Podcast: Speak out Stay safe

Last updated: 13 May 2019 Topics: Podcast Type: Podcast
Overview

Speak out Stay safe teaches school children to stay safe from abuse and neglect

What is Speak out Stay safe? It is a free session available to all primary schools in the UK to empower children and give them the knowledge and understanding they need to stay safe from abuse and neglect. Our programme launched in 2011, and is run by specially trained staff and volunteers who deliver assemblies where pupils are taught how to recognise and respond to abuse in a lively, memorable and child-friendly way.

In our sixth podcast we’re joined by Rose Bray, NSPCC’s Reach Development Project Manager for our Schools Service, Karen Squillino who leads on our direct work with schools, and Katie, a parent whose son has taken part in the programme.

Some of the key aspects we explore are:

  • the scale of the programme and its delivery in schools
  • a real life example of how the service has benefitted a parent and their child
  • how the child’s voice is kept at the centre of the programme
  • challenges around reaching and accessing schools
  • next steps for the Speak out Stay safe service.

Listen to the podcast to find out why it’s important our service exists to help children to feel empowered to recognise and respond to abuse, including the positive outcomes and benefits for children, parents and school staff.


About the team

Karen Squillino has a lead role in the development of the NSPCC’s Speak out Stay safe programme and is a registered social worker who has 28 years of experience in child protection and safeguarding.

Rose Bray is the Reach Development Project Manager for the Schools Service at the NSPCC. Her role focuses on ensuring the Speak out Stay safe programme reaches as many schools and children as possible. Rose is also a volunteer for the Childline service.


Related resources

> Discover what is covered in the Speak out Stay safe service for schools and children

NSPCC Learning podcast

Our podcast series covers a range of child protection issues to inform, create debate and tell you about the work that we do to keep children safe. The child's voice is at the heart of every episode and what they tell us informs all of the work that we do. 

There's a new NSPCC Learning episode every fortnight. You can subscribe to the podcast through Audioboom or sign up to CASPAR to hear when new topics are released.

Transcript

Podcast transcript 

Introduction: 
Welcome to NSPCC Learning, a series of podcasts that cover a range of child protection issues to hopefully inform, create debate and tell you all about the work we do to keep children safe. At the heart of every podcast is the child’s voice and how what they tell us informs the work we do.

Ali:
Hi and thanks for listening to the latest NSPCC Learning podcast. This week we’re talking about our direct work in schools, in particular our Speak out Stay safe programme. Speak out Stay safe is a free safeguarding service that we run in primary schools and so far, this has reached 4.7 million children.

The programme is delivered by specially trained staff and volunteers. It consists of an assembly presentation for Key Stage 1 and 2 children aged five to 11, and this is followed by a one-hour classroom workshop for children in Years Five and Six in England and Wales and P6 and P7 in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Speak out Stay safe helps children to understand abuse in all its forms and recognise the signs of abuse. It shows children how to protect themselves from all forms of abuse and how they can get help and the sources of help available to them, including our Childline service. The programme links directly to the curriculum, helping with schools’ responsibilities to provide evidence that they’re meeting their statutory requirements.

I sat down with Karen Squillino who leads our direct work with schools and Rose Bray, who’s the NSPCC’s Reach Development Project Manager for the schools’ service and we were joined by Katie, a parent whose son has taken part in the Speak out Stay safe programme.

We talked about the scale of the programme and how delivering something so huge is made possible by an army of dedicated volunteers. We discuss reach and access and why some schools might think it’s not for them and how we respond to those concerns. We discuss why it’s important that this service exists, the positive outcomes and benefits and as always, how we keep the child’s voice at the centre of the programme.

I began by asking Karen how the Speak out Stay safe programme was delivered.

Karen:
There’s 24,000 primary schools in the UK so we need quite a significant number of people to deliver the workshops and assemblies, so our predominant delivery approach is volunteers. So, we’ve got around 1,000 volunteers across the UK that go out in pairs to deliver the service. We also have some staff delivering as well because you can appreciate that it’s quite hard to recruit some volunteers in certain geographical areas for example, so we’ve a bit of a mixed model really.

