Fisher, Pamela and Fisher, Roy (2017) Being a peer educator: Perspectives from young women working with Home-Start and some reflections on the role. In: Proceedings of SCUTREA Adult Education for Inclusion and Diversity. Centre for Research in Education Inclusion & Diversity, Edinburgh, pp. 113-119.

This paper focusses on young women working as peer educators through the charity Home-Start in the north of England. The paper is conceptual whilst incorporating findings from a small-scale empirical study undertaken in 2016. It holds relevance to the following SCUTREA conference themes: active citizenship; families and communities; formal and informal learning; social inclusion in times of austerity. The peer educators who participated are undertaking their work in a context where educational achievement is increasingly measured by certification and at a time when occupational hierarchies have been ‘professionalised’ whilst notions of what it is to be a professional have been drained of meaning in ways which can be seen as potentially democratising. State educational imperatives in the UK have focussed on academic excellence (for ‘the gifted few’) and the promotion of vocational opportunities (intended for those from ‘hard working families’) such as ‘apprenticeships’. Deeper and more critical understandings of learning, commitment and achievement are generally unrecognised and largely not valued by the state, remaining in the relatively invisible domain of third sector organisations, and at the level of community activism. Our conception of peer education is based on a democratic ethos which does not privilege the peer educator and which does not set the role in contradistinction to work undertaken by ‘high quality educated professionals’. We see the peer educator as generally similar to the individuals with whom and the groups with which they are working. They are likely to share characteristics including some (but not all) of the following: age, gender, ethnicity, social class, educational attainment, parental status, and specific social categories which may be applicable in relation to sexual orientation, and the use of alcohol and substances. The peer educators who participated in this study have
worked together in circumstances that lead to mutual benefits which stand largely outside
the educational mainstream. This paper considers the motivations for involvement as a
peer educator, peer educators’ perspectives on the benefits/value of their involvement in
this work, the impact of being a peer educator as well as discussing the peer educators’
experiences in relation to their engagements with professionals. The paper is informed by
thinking on the power of informal learning, on citizenship and co-production, and by issues
relating to recognition and empowerment arising from informal learning through the peer
educator role. It briefly considers the potential power of peer education in an age of
connectivity through communications technology.

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