Four Strategies To Strengthen Buddy Systems

Greetings, and I trust this finds you in high spirits! A few weeks into this new school term, children nationwide are getting into their studies, while we at MissingSchool are progressing on some exciting new initiatives. We will share more on that later!

As we navigate this journey, we’re reminded of the undeniable value of school buddies. They promote camaraderie, inclusivity, and empathy, acting as connectors that bridge gaps and bolster social ties among students. This fact is beautifully illustrated in the stories we often hear from our school partners who implement buddy systems in support of students dealing with illness and consequent absences.

In buddy systems, one or more peers are paired with an absent student (who may be using telepresence), to maintain school connections and even assist with technology setup or charging if required. The stunning success of such initiatives deserves to be celebrated. So, here’s a shout-out to those making school buddy systems possible! In support, we’d like to offer some tips to enhance effectiveness.


“Buddy systems can break the stigma around illness, energise the whole classroom to work together, and nurture classroom connection for sick kids”


There are countless advantages to buddy systems, and over the years, the academic literature has found concrete evidence to support their value. Buddy systems can break the stigma around illness, energise the whole classroom to work together, and nurture classroom connection for the student with illness.

Furthermore, teachers have found that buddy systems encourage positivity and empathy in peers. If done well, the opportunity to be a buddy is a fun diversion from the school routine, and it can create surprising friendships that would otherwise have never had the chance to flourish. To help schools implement these programs effectively, MissingSchool is collating data and developing a set of resources to help structure and encourage buddy systems in schools to support students who are absent because of an illness. Here’s what we’ve found so far.



4 Strategies To Strengthen Buddy Systems


1. Choose suitable buddies. When choosing buddies, consider peers with similar interests and learning styles. For instance, a soccer-loving student, unable to play due to illness, could ideally bond with a buddy sharing that same passion. Peers who are reliable and empathetic may suit the role.

2. Try a little training. If the student dealing with illness has communication preferences or unique academic needs, a quick chat between teachers and buddies can support a receptive and adaptive arrangement that strengthens the effectiveness of buddy relationships over time.

3. Encourage peers to participate! Buddy systems truly shine when peers get involved on their own terms. Buddies might independently form study groups or hangouts with their sick and absent classmates. This natural camaraderie cultivates authentic bonds, which in turn enhances outcomes.

4. Make it exciting. When buddies display genuine enthusiasm and energy in their interactions with the sick student, it’s truly inspiring. This spurs wider participation, uplifts the sick student’s academic and social experiences, and helps dismantle the stigma around illness and absence.


In closing, as buddy systems are established, it’s really important for teachers to monitor their effectiveness for all participants. While the long-term goal is to have “student-led” buddy systems, initial set-up and guidance from teachers is invaluable in ensuring a successful, smooth implementation.

If you are associated with a school that is implementing effective buddy systems, we would love to hear about it!

There are many ways to help:

Every action moves us closer to the finish line: a world where every sick child is seen and heard.

Let’s keep connecting.

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