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With calls to the NSPCC about sexual abuse increasing since schools started back, the children’s charity has teamed up with Ant & Dec to make sure children know what to do and who to speak to if something is concerning them.

Ant and Dec are hosting a new virtual version of the NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly, which, before lockdown the charity had delivered to millions of pupils.

In academic year 2019/20 the volunteers and staff delivered Speak out. Stay safe. in 139 schools and spoke to 33,666 children in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, teaching them how to recognise abuse and neglect and empowering them to speak out if they are worried about anything.

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NSPCC experts reported that the risk of abuse and neglect increased during lockdown and the charity today releases new data which shows that since children have gone back to school in September, the NSPCC helpline has dealt with 827 contacts about sexual abuse. This was a 10% increase when compared to the four-month period since lockdown (April to August), when the monthly average for this issue was 754 contacts.

The national lockdown left many children trapped indoors with their abusers for months on end, and the main issues the helpline heard about were physical and emotional abuse and neglect.

It is vital that children know what to do and who to speak to if something is happening in their life which is making them feel scared or anxious.

Before the pandemic the NSPCC delivered its assembly face-to-face, in more than 90% of all primary schools across the UK, and in 2019/20 the charity visited nearly 7,000 schools, and delivered workshops to almost 1.6million children before lockdown was imposed. At this current time, NSPCC school volunteers can no longer deliver the assembly in person, so instead the organisation has made a 30-minute online Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly available to all primary schools in the UK.

In an accessible and age appropriate way, the assembly helps children understand how to recognise different forms of abuse, and how to speak out if they need to. The NSPCC is also offering supporting teaching materials with plenty of engaging activities. As well as this, it also focuses on some of the additional worries that children are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Hosts Ant & Dec, who’ve been supporting the NSPCC for many years said:

Ant said:

“We’re thrilled to be involved with the online version of the NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly and we’ve had great fun filming with Buddy, the NSPCC mascot.

“We know that the lockdown will have been a difficult time for some children and others may be struggling with being back at school.

Dec added:

“This is why the NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly is so important as it reminds children that no matter what may be worrying them, there is always someone who can help.

“It is a real privilege to be supporting the NSPCC with this online assembly and we want all children to remember that difficult times never have to be dealt with alone.”

Jan McDonald, School Service area coordinator for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said:

“Children have been stuck indoors for many months and at the NSPCC we know for some children home isn’t always a safe place. Many during lockdown will have faced heightened risks. As the pandemic continues we all need to be there to support children, and by equipping them with the knowledge and understanding they need to speak out is one vital way we can help ensure their safety.

“I encourage all primary schools to sign up, so that we can help as many children as possible to recognise and report any worries they have.”

The virtual assembly is also being backed by the Department for Education.

Minister for Children and Families Vicky Ford said:

“Protecting children from harm has always been a priority for this Government which is why throughout the pandemic we asked schools, nurseries and colleges to remain open for those who are most vulnerable.

“The NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly will encourage children to speak to a trusted adult about their worries and for many that is likely to be a teacher. That’s one of the reasons why getting children back into the classroom in September was so important and why we are placing social workers in some schools to help teachers spot and report the signs of abuse and neglect more quickly.

“We have contributed towards funding Childline, so I’m pleased to support this extra resource for children to get help and advice.”

Children now have assemblies where they are taught to speak out if they are worried. The assemblies help to reinforce key lessons about abuse and neglect that are compulsory for all primary schools.

To sign-up visit nspcc.org.uk/speakout.

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline 7 days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email [email protected]. Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 from 7.30 to 00:00 from Monday to Friday or 9:00 to 00:00 on weekends. Or they can get in touch via www.childline.org.uk

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