The NSPCC is looking for volunteers to help take its messages about child protection directly to schools across Northern Ireland as the new school year gets underway.
The simple, yet vital, Speak Out Stay Safe service from the leading children’s charity reached 67,129 children in 356 schools across Northern Ireland in the last school year (2017-2018).
But with an average of two pupils in every primary school across the UK having suffered neglect or abuse, the NSPCC wants to reach every single child and help them to keep themselves safe.
Karen Walker, Schools Service manager in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s never been more important to talk to schoolchildren to help keep them safe from abuse and neglect. Without the support of amazing volunteers, our programme simply couldn’t exist so we are always looking for more people to join our team.
“We are delighted that the Schools Service has reached so many children but this new term we want to reach all children in every corner of Northern Ireland to help them stay safe and that’s why we need more volunteers.
“It’s a great way to meet new people and learn a new skill, while giving something back. The NSPCC give you all the training and support you need to feel confident in your role. We ask for a minimum commitment of three deliveries a month within school hours.”
The aim is to reach children twice during their time at primary school – once in Key Stage 1 and again in Key Stage 2.
The half-hour assemblies address child abuse in an age-appropriate way and the importance of speaking out to stay safe.
The volunteers deliver more in-depth workshops with the older pupils while all children are taught the Childline number, which is free to call on 0800 1111 if a child feels they have no adult they can talk to or wants to talk to someone anonymously.
Volunteers get two comprehensive days of training and go through a thorough vetting process. They are then offered dates for assemblies and they can pick a time and date to suit them. There is also support from more experienced volunteers, who can pair with newcomers. All volunteers also get ongoing training, including how to react if a pupil speaks out about abuse.
Although this doesn’t happen often, staff at schools often report back to the NSPCC to say that the assembly has prompted a child to tell someone about possible abuse.
Helen Vizard has been volunteering with NSPCC Northern Ireland for the past four years.
She said: “I signed up as a volunteer a few years ago after I retired. There is only so much golfing and walking I can do and I wanted to give something back.
“I heard an ad on my local radio calling for volunteers and I thought that was something I could do. I wanted to do something purposeful, which would also utilise the knowledge and skills I had gained over the years.
“It was a natural progression to work with, and on behalf of, children because of my background working as a teacher and with children with special needs. It was also appealing to work in the youthful, stimulating environment of schools and be back out socialising and working with new colleagues.”
If you would like more information on how to volunteer for the NSPCC Schools Service please visit the NSPCC website here