PRIMARY schools in Gloucestershire will be visited by ChildLine volunteers for the first time in 2014 to help youngsters spot abuse.
Currently, the children’s helpline service is seeing the vast majority of cases its handling coming from over-11s.
But it fears younger boys and girls are suffering in silence simply because they don’t have the education or tools to realise what abuse is and what they can do about it.
ChildLine Schools Service has been running for about three years but is coming to Gloucestershire for the first time in the next 12 months.
Charity the NSPCC is launching a recruitment drive for volunteers across the county.
They simply need to be comfortable talking to a classroom and have basic IT skills. Full training will be given to help them equip kids as young as nine with the knowledge they need to get themself out of harm’s way.
Natalie Chamberlain is co-ordinating the service’s roll out in Gloucestershire, Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
She said: “It’s been running since about 2010 as a result of a review done into the phone line.
“One finding from that was that, from the amount of children contacting ChildLine, the vast majority were over-11.
“For some reason, children below that age were not contacting us and that’s probably either through fear or a lack of knowledge.
“There are two children in every schoolroom, on average, who have suffered some form of abuse and we need to equip children with the knowledge they need to contact us in confidence if they fear abuse.”
Eventually, her team will number about 25 volunteers and the service’s aim is to get to every primary school in the country once every two years.
It will be targeting Years 5 and 6 - nine-11-year-olds.
Assemblies will be held first then, a couple of weeks later, the volunteers will return in pairs to carry out more detailed workshops on what abuse is and what they can do about it.
Natalie added that it’s not just the children who will benefit.
Volunteers get more than they bargained for too, with 77.2 per cent noticing an increase in confidence in their abilities and 64.9 per cent saying they’ve had an increase in their own sense of self esteem.
Over half, 54.8 per cent, have seen an increase in their emotional well being.
As a ChildLine School Service volunteer, those signing up will spend up to half a day per week helping support the ambitious new programme, one of the aims of which is to prevent abuse before it starts.
The volunteers will encourage children to recognise situations where they may need help and show them ways of accessing support.
The service has already visited children in a cross section of schools in other parts of the country and has proved popular with children, teachers and parents.
The charity said 99 per cent of schools who provided feedback in 2012/13 claimed pupils’ knowledge of child abuse and bullying was enhanced as a result, while 91 per cent said their pupils were now more aware of who to talk to if they felt unsafe.
Natalie added: “When you have finished an assembly you feel like you have made 30 new friends, it’s great. The children are all brilliant and we have fun.
“It’s inspiring and you never tire of it.”
New volunteers will receive expert ChildLine training and ongoing support to help them gain valuable skills in communicating with children.
For further information and details on how to apply go to nspcc.org.uk/childlinevolunteer