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Coming together: Somerset Primary Checkmate pupils and mentors are shown in this recent photograph. Each staff member is responsible for five children and the groups meet once a week for activities that range from reading, to board games, and field trips

A guidance programme at a West End primary school could benefit other pupils at other institutions, the head teacher said yesterday.

O’Brien Osborne, principal at Somerset Primary, said the school’s Checkmate programme, encouraged closer bonds and more respect between staff and pupils.

He explained Checkmate stood for communication, humour, encouragement and co-operation for kids.

Mr Osborne said: “It shows that we care for children, that we value children, that we are preparing children for the future.

“This is a way of just giving a little bit of your time to do just that — to achieve those things.”

The programme, founded by Mr Osborne’s predecessor in 2004, involves every pupil and staff member at the school.

Each staff member is responsible for five children and the groups meet once a week for activities that range from reading, to board games, and field trips.

Mr Osborne said the programme brought pupils and staff closer together.

He added it also helped pupils who might not have someone in their lives to discuss their problems with.

Ms Osborne said: “Part of being an educator, one of the fundamental components, is building relationships. This is one way we can do that.”

He added: “Sometimes, they have things that they want to talk about, whether it be school related or outside of school.”

Mr Osborne said the programme also allowed pupils to see staff members as human beings as well as authority figures.

He explained: “There’s Mr Osborne the principal, and there’s Mr Osborne who has all these interests, like reading comic books. There’s a greater respect and bond.”

Karen Whitecross, an administrative assistant at the school, said she had been involved with the programme since the start.

She added that the programme was one of the reasons she had stuck with education for 19 years.

Ms Whitecross said: “There’s nothing like having an impact on these children.

“Just watching them grow emotionally ... just to see their shoulders lift up, pride come into them, it makes me feel good.”

She added that children with discipline problems benefited from the programme.

Ms Whitecross said: “You see them work on those challenges and you seen them keep trying.

“That’s what we want most, so when they leave here, we have done the best we can for the future.”

Gavin Fortuna, a P5 pupil and one of Mr Osborne’s group, said the programme was a lot of fun.

He added that it made him feel closer to his classmates and teachers.

Gavin said: “It makes me understand more about them.”

Jack Berry, also a P5 pupil, said that the programme provided him with someone to talk to if he wanted. He added: “They’re always there.”

Jack said he had benefited from advice on how to deal with problems with other pupils.

Mr Osborne said: “It’s important that children feel valued.”

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