Since 1985, Peer Support programmes have introduced opportunities for senior students to contribute to counselling and guidance support for students attending secondary school. The Peer Support programme is designed to help students achieve success at school by developing their relationship skills, their self-esteem and sense of belonging.
The Peer Support programme introduced to New Zealand schools was based on a programme developed in Australia by Elizabeth Campbell. In 1972, as an officer of the New South Wales Health Education department, she was asked to advise a large Sydney secondary school that was coping with the death of a student. She observed that relationships between senior and junior students were unfair and unequal. This encouraged her to develop a programme to foster more positive and trusting relationships among students. While at first the programme gained little attention from other schools and authorities, after more than a decade it was noticed by local Rotary clubs.
During the 1980s, Rotary clubs encouraged schools in Australia and New Zealand to take up the programme. In those early years, Australian teachers and Rotarians provided generous support for teacher training and teaching guidelines. However, within a decade a New Zealand manual was published by the South Island Peer Support Trust to reflect New Zealand schools, culture and education values.
Throughout the 1980s Peer Support expanded rapidly across New Zealand. The core programme and purpose of Peer Support has not changed over the years. However, the way the programme has been implemented in schools has varied as student requirements have changed. In many schools, the programme has become the foundation for Peer Mediation, Mentoring and Tutoring.