PCC Unveils New Buddy Benches in Blackwood

27th January 2016

A simple idea which is catching on throughout the world, buddy benches aim to spread the message of inclusion and kindness and PCC Ian Johnston was invited to Libanus Primary School in Blackwood this week to officially cut the ribbon and unveil three new benches at their playground.

The school introduced the benches as part of their positive behaviour policy and to ensure that children who are upset, have no one to play with or who wish to talk about a concern, can find someone to talk to. Children who are lonely or shy are sending out a clear message that they want to be offered friendship by sitting on the benches. Pupils at the school also have to agree to play with anyone sitting on the bench and a few older children may even be selected to be on 'buddy duty'.

The project has been organised by Jenna Curtis who sits on the school's Parent Teachers Association. Jenna managed to secure support from numerous partners in the community to bring the project to life. Each bench boasts their own unique creative design which were thought up by Shannon Curtis and then built by local craftsman Paul Rideout. They have been kindly funded by and donated to the school by AJM Schoolwear, UHY Hacker Young and a former teacher at Libanus Primary School, Sian Curtis.

During his visit, the Commissioner also met with the School Council which is made up of a boy and a girl from each year group who have been elected to the role by their peers. Mr Johnston was grilled by each member during a tough Q&A session. He spoke to the pupils about the need tackle racism and discrimination of any kind and that it was important for them to report bullying of any nature if they see it or hear it. The Commissioner also explained to the children that part of his role was to work with the community and listen to people about problems they may have and how they would like to see things improve.

Speaking at the unveiling of the benches, Mr Johnston said: "I was pleased to accept the invitation and to have the opportunity to speak to the children about what my role involves. We had an enjoyable discussion and some of the children were very animated. It's safe to say that there are plenty of budding politicians at the school if the debates I heard today are anything to go by."

Nicola Williams, the Head Teacher at Libanus Primary School, said: "We were delighted to welcome the Commissioner here to unveil the benches and talk to the children about his role. We are currently teaching the children about the ethos of the buddy benches and how they will work so that they all understand and buy into the concept. The pupils have greeted the idea with enthusiasm after being taught that the benches are a way for them to reach out to their lonelier peers. From what we have seen so far, it also really builds the self-esteem of those pupils who ask others to play with them and provides them with a strong sense of responsibility."