Ali:
And tell me about the training of these volunteers, what does that look like? So, you know that people that are going into school are delivering the right consistent messages that we want them to deliver?

Karen:
The first thing to say I think, you don’t need to have a background in working with children. We will provide really clear training for anybody that’s interested, so it’s about having the right motivations and a willingness to be able to stand in front of groups of children and deliver the service.

Every volunteer has to complete an application form and then they will be reviewed and the vast majority of people at that point are then invited to an interview. And then from there, it gives us an opportunity as the NSPCC to decide whether somebody, you know, has got the right sort of skills, motivation, ability, to be able to move forward into the training but it also gives the prospective volunteer an opportunity to sort of self-select or deselect at that point.

The actual training then starts. There is a two-day face-to-face training that we do which provides the volunteers with an opportunity to really get to grips with the script because the Speak out Stay safe programme is a scripted programme. But it also gives them an opportunity to think about the wider NSPCC and our safeguarding protocols for example. Before the volunteers attend their face-to-face training, there’s a requirement to complete a number of modules online which is NSPCC training and that gives them a really good sort of background and a core knowledge around child protection safeguarding.

After that two days’ training, we put people in the live environment so there’s no sort of practice arrangements for us. Volunteers are then paired up with an existing experienced volunteer and they go into school and start delivering. Now, we don’t want to frighten people, they’re not sort of thrown in totally at the deep end.

What they all do with their Area Coordinator, which is the person that manages the volunteers, will have a look at which bits they feel confident with delivering first off but we really want people to sort of move through that training journey fairly quickly and develop a confidence where they’re competent to deliver the programme fairly quickly because it’s a case of use it or lose it.If you’re not in schools regularly then you’re not going to learn the scripts. So what we ask of volunteers is that while they’re in training, they’re in school at least weekly to deliver the assemblies and the workshops.

Once the volunteer and the Area Coordinator are satisfied that that level of knowledge and confidence and competence has been reached with the programme, then we sign them off - we call it signing off - that volunteer is deemed sort of able to go out with another volunteer and deliver the service.

So training doesn’t end there. There are ongoing meetings with the Area Coordinator, opportunities to meet with other volunteers because you know, when we’re in the live environment, children often present us with a whole range of things. So we need to ensure that our volunteers feel equipped and skilled to be able to respond. That’s why we’ve got a whole programme of regular meetings built in for the Area Coordinators to meet with the volunteers.

Ali:
And do we know of any other programme similar to this that’s been done on this scale or is this quite unique to the NSPCC?

Karen:
I’m going to say it’s unique, you know, you risk sticking your neck out, don’t you when you say that? But as far as we’re aware in the UK – well we know in the UK there isn't a service that’s as far reaching as this one. Today we’ve reached 86% of primary schools in the UK.

Ali:
That’s amazing.

Karen:
So that’s around 24,000 altogether so it is a significant number and over the last sort of three-year period within the NSPCC five-year strategy, we have reached 4.7 million children – unique, individual children, so that’s …

Ali:
Very impressive.

Karen:
I don’t know of anywhere else in the UK certainly, but also across the world as well that is delivering to that number of children on an annual basis.

Ali:
Great and we know we’re trying to reach every primary school in the UK, Rose, can I talk to you a little bit about reach and access because not every school is the same, so I’m sure the programme doesn’t fit every single school.

Can you talk to me a little bit about that? How we reach different schools and do we amend the programme for different schools?

Rose:
Yeah, definitely that’s a really good question and something that we are thinking about more and more. As Karen said, our ambition is to reach every single primary school in the UK and that includes the wide range that falls within that, so that includes special schools and pupil referral units. It includes faith schools, it includes Welsh speaking schools, every school you can imagine and so we’ve done a lot of work already to meet the needs of those different types of schools but there’s also a lot more work still to go.

Some of the things we’ve done so far include, we’ve actually created a kind of adapted version of the programme for children with mild to moderate learning disabilities and some autism spectrum conditions, so that’s being delivered now into some special schools across the UK.

It obviously still doesn’t meet the needs of all children, but we work really closely with the school and it’s a much more flexible programme, so actually schools can adapt it to meet the needs of their children.

