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Does Every School Need a Buddy Bench?

For any school, creating a kind and inclusive atmosphere is critical to the success of their students. This extends throughout the school, from the classroom to the playground.

But isolation of some pupils still happens, along with unacceptable bullying. There are various tools to combat isolation and one that is proving popular and successful is the buddy bench.

For the buddy bench to be effective, pupils need to know how to use it. So, what it is and how can your students make the most of it?


What is a buddy bench?

At some point, every child has been left out of play. It is hurtful and for some children finding their way through the quagmire of social interactions can be more difficult than others. Whilst others skip off to look for other friends or activities, some students feel so bereft, disappointed and hurt that they withdraw from socialising completely.

Socialising, learning how to ‘give and take’, learning how to play and so on are all important skills that we need not just as children and young people, but as adults too.

It is now widely understood and accepted that some children and young people need more help in learning how to socialise than others. And that sometimes, the best people to teach them how to interact are their peers and not adults.

The buddy bench scheme is used not just in UK schools, but across the world. It is a system by which a student who may feel unsure or excluded from play can go and sit. The idea is that other students on seeing their friend or a peer sat on the bench will go and speak with them, inviting them to be part of their play activity.


The buddy bench ‘rules’

For the school benches of this kind to be successful and useful, there are some rules that need to be followed not just by the pupil choosing to sit on the bench but by those who then go to interact with their peer.

But this is the good thing: children quickly pick up on these ‘rules of use and interaction’, understanding the importance of them for helping each other in the playground. Essentially, most children and young people want to be kind to each other but sometimes, interactions can go ‘wrong’ or awry – and this is one method of making something right.


Introducing the buddy bench in your school

School benches can be used as socialising spaces and so, you need to mark out the buddy bench as exactly that – it is a place that someone sits when they feel unsure and is a way of asking for help, rather than a socialising bench.

Some schools paint the buddy bench in print colours or might even give it a big label as a buddy bench. Remember, there is nothing wrong with sitting on the buddy bench and asking for help. It is not a weakness!

These are the intrinsic rules that other schools use for the buddy bench;

If you are going to sit on the bench…

  • Before you sit on it, why not try approaching someone else and ask them to play with you?
  • The bench is not for socialising – only sit here if you can’t find someone to play with
  • Whilst you are sitting on the bench, look around you – can you see a game you would like to join in with?
  • If you see a friend or something you want to try, go and join in!
  • When you are sitting on the bench, play with the first person who comes up to asks you to join their game or play activity
  • Keep playing with your new friends!

If you see someone sitting on the buddy bench…

  • Go over to them and start by saying hello – tell them who you are!
  • Ask them what the problem is or start a conversation
  • Suggest something they can do with you or invite them to join with your game
  • Don’t make this the only time you hang out with them, continue to be their friend and play with them at other times


School benches – an underused tool?

School benches are a fantastic addition to any playground, either as socialising or hang out spaces or as something like the buddy bench.

Is a buddy bench something you would like to introduce to your school and playground?