Research has shown that in the average primary school class, at least two children will have suffered from abuse or neglect. What’s more worrying is that many children won’t even recognise that what’s happening to them is wrong, or know who to turn to for help.
Primary schools play an essential role in keeping our children safe. Not only are they in a strong position to identify signs of abuse and neglect, they can also provide a secure space in which to teach children about the importance of staying safe, and if necessary, speaking out.
Due to budgetary pressures, however, it can be tough for primary schools to find the resources and expertise needed to teach children about the sensitive topic of abuse and neglect.
That’s one of the many reasons why the NSPCC has created a programme for schools, ‘Speak Out, Stay Safe’, which delivers safeguarding messages to primary-aged children through interactive assemblies and workshops.
Last year the NSPCC Schools Service visited more than 7,800 primary schools and spoke with over 1.6 million children. Delivered by specially-trained staff and volunteers, the programme helps children understand the different forms of child abuse, such as neglect, bullying and physical and sexual abuse, encouraging them to speak to a trusted adult or Childline about any worries they may have.
As a direct consequence of the ‘Speak Out, Stay Safe’ programme, children have come forward to report abuse and some of those disclosures have resulted in perpetrators being convicted and imprisoned.
It’s our ambition to reach each primary school every three years, so that children can hear key safeguarding messages at least twice throughout their primary years. We’re endeavouring to both work with new schools and revisit schools that have previously had the programme delivered. The NSPCC delivers ‘Speak Out, Stay Safe’ completely free of charge.
The programme itself can assist schools with meeting their statutory safeguarding requirements, and consists of an assembly presentation for children aged 5 to 11, followed by a one-hour classroom workshop for years 5 and 6 (P6 and 7 in Northern Ireland and Scotland). In Wales, it can be presented bilingually.
This work further provides us with a valuable opportunity to speak to headteachers and business leaders about the NSPCC’s wider efforts to ensure that schools are the safest possible environment for children. We offer a range safeguarding resources, including lesson plans about staying safe online and an online safeguarding self-assessment tool, along with face-toface and online training.
For parents, there are activity packs that will help them talk to their children about the underwear rule (see tinyurl. com/nspcc-ur), as well as our Net Aware guide, which helps adults better understand the risks of the popular games, apps and social media sites their children engage with when online.
You can see the ‘Speak Out, Stay Safe’ programme in action by watching our new video below. And for more information and to sign up, visit nspcc.org.uk/speakout.