Belfast Primary School Leverages NSPCC’s Speak out Stay safe Programme to Complement PDMU Curriculum

A recent independent evaluation by the NSPCC confirmed an ongoing need for Speak out Stay safe (SOSS). Whilst most primary children have a good understanding of what abusive behaviour looks like and which trusted adults they can speak to, the children’s charity safeguarding programme is designed to boost schools’ relationships and sex education (RSE) teaching. Deputy Vice Principal Richard Ewart from Strandtown Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland shares how his pupils enjoyed the online assembly.

While COVID-19 caused countless disruptions, it did mean that a lot of organisations such as the NSPCC had to rethink how to deliver their educational programmes. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into the Speak out Stay safe (SOSS) online assembly to get it just right. The content is very powerful and purposeful. At Strandtown, a large primary school in Belfast with over a thousand P4, P5, P6 and P7 pupils, we engage with the NSPCC once every two years. This means over four years each of our students will hear their message twice. We last engaged with SOSS last May and the coordinators are excellent at keeping in touch in-between.


After coming out of our second lockdown in Belfast it was lovely to hear from the NSPCC again. The new online programme fitted in perfectly with our school’s Personal Development and Mutual Understanding (PDMU) curriculum so it couldn’t have come at a better time. As a teacher I thought who better to introduce the assembly than Ant and Dec. Although the pair only presented the start of the programme our children’s attention was immediately captured. They thought this must be cool, if Ant and Dec are involved it’s going to be good. Their concentration throughout was superb and they were fully engaged in the programme. It was wonderful to see them responding with great listening and great awareness to what’s such an important subject.

As the online assembly is prerecorded it was almost word perfect, dealing with sensitive issues such as sexual and physical abuse with just the right level of care. When you see your pupils every day in the classroom those can be difficult subjects to broach. Sometimes I’m more of a close confidant to my pupils than I am a teacher, such is the relationship. So, with sensitive issues such as these it’s a huge help for SOSS to be taught by an outside organisation who handles them with such care. One of the pupils’ biggest takeaways was the saying ‘I have the right to be safe, you have the right to be safe, we have the right to be safe.’ The constant drip feeding of these key messages throughout the assembly ensure they stay front of mind.

As most of the groundwork had been done it naturally led to follow-up discussions with the children. If I use the analogy of a farmer, the hard work is ploughing the field then sowing the seed comes easy; the NSPCC did that hard work for us. From a statutory point of view the assembly ticks a lot of boxes in our PDMU curriculum such as teaching children how to look after themselves, how to look after each other and how to be an active member of the community. As well as nicely tying into annual focuses such as our anti-bullying week and safety online day, the assembly provided the opportunity for us to reinforce to the children that if they’re worried or concerned about anything they can talk to any trusted adult within the school.

Given the sensitive nature of the topic of abuse the online assembly managed it thoughtfully, purposefully and in a way that children could understand and relate to. It was at a primary level, yet the meaning was not lost. Such was the presentation of it, no child would have gone away traumatised by what they heard, which is obviously the most crucial factor. Myself and my fellow teachers also appreciated that the assembly featured voices from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland throughout. So, no matter where you were watching from in the UK you could relate to that person. It was great that there was some local ownership within the content.

Our SEND children also watched the online assembly with their peers accompanied by their respective classroom assistants. After the assembly was over each assistant found a quiet place within school to chat with their child about the various subjects that were raised throughout. We know children with learning difficulties often find it easier to open up in a small group over a whole class session, so it’s extremely valuable to provide the opportunity to ask any questions they might have. As with all our pupils Ant and Dec were firm favourites and having Buddy appear throughout to drive home the message of speaking out to stay safe was invaluable.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the SOSS online assembly to other teachers, you won’t be disappointed. Children need to hear this message and when it’s done so well why would you not let your children hear it, it’s so important that they do hear it. The children will not only enjoy hearing the message but will benefit from hearing the message. Our collective hope at Strandtown is that SOSS will lead to safer children – children who know how to reach out for help when they need it. Well done NSPCC for taking an exceedingly difficult subject and bringing it down to a child’s level. It’s vital that the message isn’t lost and for our children it really hit home.