In terms of, I mentioned the Welsh speaking schools, both the mainstream programme and the adapted SEND programme are available bilingually, so we can deliver in Welsh and we have some Welsh speaking volunteers as well, so that’s kind of how we work with those schools.

In terms of adapting the programme to meet the needs of other schools, it’s often about meeting with the headteacher or the safeguarding leads in the schools beforehand and working out if there are adaptations that need to be made or if they have concerns for example about a particular child in the class and if we need to bear their needs in mind. As Karen said, it is a kind of standardised scripted programme and that means that we know we can deliver consistently to all of those schools and we know exactly what messages the children are getting.

There is a kind of level of standardisation in there, but we will work with schools to adapt, for example, activities or format if that’s needed and there’s more work being done there as well.

Ali:
Great, so kind of slightly just moving on from that or exploring it a bit further, how receptive have schools been to this and I know we’re going back because this has been around for a few years but do you find schools are very open to it?

Karen:
Yeah, I think we’ve been on a bit of a journey and I think that the sort of best way to sum that up is, we have knocked on open doors for a number of years with services and that’s simply because of the scale and the number of the schools that we’re trying to reach. So, I think it’s safe to say that we have focused on those schools where we may have felt that we would be getting a “yes” immediately. That is not to say that there hasn’t been some challenges but the vast majority of schools are very welcoming of the programme.

It’s free at the point of delivery, we are an incredibly reputable brand, but you can appreciate that some schools have presented a level of trepidation or concern around what we will be delivering.

Ali:
Sure.

Karen:
That often means that our Area Coordinators are having some dialogue with those schools that have raised some concerns before but the vast majority of schools, once they’ve seen the content of the programme, they’re sufficiently reassured because of the way we actually deliver this. Because, you know, we’re going into schools, we are talking to five-year-olds about sexual abuse but we’re doing that in an age and stage appropriate way. But I think that you know, I can completely appreciate why some schools and parents might feel quite concerned about “what on earth will they be saying to our children?”.

Ali:
Sure. So we have a parent with us – hello Katie.

Katie:
Hello.

Ali:
Now Katie, you’ve got two children.

Katie:
Yes.

Ali:
Have they both been through this programme?

Katie:
No, only the older one at the moment. He’s now seven. He had the Key Stage 1 version of it.

Ali:
Great and were you aware of the programme prior to your son taking part in it so that you could either opt in or opt out? What was the process?

Katie:
I wasn’t until I heard he was going to have it. At first, I was slightly worried about what he was going to learn in it and whether he was too young to hear about different types of abuse but once I heard more about it and the NSPCC website talks about it as well and how it’s appropriate for different age ranges that made me have more confidence that it would be okay for him.

Ali:
So yeah, you talked about the kind of appropriateness of age and also stage. When your son… you said he had the assembly, is that right?

Katie:
Yes, yeah.

Ali:
Okay, so did he come back and how was it? Did he talk about it? Was he quite excited by it?

Katie:
He was excited by it. I was slightly worried what questions he was going to be asking me and whether I’d actually know about things but the main things we talked about was if he has any worries who to talk to - and that’s the big thing he’s really learnt from it. We talk about who his trusted adults are and so we talked about mummy and daddy, he’s got his teachers at school, he’s got his after-school club staff as well and so he always knows that there’s someone to talk to which has been really important for him.

Ali:
Yeah and reassuring for you.

Katie:
Yeah.

Ali:
And so, why is it important that your son is exposed to something like this because I know we learn about road safety and everyone, well I might be showing my age here but the old kind of ‘stranger danger’ but actually this is something relatively new and I can understand possibly why, on one level, parents and schools might be slightly trepidatious about it. Why is it important that your son has an experience like this and goes through something like this?

Katie:
I feel because I’m not with him 24-hours a day, he actually needs to know and understand things and to know that he can talk out if something’s not right. My main thing is that I’m not there 24-hours a day with him. I don’t know every adult that’s around him. They are coming in through the school and through if he goes out to a friend’s house and I want him to understand that he can talk to a trusted adult and to say no, if there’s something happening or he’s worried about something.

Ali:
Sure. So Karen and Rose, how has this been received by children? Have they felt empowered by it? Have we got any kind of, obviously I know we do get feedback and stuff, but …?

