Keeping safe Development of effective preventative education in primary schools in Northern Ireland

Group of primary school childrenMany children do not understand or recognise abusive behaviour. They don’t know what to do, or who to tell, if someone touches them in a way they don’t like. 

Preventative education aims to help children keep themselves safe by teaching them how to recognise and respond to bullying, child abuse and domestic abuse.

We were commissioned by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland to:

  • assess the views, knowledge and understanding of “keeping safe”' messages in primary schools
  • examine current practice on teaching these messages
  • identify the key barriers and facilitators in relation to effective programme development and implementation.

We have published a series of reports which highlight our findings from research with children, school staff and parents. Our reports also set out recommendations for policy and practice, so an effective preventative education programme can be developed in primary schools.

Author: NSPCC Northern Ireland
Published: 2011

The implementation of an effective preventative education programme in primary schools will require that:

  • children are given a knowledge and understanding of maltreatment, and provided with the opportunity to practice the skills required to keep themselves safe in abusive situations
  • children are taught about all forms of maltreatment, including bullying and child abuse, and in particular the sensitive issues of domestic abuse and child sexual abuse
  • teaching approaches and materials used are appropriate to the age and ability of all pupils
  • the whole-school community, including teachers, support staff and parents share the same understanding of “keeping safe” and work collaboratively to teach children how to keep safe
  • where disclosures are made, appropriate and timely support must be available from external agencies.
Acknowledgements 2
Glossary of general terms 3
Glossary of research and statistical terms 4
Introduction 5
Consulting with key stakeholders 9
Overview of phase 1: photography project 11
Findings and summary of phase 1: photography project 16
Overview of phase 1: self-report questionnaire 25
Findings and summary of phase 1: self-report questionnaire 27
Strengths and limitations 37
Discussion and conclusions 38
References 41

Please cite as: McElearney, A. et al. (2011) Keeping safe: establishing the need to teach 'keeping safe' messages in primary schools in Northern Ireland: what do children currently know and understand?. London: NSPCC.

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