Interested in the NSPCC’s online safeguarding programme? Receive their online assembly and supporting resources to use in your classroom discussions by signing up your primary school today.


Schools abuse helpline receives over 650 contacts as pupils urged to get in touch with concerns

Press play below.

  • The Department for Education is encouraging teachers to spread the word about the Report Abuse in Education helpline as schools’ return
  • Sexual assault, sharing nude images and rape are among the concerns reported to the NSPCC

The Government is calling on teachers to remind pupils that the NSPCC’s Report Abuse in Education helpline is still available to them for support and free and confidential advice.

With children returning to school after the Summer Holidays the Department for Education will make the request in the monthly bulletin it sends to schools across the country. 

The prompt comes as the helpline, set-up as a place for young people to report peer-on-peer sexual abuse within schools, has revealed that it has received over 650 contacts in the five months since it launched.

The latest monthly data update from the NSPCC shows that 118 contacts were deemed serious enough to refer to an external agency such as police, local authorities and the NHS.

Where information about the caller was known, 121 contacts were from adult or child victims, of which 73 were female, 41 were male, two were transgender and five were unknown. Meanwhile 67 of the contacts were from parents with concerns about their child.

The helpline launched on April 1st after thousands of testimonies of sexual abuse and harassment mostly perpetrated by peers were posted on the Everyone’s Invited site.

The charity has responded to reports about sexual name calling, unwanted sexual touching, sexual assault and rape by other pupils as well as online abuse such as sharing nude images without consent.

Incidents relate to both recent and non-recent abuse with adults who were abused as children telling the helpline that they felt they could not report it at the time or they tried to but weren’t listened to. In other cases, adults witnessed incidents but didn’t act on it.

Some victims told the helpline they were accused of inviting unwanted attention while others were discouraged from taking action against the perpetrator out of fear it would ruin their education and life prospects.

Victims said they felt scared, powerless and guilty because of the abuse and some developed anxiety, depression or suffered with drug and alcohol issues.

One parent wanted advice after her 14-year-old daughter was touched inappropriately by a boy in her PE class:

“She said this boy tried running his hand up the inside of her thigh, up to her crotch area. During the same lesson, she witnessed the boy “grab” two other girls by their boobs. My daughter spoke with the other two girls and they decided to go to their head of year. The girls were asked to write a personal account of what happened before being sent back to their lessons.

“I’ve since been on the phone with the school’s pastoral support team and they seem to have a completely different version of events, basically making out like my daughter has got it all wrong. It’s as if they’re dismissing the whole thing. I’m not sure what to do about it now, so I’m hoping you can advise.

Sandra Robinson, NSPCC Helpline Manager, said: “We’ve heard about hundreds of incidents of pervasive peer-on-peer sexual abuse and sadly we know there are likely to be many more that have gone unreported.

“Contacts to the helpline paint a striking picture of the devastating and lasting consequences peer-on-peer sexual abuse can have on young people and how it can be exacerbated if safeguarding incidents aren’t handled correctly.

“For some pupils, returning to schools this week means facing their abusers again but they don’t have to do this alone. Our helpline is a safe space for children, teachers or parents to report recent or non-recent abuse and provide support to help them recover.”

Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families, said: “As children return to school this September, we want them to feel safe and protected.

“That’s why we’ve taken steps to remind all schools about the importance of our new mandatory RSHE curriculum, as well as the NSPCC’s dedicated helpline.

“We encourage all individuals who have been a victim of sexual abuse, whether recent or non-recent, to call the helpline so that they can receive the vital support they need.”

To get in contact with the Report Abuse in Education helpline call 0800 136 663, or email Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends.