The NSPCC is holding a Virtual Assembly to ensure children know they can access support if required
Two iconic television presenters are set to step up and speak in front of schoolchildren.
With referrals from the NSPCC helpline remaining more than 30% higher than pre-lockdown levels since schools returned in Scotland, the charity has teamed up with Ant and Dec to make sure children know what to do and who to speak to if something is worrying or upsetting them.
The celebrity duo is hosting a new virtual version of the NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly, which – before lockdown – the charity had delivered to millions of pupils across the UK.
NSPCC experts reported that the risk of abuse and neglect increased during lockdown, and in the period April to July, the NSPCC helpline saw a 50% increase in its average number of monthly referrals to agencies in Scotland.
Today, the charity can reveal that in August and September, as children have returned to school in Scotland, the number of referrals were 38% and 61%, respectively, above the average monthly figure before lockdown this year. There were 157 referrals in August and 184 in September.
Last month NSPCC Scotland launched a social media campaign with CPC Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland and Police Scotland asking people to keep an eye out for unusual behaviours or signs that something was not right for a child, and to speak up so that children who might have had adverse experiences during lockdown could be supported.
The national lockdown left many children trapped indoors with their abusers for months on end, and the main issues the helpline heard about were physical and emotional abuse and neglect.
It is vital that children know what to do and who to speak to if something is happening in their life which is making them feel scared or anxious.
Before the pandemic NSPCC Scotland delivered its assembly face-to-face, in more than 96% of all primary schools across the country, and in 2019/20 the charity visited 833 schools, speaking to more than 145,000 children, before lockdown was imposed.
At this time, NSPCC school volunteers can no longer deliver the assembly in person, so instead the organisation has made a 30-minute online Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly available to all primary schools in the UK.
In an accessible and age appropriate way, the assembly helps children understand how to recognise different forms of abuse, and how to speak out if they need to.
The NSPCC is also offering supporting teaching materials with plenty of engaging activities. The assembly and resources are also available in British Sign Language (BSL).
As well as this, it also focuses on some of the additional worries that children are experiencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ant said: “We’re thrilled to be involved with the online version of the NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly and we’ve had great fun filming with Buddy, the NSPCC mascot.
“We know that the lockdown will have been a difficult time for some children and others may be struggling with being back at school.
Dec added: “This is why the NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly is so important as it reminds children that no matter what may be worrying them, there is always someone who can help.
“It is a real privilege to be supporting the NSPCC with this online assembly and we want all children to remember that difficult times never have to be dealt with alone.”
In all Speak Out. Stay Safe assemblies children are taught to speak out if they are worried, either to a trusted adult or Childline.
The assemblies help to reinforce key lessons about abuse and neglect that are compulsory for all primary schools.
Alan Stewart, NSPCC Scotland schools service manager, said: “Because of measures put in place to control the spread of Covid-19, children have had months of staying at home; away from school and cut off from their usual support networks.
“At the NSPCC, we know for some children home isn’t always a safe place and that many will have faced increased risk of harm.
“As the pandemic continues we all need to be there to support children, and equipping them with the knowledge and understanding they need to speak out is one vital way we can help ensure their safety.
“I encourage all primary schools to sign up, so that we can work alongside teachers to help as many children as possible to recognise and report any worries they have.”
To sign-up visit nspcc.org.uk/speakout
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 from 7.30am to midnight from Monday to Friday or 9am to midnight on weekends. Or they can get in touch via www.childline.org.uk