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Keeping Safe: preventative education in Northern Ireland


Teaching children to recognise abusive behaviours and tell an adult

Many children are unable to recognise abusive behaviour or identify who poses a threat to them and they may not know how and where to seek help.

By helping children to recognise abusive behaviour and building their confidence to speak to a trusted adult if they’re worried, we can help protect them and prevent abuse.   

Keeping Safe is an evidence-based whole-school programme designed to help primary schools teach children aged 4-11 years, important safety messages about issues such as bullying, sexual abuse and domestic abuse.


Evidence base

Evidence base

This project was initially shaped by a review of international research and practice as well as a comprehensive needs assessment completed in 2011 by NSPCC on behalf of the Department of Education Northern Ireland.

This research showed:

  • significant gaps in children’s knowledge and understanding about issues such as sexual abuse and domestic abuse
  • children felt they would be unsure about telling a trusted adult about their experiences of abuse.
  • teachers identified these topics as sensitive, but were willing to teach them with training and ongoing support
  • where keeping safe messages were taught there were gaps around sensitive issues and a disproportionate emphasis on the risks presented by strangers
  • parents were keen for their children to be taught about keeping safe but were uncertain how to communicate with their children about sensitive issues.

> Read the full series of reports in the NSPCC Library

How it works

How it works

The Keeping Safe programme is designed to help primary schools integrate important messages about issues such as bullying, sexual abuse and domestic abuse into all aspects of school life.

There are three main components.

Training for all school staff ensures teaching staff, school governors, support staff and volunteers all understand the part they play in delivering the programme. The efforts of the whole team is integral.

Whole school and classroom resources including:

  • school assemblies designed to engage children aged 4-11 in learning about keeping safe
  • a structured programme of age appropriate lessons which can be taught as part of the Relationships Education curriculum
  • posters and other activities that schools can use to reinforce the key messages.

Resources for parents so they understand the programme and can reinforce messages with their child at home. These include two workshops to help parents have simple conversations with children about sexual abuse and staying safe when they are online as well as homework tasks designed to help parents talk to their child about these issues.



Our evaluations of the Keeping Safe programme have shown positive outcomes for children, parents and teachers.

Controlled trial

We carried out a cluster randomised controlled trial to compare outcomes in schools delivering the Keeping Safe programme with schools that continued with their usual teaching.

In the schools where Keeping Safe was used teachers and parents were more confident about sharing Keeping Safe messages and children had more knowledge and a better understanding of abuse than children who had not been taught Keeping Safe.

> Read the full report

Views and experiences of children, parents and schools

We conducted a process evaluation with mainstream and special schools to explore the experiences of children, parents and school staff taking part in the Keeping Safe programme.

> Read the views and experiences reports

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

We evaluated how the Keeping Safe programme has been implemented in schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Northern Ireland.

> Read the SEND evaluation

Training teachers

We carried out an evidence review and needs assessment to find out how best to train teachers to deliver the Keeping safe messages and embed them into school life.

> Read the reports