Ground-breaking project training teachers to keep children safe from abuse
Primary school teachers in Northern Ireland are to receive specialist training on how to teach children about keeping safe from abuse as part of a ground-breaking trial project.
The initiative commissioned by Stormont's Department of Education has been hailed as the first of its kind in Europe.
The Keeping Safe programme provides school staff with a package of e-learning, face-to-face training and school-based support to teach and embed its key messages in all aspects of school life.
It is being piloted across 71 primary schools with the ultimate goal of rolling it out in every primary school in Northern Ireland.
Education Minister Peter Weir said: "The overall project is a key component of my department's contribution to a number of executive strategies including tackling domestic and sexual violence, suicide prevention and child sexual exploitation.
"This project is of strategic importance to my department's child protection agenda. It is vitally important that we educate our children in a sensitive, age appropriate way and that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to keep themselves safe.
"Thank you to everyone involved in the project. I look forward to hearing the outcome of the pilot when work has concluded."
The programme will be piloted from 2016 to 2018 and will involve 13,200 children and their parents and carers, as well as around 550 teachers and a similar number of other school staff.
The NSPCC developed the teaching materials being trialled.
Phyllis Stephenson, education advisor for NSPCC Northern Ireland, said: "We know that preventative education is key to giving children the knowledge and skills they need to keep themselves safe.
"Research carried out with 1,700 seven to 11-year-old children in our project schools in June 2016 highlighted that there are still gaps in children's knowledge around what abuse is and who can pose a threat to them. Effective early education can help children to disclose abuse earlier and get the help they need to recover sooner.
"We know that school staff don't always feel confident in talking to children about the topic of abuse. So we have developed a range of interactive teaching resources which teachers will be able to access at the touch of a button in their classroom."