Karen:
Yeah, we’re just starting an impact evaluation - I’ll talk about that in a little while - but the service has lots and lots of anecdotal evidence of the service having impact, so the programme hasn’t been set up to encourage disclosure at the point of delivery because that’s not what we’re about, it’s a prevention service.

What we are aware of are lots and lots of children over the course of their last several years who have either made disclosure whilst the service is being delivered or immediately afterwards and we’ve got to know about it through schools - so we know that it is having an impact for children.

It’s a prevention service though and what we want to do is to measure the impact large scale of the service, so we embarked upon a partnership with the University of Central Lancashire and four universities - one in each of the four nations - and we’ve just started to gather the data for a large impact evaluation so we won’t have the results of that until early 2021.

Ali
Okay.

Karen:
But we needed, you know, we needed a number of years to embed the programme in before we went into that.

What we do after each delivery, they older children get an opportunity to take part in a questionnaire and that tells us that children do develop a knowledge around the sources of support, understand the different abuse types for example, so we know that the service is having some impact in terms of the objectives, you know the things that it sets out to do.

Rose:
We also know, so I also volunteer for our Childline service and from my own experience there, I know that young people will call up having had the service in their school and say, “you were in my school today, I didn’t realise that what was happening to me was wrong until you came and told me that”. And then kind of another example of that but one I almost find more impactful is that you sometimes have young people calling Childline or contacting Childline who say, “you were in my school four years ago and actually something happened today and I didn’t know who I could turn to but I knew I could speak to Childline”.

So, I know it’s kind of anecdotal and the numbers are we don’t exactly what those numbers are, but we certainly are hearing from children in all sorts of different avenues that indicate the kind of impact it’s having for them.

Ali:
Has the programme adapted over the time with feedback from both schools and children?

Karen:
Yeah, I mean when we started out in 2011, we were just a service that delivered only to the older children, so the nine-to 11-year olds and it was three years ago that we brought in the Key Stage 1 element of the programme because you know, if we’re going to deliver a prevention service to a generation, we need to be reaching all of the kids in that generation, so we made the decision to develop Key Stage 1 content.

We went through what felt like a long time in development to get it absolutely right and children were part of that. We piloted that with children and took their feedback so we had to develop quite sophisticated ways of being able to really take good quality feedback from the younger children but we did it. We have now what I think is a really good quality provision that really helps the younger children understand and for us to achieve our objectives.

We’ve not mentioned Buddy yet, have we? I can’t believe we’ve been sat in this podcast for how many minutes it is and we have left Buddy out! We have a mascot for the service, so we have Buddy. He’s a big green speech bubble and all of our volunteers have got either a furry Buddy or one that you can blow up a bit like a beach ball, that they take into school and I think by default rather than by design we’ve been able to have a mascot that really young children, so the five-year-olds and the 11-year-olds really have taken to.

Now we didn’t design that. That has just happened but Buddy stands for children’s rights, Buddy’s all about speaking out and children really take that on, so that’s yeah, that’s amazing.

Ali:
They have.

Rose:
It’s also worth saying and I don’t think we mentioned this earlier, I should have said earlier that we actually go back to every school at least every three years. So throughout their primary school life they’ll get that Key Stage 1 assembly when they’re kind of at the younger end of the school and then in Key Stage 2 they’ll get the Key Stage 2 assembly and the workshops as well.

So that learning builds and as Karen said that kind of relationship with Buddy and knowing what the programme stands for, that builds throughout their primary school life as well.

Ali:
Great. So, we’ve slightly touched on this earlier but it’s definitely worth revisiting. Why is it important that a service like this exists?

Karen:
I mean we know from the issues of abuse and all of the really high-profile headline cases - the stories of adult survivors for example. I’ve been with this service right from the very beginning since 2011 and the reason I’m still here is because knowing what adult survivors of abuse tell you is that they didn’t know what was happening to them was wrong.

When they did find out what was happening to them was wrong, they didn’t have a language or a vocabulary to be able to talk to anybody about it and what we know is abuse is perpetuated on silence, so I certainly wanted to be part of a movement.

