Charity plans sexual abuse lessons at primary schools

Melinda Tilley

Melinda Tilley

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Health reporter, also covering Kidlington. Call me on 01865 425271

THE NSPCC is bidding to bring child sexual exploitation lessons to Oxfordshire primary schools over fears that vital safety messages are being missed.

The child protection charity is seeking volunteers to do its free ChildLine service assemblies and workshops at county primaries from September.

It comes in the wake of the conviction in May of the Bullfinch gang of seven men who abused and exploited young girls in Oxford.

The charity said it has had “positive meetings” with Oxfordshire County Council, which is responsible for child protection.

The authority is to tell schools about the service.

So far 17 schools have been contacted and four including Botley Primary have expressed an interest in taking part.

NSPCC head of strategy and development Jon Brown said the issue can be taught in personal, social and health education lessons.

But he said: “We feel it is delivered in far too a diverse a way in schools. Some do it very well.

Others do not do it all.

“The fragmentation of the education system with academies and free schools has, to some extent, fractured the coherent approach that was in place.”

The charity wanted to bring the service to the county before Operation Bullfinch but had not been able to find a manager.

It is “particularly timely” due to the trial, Mr Brown added.

The programme has been brought to more than 200,000 UK primary school children since it was launched two years ago.

An assembly introduces the broad themes around physical, emotional and sexual abuse, neglect and bullying.

For example, coloured bricks are put in a sack on a person’s shoulder and one is removed for every “trusted person” children name.

A workshop two weeks later takes things further by asking children what they think of adults watching them getting dressed and making them watch a “rude film”.

Programme manager William Shaw said: “We know a lot of children and young people who call us are of secondary school age but they say abuse was a lot earlier.”

Volunteers, particularly those with experience of communicating with young children, will get online and face-to-face training, he said. All are criminal records bureau checked.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, closely involved with the Bullfinch case, is “very supportive” of the scheme.

She said: “While this is a sensitive subject it is important that we ensure that children in this age group are given the support they need to keep them safe.”

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for children, education and families Melinda Tilley also welcomed the scheme.

She said: “As a local authority, we cannot dictate the content of these lessons, but we are working closely to identify approaches and resources to raise pupils’ level of understanding of these issues.”

West Kidlington Primary School head Eugene Symonds added his support.

He said: “The NSPCC knows a great deal about what is out there in terms of the signs of abuse and we have used them for safeguarding training.”

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