By VICTORIA LEGGETT
, Education correspondent
Monday, November 19, 2012
ChildLine is set to send 140 volunteers into every primary school in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to talk to 176,000 youngsters about child abuse, the charity announced today.
The scheme, which is likely to see the first school visits made next summer, aims to bring about “a long term reduction in child cruelty”.
The on-going investigations into claims Jimmy Saville and a number of other high profile figures had abused young people, as well as recent court cases including the jailing of nine men following the discovery of a sex trafficking ring in Rochdale, have brought the issue of child abuse to the front of everyone’s minds.
Last night, the independent chairman of Norfolk’s Safeguarding Children Board said ChildLine’s latest campaign tackled “an incredibly important topic” and a “matter of serious concern for us all”.
But Caroline Ball warned any school visits would have to be treated extremely sensitively because of the age of the youngsters and said she was worried about a lack of “follow-up”.
She said: “They are going to come in and do this, then they are leaving. They are walking out on it, so to speak.
“Who’s going to pick up the pieces when ChildLine is gone?”
The charity insists the schools service will be carried out sensitively with all material approved by teachers, safeguarding experts and other child protection specialists.
Jaime Smith, ChildLine’s schools service manager for the East of England, said the work was “very child friendly” and added: “Children know a lot of this already. We are always surprised about how much knowledge they have.
“Children are very familiar with talking about bullying and physical abuse – although they might not call it physical abuse – and emotional abuse they can also understand.
“But neglect and sexual abuse is something we don’t talk about much.”
The campaign aims to help the UK’s young children understand all types of abuse, recognise situations where they may need help and learn where they can access support.
The charity said NSPCC research showed an average of two children in every primary school classroom had suffered from abuse or neglect and the majority of cases go undetected. While most young people who contact ChildLine are over 11 years old, many are found to have suffered in silence for a number of years.
Announcing plans for the schools service, the charity said: “If we are really serious about stopping child abuse, we need to reach these children when they are younger.”
Every child aged nine to 11 years old at 337 schools in Norfolk, 292 in Suffolk and 220 in Cambridgeshire will take part in the visits – if their parents give consent.
The scheme will target all pupils in years five and six over the next two years. Mrs Smith said the aim was to reach all schools over the next three years before starting again with the next group of nine to 11 year olds.
The service will be delivered in two stages with volunteers initially going into schools to take an assembly which will talk about the different kinds of child abuse, who to speak to, and explain the role ChildLine plays.
An hour-long workshop two weeks later will then focus on sexual abuse and neglect.
Len Holman, headteacher at Angel Road Junior School in Catton, Norwich, said: “I would certainly support this initiative if it reaches the high standard of delivery they are aspiring to. If the information is delivered sensitively to nine to 11 year olds then children have everything to gain from the experience.
“Bringing a difficult subject out into the open this way will help break down barriers and give children the opportunity to discuss their own experiences and those of friends. This appears to be a well-thought out programme of delivery and I wish it every success.”
Volunteers will each have to undergo advanced CRB checks, vetting, police checks and provide two references before they will be put forward for the role.
They will then be given thorough training lasting up to six months which will see them initially learning away from the classroom, before visiting schools alongside a ChildLine staff member.
Once signed off as fully trained, the volunteers will visit schools in pairs.
Mrs Smith said the charity had a proven track record of using volunteers to run its services, including its helpline.
Anyone interested in volunteering should visit www.nspcc.org.uk
ChildLine is a free and confidential 24 helpline for children and young people. Call 0800 1111.