Talking Peer Educators are in youth clubs this summer

You might have thought that our Straight Talking Peer Educators would be having a break over the summer, but they’re busier than ever!

Peer Educator Cherelle talks to pupils in Coventry

That’s because the Straight Talking programme isn’t just for schools — our Peer Educators also deliver to any youth groups or clubs where young people get together.

Our Peer Educators are young people who became parents as teenagers themselves. They are fully trained to work with children and young people, and they draw upon their personal experiences to raise awareness of things like child sexual exploitation (CSE), healthy and unhealthy relationships and the realities and implications of early parenthood.

The aim is to reduce teenage parenthood and sexual exploitation by allowing young people the opportunity to make better informed life choices. Overall, children and young people find the sessions great fun, but they also learn about the consequences of things like sexting, and about the difficulties of young parenthood, including the difficult practical and financial choices that parents need to make.

Think your youth group would benefit from some Straight Talking?

Schools, clubs and youth groups can book sessions and find out more about the programme by calling 0121 456 7820 and asking for Peer Educators Che or Casey, or Straight Talking Co-ordinator Marc.

Find out more

Watch Peer Educators Che and Natasha talking about what happened when they delivered the Straight Talking programme in a youth group recently…

Sharing the realities of teenage pregnancy

Who better to tell young people about the realities of teen pregnancy than a group of young parents who have been through it themselves?

Gateway Straight Talking Peer Educators
Some of our Straight Talking Peer Educators with Co-ordinator Caroline (right)

Gateway’s Peer Educators are young people who became parents as teenagers. They visit groups of children and young people – usually in schools – to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE), healthy and unhealthy relationships and the realities and implications of early parenthood.

Peer Educators are trained to work with children and young people, and draw on their personal experiences to help pupils understand the emotional, social, and practical implications of becoming a parent. As well as telling their own stories, they get pupils involved with a range of activities, some of which you can hear about in the video below.

Gateway delivers these programmes across the West Midlands in partnership with Straight Talking Peer Education.

Course content

Straight Talking courses have been independently evaluated to be effective in making students listen to, hear and remember our message.

The teenage pregnancy course is hard hitting, covering the responsibilities of parenting and giving an insight into the realities and challenges of life as a young parent.

To work alongside this – in response to DfE statutory guidance “Keeping Children Safe in Education”, and requests from schools – Straight Talking has developed a supplementary programme that covers child sexual exploitation (CSE), grooming, healthy and unhealthy relationships, sexting, relationship abuse and consent.

Watch the video to meet Peer Educators Che, Cherelle, Casey, Natalie and Cherrie, and find out more about their work in schools across the West Midlands.

What do the schools say?

As part of our RSE day […] Straight Talking provided us with sessions on both Teenage Pregnancy and CSE and sexting and the feedback from our staff and students was fantastic. Students talked about how they felt engaged, spoken to with respect and relevance to them and that they loved the fact that teenage mothers were willing to speak to them about their experiences, this made it really ‘real’ for them.

(Claire Kilroy, Deputy Headteacher, Arena Academy, 2018)

Book now for your school

Think your pupils might benefit from some Straight Talking? Gateway’s Peer Educators would love to help. For more information, or to book a course, email Peer Educator Co-ordinator Caroline, or call 0121 456 7820 and ask for Caroline, Jo, or one of the Peer Educators.

Co-ordinator Caroline with Gateway's first Peer Educators

Young parents become Peer Educators

Last week, we ran the first session of training for our Peer Educators: young people who will be going into schools to talk about their experiences of parenthood.

We’re delivering this programme in the West Midlands in partnership with Straight Talking, a London charity that employs teenage mothers and young fathers to educate young people about early parenthood, healthy relationships, child sexual exploitation and sexting, enabling them to make responsible life choices.

Gateway was chosen to deliver the programme in the West Midlands because of our proven successes with services like the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS). It’s thanks to networks and experience like this that we’ve been able to recruit young people to the programme very quickly and hit the ground running. You can hear from one of them, Emily, in the video below.

The point of Straight Talking’s Peer Educators scheme is not only to reduce the high rate of teenage pregnancy and child sexual exploitation in the UK, but to support teenage parents themselves to achieve economic wellbeing and quality of life. Because the work is paid, with full training, it offers really good work experience, building confidence and opening the door to potential longer term employment. We love this model of working – employing people with direct, personal knowledge of the issues their clients face, and helping people to help each other – and it fits perfectly with our values, aims and objectives.

Last week’s training was led by representatives from Straight Talking, together with two Peer Educators who have been working with Straight Talking in other areas of the country. It began with some sessions in the training rooms at Gateway, including how to manage a classroom – no easy task! – and how to get pupils talking. The experienced mentors helped the new recruits to learn how to set ground rules and lead ice-breaker activities that will help them to start conversations and debates with pupils.

The next day, the new Peer Educators got to see how it worked for real, as they shadowed their mentors and watched them lead some Straight Talking sessions at Grace Academy in Solihull. Gateway’s Programme Co-ordinator Caroline (pictured at the top of the page with three new recruits) said, “it was really interesting to see how engaged the pupils were and how much they seemed to enjoy learning from the Peer Educators. There were some good debates and the hands-on activities really got the pupils thinking – like deciding how they would prioritise if they were faced with having to budget for a young family. Each session ended with a young person telling their own story of becoming a teen parent, and each time it was really powerful. It clearly makes a big impression on the children.”

In the video below, Emily talks about why she wants to be a Peer Educator, and why going into schools to talk about being a teenage mum is helping her, too.

Ruben from Straight Talking said, “Working with Gateway is going to be important for Straight Talking, simply because they share the same ethos as us, which is working with people to try and get them back into employment, and working with teenage mothers to give them the best health and wellbeing. You can tell straight away with the people that Gateway brought in that it’s going to be a good working relationship.”

We’re really looking forward to finding more young people to become Peer Educators over the next few months. If you became a parent when you were a teenager, you’re still under 25 now, and you’d like to find out more, call Caroline on 0121 456 7820.