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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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How to stay safe – the vital message in every classroom

A NEW scheme aims to protect hundreds of Copeland’s children from abuse and bullying.

By Mark White

Ground-breaking plans by ChildLine will see its staff visit all local primary schools once every two years to speak to EVERY pupil about issues such as sexual abuse, cyber-bullying and depression.

The aim is to help children, aged nine to 11, recognise abuse, know where to seek help, and ultimately help them keep safe.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed visited Valley Primary School, Mirehouse, with the ChildLine team last week to see for himself the sessions, given through assemblies and workshops, which offer information in a “reassuring and age-appropriate language.”

Sue Schofield, ChildLine schools service manager for the North East and Cumbria, said: “NSPCC research shows that an average of two children in every primary school classroom are suffering from abuse or neglect – and the majority of cases go undetected. These young children often feel alone and desperate and many have nobody to turn to.

“Most children who contact ChildLine are over 11 years of age, but many of these children suffered in silence for months or even years before eventually finding the courage to contact ChildLine.

“If we are really serious about stopping child abuse, we need to reach these children when they are younger.”

ChildLine is the UK’s free, confidential helpline dedicated to children and young people. ChildLine is available to be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. Nearly 200,000 children rang ChildLine in 2012/2013 with many different concerns.

Thirteen per cent of those were with depression, 11 per cent with bullying, five per cent with physical abuse and four per cent with sexual abuse.

Mr Reed said: “This is the first time I’ve seen ChildLine schools service assembly and I was absolutely blown away by it. The children engaged really well with the team and their response to the important messages that were being delivered was remarkable.

“The ChildLine volunteers were particularly gifted in getting across some complex messages in an age-appropriate way that made it easy for the children to understand.

“I would encourage all primary schools to take the opportunity to have a visit from the ChildLine schools service if they haven’t already done so – it was really impressive.

“I am no doubt at all that this service, both the assemblies and the workshops, will change children’s lives across Copeland.”

Mary Smith, a Childline volunteer who spoke at the Valley School assembly, said: “We got involved because we really believe in the service and realise these children need to know that there is someone they can talk to.”

Across the UK, 67 per cent of children involved in the initial pilot for the service said that they were “much more likely to talk to someone” after the ChildLine schools service had visited their school.

ChildLine can be contacted confidentially on 0800 1111.

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