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Use the NSPCC’s Speak Out Stay Safe programme to empower pupils


A recent independent evaluation by the NSPCC confirmed an ongoing need for Speak Out Stay Safe (SOSS).

While most primary children have a good understanding of what abusive behaviour looks like and which trusted adults they can speak to, the children’s charity safeguarding programme is designed to boost schools’ relationships and sex education (RSE) teaching.

Here, primary teacher Debbie Urry from Heathfield Special School in Fareham shares how her pupils have benefitted from engaging with SOSS.

Prior to the NSPCC reaching out to us back in 2016 I wasn’t aware of the programme. But fast forward to today and I now can’t speak highly enough of Speak Out Stay Safe (SOSS).

At Heathfield, a special school for pupils aged between three and 11 who have a wide range of moderate or severe learning difficulties, our ethos is all about learning and growing.

So, when the NSPCC got in contact, we seized the opportunity to help our children understand abuse in all its forms and ensure they know how to access support from a trusted adult if they need it.

To date we’ve successfully completed three rounds of SOSS across the upper KS2 department with our Year 5 and 6 pupils.

One of the children’s favourite parts has been engaging with Buddy – the NSPCC’s mascot – who helps them to know they have the right to speak out and be heard, be safe and get help when they need it.

For many of our learners, overlearning and repetition is crucial for retaining information, and so Buddy as a symbol means he’s immediately associated with speaking out and keeping safe.

Going over important key messages repeatedly means pupils’ understanding of these is embedded. If I were to show our children a picture of Buddy now, I’m confident they would be able to say who he is and what he represents.

The whole NSPCC programme is very well-structured and builds week to week on previous learnings. This means we can reflect on questions such as who you can talk to and what you see as right or wrong, so pupils get plenty of practice in recognising what is and isn’t OK.

It’s been lovely to hear teachers speaking highly of the content and pupils’ responses. For instance, I recently worked with a child one-on-one for the first time since SOSS.

His teacher was worried that he might not remember me but after she introduced us, he turned round and said: “I know her, she tells us about Buddy and Speak Out Stay Safe.” For me that’s a wonderful endorsement that the programme is working. Children remember much more than we give them credit for.

With the support of the NSPCC team, adapting the SOSS content for the individual needs of our learners means they have taken so much away from it.

Meeting characters such as Mo and Sam who appear in each lesson means they really feel like they get to know them along their learning journey. In turn they feel safe in knowing what we are going to be discussing that day.

Through six sessions, Buddy and the characters are key in ensuring our pupils feel comfortable discussing extremely sensitive subjects, all while building their confidence within a safe circle.

The programme is also an effective way to support our school’s ongoing safeguarding duties. The SOSS ‘safe circle posters’ are a further visual prompt for the children to know who they can talk to, in addition to the key adult posters that we have in place in every classroom.

Typically, we also use lots of symbols to help communicate key messages to our pupils, so being able to adapt those we use for teaching children’s rights and easily incorporate them into lessons provided by the NSPCC is an immense help.

Learning visually not only enables our children to easily make connections between their right to be safe and be looked after, but ensures they know how to get support if that’s not happening.

Additionally, as part of our PSHE curriculum we teach units on personal safety, relationships, and growth and change, which all tie back to SOSS.

Effectively reinforcing these key messages around abuse and neglect, again tapping into Buddy as a friendly familiar resource, enables us to bring everything full circle with the children.

Plus, as we know that technology is a huge part of many children’s lives, we are continually supporting our pupils to understand what it means to be safe on the internet. Tapping into SOSS, we advocate talking regularly as the greatest tool to help keep safe online.

Overall, the comprehensive programme is delivered at a level children can understand and with the sensitivity required for such difficult subject matter. I highly recommend SOSS to all teachers across mainstream and SEN schools; the more that can be reached the better.

As a SEN school we have added our own resources to run alongside, rather than instead, of the NSPCC offering which has worked brilliantly. After three rounds of delivering the programme to students, all with positive outcomes, we are looking forward to delivering the next round in 2023.

SOSS gets a big thumbs up from me and the rest of the teachers at Heathfield!

Interested in the NSPCC’s safeguarding programme, Speak Out Stay Safe? Receive its resources to use in your classroom discussions by signing up your primary school today.



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