A PRIMARY school is helping its pupils to look out for each other by installing a Buddy Bench.

Children who feel the need for a friend to talk to or play games with can signal this by sitting on the colourful bench. Other kids then respond by coming over to lend an ear or a helping hand.

After the Buddy Bench philosophy was explained in assembly, the pupils of Sandford St Martin’s school, near Wareham, have taken to the idea with huge enthusiasm.

Deputy Head Clare Pampin said: “Our children love the bench. Some will sit on it so that others will come along and invite them to join their games. Others actively seek out the bench because they want to offer their friendship to other children.”

Mrs Pampin said cynics who fear the bench could stigmatize those who use it need not worry. She added: “That is most definitely not the case. The bench is working very well and everyone likes it.”

Placed by the playground, the bench was the brainchild of the school’s PTA, who commissioned volunteer woodworkers from the Wareham Area Men’s Shed to create it.

Once constructed, it was decorated by pupils using their palm prints in a rainbow of colours.

The PTA’s Rachel Cocksedge said: “It seemed a perfect match – an organization that brings men together, making something to bring children together, through a project which brought generations together.”

Because the bench is part of the day-to-day environment of the school, it can be used at any time and for any reason, from seemingly trivial matters to more serious worries without the need for children to rationalise their feelings or seek out a particular member of staff or fellow pupil. It can also help teachers to spot potential concerns.

Chris Hockley, of the Men’s Shed, said: “It’s a brilliant idea and gave us Shedders great pleasure, not only in the design and build but also in the knowledge that it is helping children to help each other in such a positive way.”

The Wareham Area Men’s Shed welcomes new members to carry out community tasks. Go to www.warehamshed.org.uk or email warehamshed@gmail.com.