It does feel like a movement that really provides a generation of children with the confidence and a language and a vocabulary to be able to speak out.

So that’s why it’s important because we can’t be in a position where children are so disempowered that abuse continues and we believe, you know we talk about abuse being preventable and it’s not an inevitable part of society but the only way that that can be the case is to actually do the work with the children as well as all of the other bits in that system. The bit that we do – and we’re a small cog in a much wider wheel – is about the child-facing bit, it’s about empowering children, giving them the knowledge and the skills that they actually need to help keep themselves safe.

Rose:
I also think there’s something about how the core messages of the programme can be scaled to any situation, so the fundamental message is, if anything makes you feel kind of sad, worried, scared, unsafe, speak out to someone you trust. And that can apply from a very very small worry all the way up to you know, the biggest and most horrific worries and that stays with the children from their primary school life forever, so there’s something really important for me there about it - it is relevant for everyone.

Ali:
Yes, yeah.

Karen:
That’s a really good point, actually.

Katie:
It’s worked for my son. Since he’s had Speak out Stay safe, when another child in his class was starting to pick on him a bit, he was starting to be on the edge of bullying and he immediately spoke out as soon as it started and another child in his class did exactly the same thing to his parents as well, so it worked for two children in one class.

Karen:
That’s great, I mean one of the things that we do within the programme, I think it’s a really important element of it is encourage children to keep on keeping on because there’s loads and loads of research out there that children are having to disclose multiple times because adults aren't hearing - listening - so we do encourage children that if they're not getting the response that will help keep them safe, that they need to keep on and I think that’s really, really important.

Rose:
And that’s also another core element of what the NSPCC is doing, is that through this programme we’re encouraging children to speak out to a trusted adult but we also need to know that those trusted adults feel equipped and supported and confident to respond to those disclosures. And that’s why as an organisation, we’ve got a whole host of other resources and materials for schools, for parents, for professionals that can help them with that piece of it as well.

Ali:
So it’s not just the children that are learning from it, it’s the adults involved in the school environment as well.

Rose:
Yeah.

Ali:
And do we have feedback from teachers and school staff about… because obviously they are in the assemblies and then the workshops? Do they feedback afterwards to say, “oh the kids said this or did this”?

Karen:
Yeah, we often get that. We have schools contacting us to say thanks for coming in, so we do get lots of that type of feedback but what we’ve also had and this was something that we never intended at the outset of the service, we get feedback from teachers to say, “thank you for giving me the skills and the confidence to talk to the children in my class because now that I’m more confident, children will be more willing to come to me”. So that was an unintended consequence of the service because it’s not for adults - it’s for children. But what that’s helped us realise is that there is a real gap, not just with teachers but in adults’ confidence and sort of competence around being able to speak about child maltreatment and abuse with children.

Ali:
And I guess giving them the language and the strategies that are child-friendly and they’ve been tried and tested to be able to use that throughout the rest of children’s… there must be opportunities outside of the PHSE but in other areas where they can bring that back in?

Karen, you mentioned a little bit earlier that sometimes disclosures happen during sessions.

Karen:
Yeah.

Ali:
How is that managed?

Karen:
Okay, so I talked at the very beginning about volunteer training and this is a real fundamental part of the training which is to ensure that our volunteers and staff feel really well-equipped to deal with disclosures in the moment. So they are quite, I wouldn’t say rare, we don’t get lots but for some children, disclosing within an actual delivery is the right time for them, so obviously we need to appreciate that and to be able to manage that effectively.

So if a child does disclose to us, they are obviously thanked for their disclosure that is really listened to and heard and then the volunteers will make sure that they follow up with their Area Coordinator but also with the staff in the school as well because when we’re in schools, we’re working with school safeguarding procedures. Any disclosure is passed onto the designated safeguarding lead and then our Area Coordinators will make sure that the appropriate action is taken to safeguard that child.

Ali:
Again, we’ve touched on this a little bit earlier, but it would be good to talk about it a bit more - the child’s voice in all of this because that is really key.

We know we get feedback from children and that helps develop the programme further, what else do we do to make sure that that child’s voice is included?

