A children’s charity is recruiting a team of volunteers to visit primary schools across Sheffield to help young children gain a better understanding of abuse.
The NSPCC hopes to take its ChildLine Schools Service into every city school in the next two years to talk to children about abuse, how to protect themselves and where to get help if they need it.
The programme was inspired by shocking figures which revealed that, on average, two children in every primary school classroom suffers abuse or neglect.
The service has been piloted in Sheffield since 2011 and has already visited 59 schools in the city, taking its message to more than 4,500 Sheffield children aged nine to 11.
It is now starting to roll-out nationally and the NSPCC is hoping to visit every UK primary school by 2016.
Liz Thackray, ChildLine Schools Service area co-ordinator for South Yorkshire, said: “This is a real opportunity for us to change the face of child protection in the UK.
“The ChildLine Schools Service is fundamentally focused on safeguarding young people and we believe it will make a significant contribution to preventing child abuse.
“In the first two years we visited a significant number of schools in the region and we’re looking to do even more in the next two years – that’s why we need some help.”
The charity is now looking to train up a team of 15 volunteers to help them reach a further 134 schools across the city in the coming months.
They are also hoping to encourage more Sheffield schools to sign up to host a ChildLine Schools Service, which includes a 30-minute introductory assembly followed by an hour-long classroom workshop session. Liz added: “Both visits are sensitively tailored to ensure topics are covered in a way that children can understand and have been approved as suitable for nine to 11-year-olds by child protection specialists.
“Volunteers are key to the delivery of this service so it is vital that local people come forward to help us achieve the aim of protecting future generations.
“We’re looking for people from all backgrounds who share our vision of stopping abuse and can commit to visiting 10 schools in one academic year.”
Volunteers will receive extensive training – and ongoing support – before delivering assemblies and workshops to children in school. Training begins with two days of intensive classroom training, followed by shadowing an experienced co-ordinator, then, finally, co-running sessions.
Bernie Smith, 56, of Mosborough, began training as a volunteer earlier this year and has just carried out her first school assembly.
“I’ve worked in schools and in child protection throughout my career, so volunteering for this programme was something I thought I’d really like to get involved in,” said Bernie.
“I was apprehensive before my first session with the children, but I’ve been really well-supported and guided through my training by the people at ChildLine and felt confident in what I was saying.
“I think this programme is so important, facilitating children to hear this information and talk about anything that is worrying them in a safe environment.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to think you could be responsible for setting a child on the right course to being safe and happy.”
NSPCC research shows most children who contact ChildLine are over 11 years of age, but many of the youngsters suffer in silence for months, or even years, before eventually finding the courage to contact the charity, leaving themselves and other children at risk.
Emma Gill, head of school at Stradbroke Primary, told The Star: “This is the second time we’ve welcomed ChildLine Schools Service into our school, being one of the first schools they visited two years ago, and we couldn’t be happier with the work they’re doing.
“It’s so important our children have this information and it’s so well provided. The children and parents have all responded really positively and I’d recommend other schools that haven’t yet signed up for these sessions to get in touch with ChildLine.”
Next month, Sheffield will launch its Go Green campaign, to coincide with National Children’s Day, on November 20.
In the day of awareness businesses, buildings, schools and individuals across the city will ‘go green’ for a day in an effort to raise funds for The ChildLine Schools Service.
Sheffield’s NSPCC president, Julie Kenny, said: “Everybody’s heard of Red Nose Day. Go Green Day is about raising awareness of the issues and problems children in our city are facing and then fundraising to help fix them.”
NSPCC Sheffield and local charity Youth Can Achieve have teamed up for the campaign, which they hope could go on to become a national and, eventually, a global day of awareness and fundraising.
Julie added: “We’re asking the people of Sheffield to make a contribution on the day and wear green clothes, drink green tea, bake green buns, paint their nails green, maybe even dip-dye their hair green to show their support.”
For more information about the ChildLine Schools Service, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/schoolsservice