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ChildLine Schools Service - NSPCC

By Sarah Walker, ChildLine Schools Service Area Coordinator for Kent and Medway 

According to our research, on average two children in every primary school classroom have experienced some form of abuse or neglect. But, either through fear or a lack of information, most children don’t seek help or tell anyone what’s happening until they’re much older.

We know this because the majority of children who contact our ChildLine helpline for advice or support are over 11 years of age and they report that the abuse started many months or even years before this.

Imagine if you could reach these children when they are much younger, potentially even before the abuse has started. Imagine that you could give these children the knowledge to understand that what they’re experiencing is abuse, and the courage to speak out and get help. Imagine the difference that could make to those children’s lives.

This is why we began the ChildLine Schools Service – to empower children at a much earlier age to understand that they have the right to be happy and safe, and to teach them that help is out there if they ask for it.

The ChildLine Schools Service is a free service, delivered by fully trained ChildLine volunteers. Through an assembly and interactive workshop, they educate 9 – 11 year olds about the different forms of abuse, such as bullying and neglect, and teach them who to go to for help should they ever need it. They learn about ‘trusted adults’ that you can ask for help; such as a parent, carer or teacher. And they also learn how to contact ChildLine – either over the phone or online.

The sessions are tailored to the age of the children of the children in the group and topics are covered in a way that is easy to understand, without being graphic.

When we first rolled out the Service in Kent in 2013, our first big challenge was to recruit and train a strong team of volunteers who could go into Kent’s 516 primary schools. We now have 34 incredibly dedicated volunteers who each carry out at least two schools visits a month. By the end of March, we’ll have carried out 110 schools visits and spoken to almost 6,500 children across Kent.

Our next challenge is to get more schools signed up to this ground-breaking service – there are still around 28,000 children across Kent that we haven’t yet spoken to.

The service has so many benefits for schools – it creates a safe space for children to discuss their understanding of what can be complex, difficult and very sensitive issues. It also safeguards them by encouraging them to identify extended sources of support should they need it now or in the future.

It links in with the PSHE and Citizenship curriculum and it helps create a strong safeguarding culture within the school. It’s also a great way of providing evidence against the OFSTED Inspection Framework 2012.

We want to take the ChildLine Schools Service into every primary school in Kent and we’d love to hear from you if you’d like to have our volunteers come to you school. It couldn’t be easier and it’s completely free. To find out more or to book your visit, contact me at sarah.walker@nspcc.org.uk or visit visit http://www.nspcc.org.uk/fighting-for-childhood/our-services/services-for-children-and-families/childline-school-service/contact-childline-schools-service/.  

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