Karen:
When we developed the current content back in 2016, we looked at making sure that the children’s voice was at the centre and we did that literally, so when we’ve actually got the abuse definitions being read out, it’s actually being done by children because what we know is that children will listen to children. We were really quite careful and we got a range of regional dialects and accents, so we’ve got the whole of the UK, well most of the UK, is represented in there and different ages of children and that feels very powerful and you actually see it, that’s incredibly, incredibly powerful.

Ali:
Great and Katie, did you feel that the content was pitched right for your son’s age and stage?

Katie:
I did and he’s looking forward to getting Key Stage 2 as well and he really wants to go to the workshop.

He had some friends from the after-school club who were in the workshop and they talked about how they’d enjoyed it, so he’s really looking forward to that. And he’s taught my daughter who is now five – so she can’t wait to meet Buddy, she’s heard about the fluffy Buddy – so she’s really looking forward to it as well and I am really confident that it was pitched perfectly for their actual ages.

He wasn’t at all upset by anything he’d heard. He had more questions, he seemed to really enjoy it and talks all about his trusted adults all the time, about who he can talk to. So it’s worked really well for him.

Ali:
Great. What’s next for the service?

Karen:
I think the main focus at the moment is for us to be able to offer this service to every single primary school in the UK. We are really invested in the reach programme that Rose leads on to make sure that we are able to make that offer to all schools.

Obviously, we’re working to target, all services have targets, don’t they? Currently we are looking at a minimum reach by March 2020 of 90% in every local authority area. Now, some areas we’ve achieved that already, so in those areas that have, we’re looking at how we can continue to grow the service. We will have a real focus on growing our reach in those areas where we’ve not been able to get into, so looking at developing stakeholder relationships and working much more at a strategic level.

We will need to await the outcome of the impact evaluation in late 2020, early ’21 and that will help us decide, you know, what product content looks like going forward but it’s all sort of steaming ahead really with the growth of the service, so to get us to that 90% is the next sort of big thing for us.

Ali:
How can people help who might be listening to this and think this sounds good, sounds interesting, are there any call to arms that we can…?

Karen:
I think one of our intentions when we did this today was for everybody that was listening, after they’ve listened to go and have a think about their school that they are connected with.

Now for some people, that’s going to be really immediate because they’re going to have children at a primary school, but because there are 24,000 primary schools in the UK, you are going to be connected in some way, shape or form to a school.

So what we would like people to do is to enquire either directly or indirectly as to whether the school in their communities have the service. If not, let’s get the schools signed up. If they have had it, every school is eligible for the service once every three years, so we can always book in, so really encourage schools to get on board.

Ali:
Fantastic.

Rose:
Just to reinforce that, I know that we’ve reached over 20,000 schools already and that is incredible. There are still around 3,500 schools that have never received the programme, so at the moment that’s over 700,000 children in those schools that have not yet received these messages. And everyone as Karen was just saying, everyone has a role to play in that, whether it’s a brother that’s a teacher in a school that you can talk to or a school on your road or friends with children that are in a school, there are always conversations to be had there and kind of encouraging those schools to go to the website, find out more about the programme and request us in.

Ali:
Brilliant.

Katie:
And as a parent, just talk to your school and if your child’s already had it, ask them about Buddy, you’ll be amazed at some of the comments they’re going to come out with.

Ali:
What happens if someone listening to this and they think they might like to be a volunteer?

Karen:
We’ve got vacancies - the volunteer vacancies are all on the NSPCC website. So we’d really encourage you, if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard and you feel that you could deliver the Speak out Stay safe programme, go and look at the volunteering opportunities in your area and fill in an application form. We’d love to hear from you.

Ali:
Great. So Katie, Rose, Karen, thanks very much for speaking to me.

Karen:
Thank you.

Rose:
Thank you.

Ali:
We believe that every child should have the knowledge they need to stay safe from harm and to speak out if they’re worried.

The NSPCC is trying to visit every primary school in the UK, to keep children safe from abuse by teaching them to Speak out Stay safe.

If you would like to request a visit to your school, go to nspcc.org.uk/speakout or if you think you’d like to volunteer, go to nspcc.org.uk and search for volunteer for the NSPCC school service.

(Outro)

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