NOT talking to strangers is a message instilled in all of us from a young age but parents and teachers across the nation have been left clueless as to what to say to children left frightened and confused.
But a school in Stubbington has started a new era in child protection by giving the power to youngsters themselves.
Clever Never Goes was piloted at Crofton Hammond Infant School in partnership with charity Action Against Abduction and has now been rolled out to over 500 schools and is being trialled by Hampshire Police.
Headteacher Jacky Halton said: ‘We were so pleased to trial the scheme and we think it is a great replacement for Stranger Danger which really was not fit for purpose.
‘CNG has a robot called Clever which has three feelings, green for safe, yellow for hmmm? and red for unsafe so it helps the pupils to rate situations.’
Schools across Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Havant have signed up to the scheme including Solent Junior School in Drayton and Wallisdean Junior School in Fareham.
Head of Solent Junior School Laura Peterkin-Aldred said: ‘At the Solent Schools we have started using the Clever Never Goes materials to support our children in staying safe when outside the school, or home environment, including online safety.
‘We are looking at a ‘drip feed’ approach, using these messages to ensure that they remain clear for the children, and will support them in making safe choices as their independence increases.
‘Teachers have shared the resources with their classes, which has prompted valuable discussions about what children would do in each of the scenarios and we are holding a curriculum evening for parents and carers focusing on values, behaviour and safety, and we will be providing information about Clever Never Goes, so they can support their children at home, with consistent messages.’
Geoff Newiss has been director of Action Against Abduction for the past few years and says the charity was passionate about changing the stranger danger message to help children protect themselves.
He said: ‘Jacky and everyone at Crofton were really eager to do this and put out something new that can help children to learn to trust their instincts and not put themselves in dangerous situations.
‘I think the Stranger Danger message meant children were very afraid of this figure in a trench coat hiding in dark alleyways but the truth is a stranger is anyone you don’t know.
‘But most strangers won’t harm children and can actually be helpful to them so the CNG message is about a child deciding for themselves and making a safe decision.
Geoff, who is a visiting research fellow at the University of Portsmouth, has spent the majority of his career looking at data and research on child abductions and kidnapping and hopes to expand the scheme to cover children at all ages.
He added: ‘This has been started at an infant school but we really want to have more resources to target kids who are three and four as well as those above nine years. I think it is also important to make sure parents can access resources as well to ensure that there is consistency at home.’
The scheme has also been backed by Portsmouth City Council, Portsmouth, Southampton, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Safeguarding Children’s Board and the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘This Government is committed to ensuring that all children enjoy a happy and safe childhood.
‘The Home Office has expressed its support for the aims and objectives of the Clever Never Goes project, which align with the Government’s ongoing work to safeguard children and young people.’
For more information visit clevernevergoes.org
‘STRANGER DANGER GAVE CHILDREN NIGHTMARES’
AS a parent and teacher herself, Suzie Morgan knows more than most the effects of teaching children about stranger danger.
The 41-year-old from Fareham said: ‘I remember about 10 years ago as a young teacher having to deliver a stranger danger lesson and I had parents come in to speak to me about their children having nightmares.
‘I shied away from it then as I had no idea what to say but I had the same problem with my son. He got frightened and confused.’
Suzie’s son attends Crofton Hammond School and was delighted with the Clever Never Goes pilot.
She said: ‘Stranger Danger teaches kids to be afraid and is a confusing message especially when talking to strangers is something that everyone deals with daily. When CNG came in I felt my son was instantly like yes that makes sense and means he has the confidence to know what is safe and what isn’t.’
Suzie remembers herself as a child being taught the Stranger Danger message.
She said: ‘My father told me about it and as a child I looked out for an odd looking man in a trench coat but the fact is most people who are a danger to children are people they know. Strangers are likely to be the people that will help you so I think this will give kids the ability to judge things for themselves especially in our modern world.’
Child abductions and kidnappings have more than doubled over the last four years.
Charity Action Against Abduction have requested statistics on the offences for the last five years to understand the data.
The number of parental child abduction offences recorded increased by 10 per cent from 2015/16 to 2016/17 to a total of 221 while non-parental child abduction offencesalso increased by 10 per cent to a total of 870 in the same time.
Police recorded a total of 371 child kidnappings offences in 2016/17.
RECOGNISING THE DANGER
IT is important that children can recognise the potential signs of danger.
That is the message from the Portsmouth Safeguarding Children’s Board who are backing the Clever Never Goes message.
Independent chair of the board, Dr Rich John, said: ‘We are proud to be one of the first areas of the UK to support the Clever Never Goes campaign.
‘The training and workshops have been offered to all schools in Portsmouth, and it's excellent to see this offer being extended further afield. This fun and engaging campaign for primary schools has been developed to replace the out-dated ‘stranger danger’ approach.
‘Teaching children simply to avoid strangers doesn’t work. Most strangers will help rather than harm children. Conversely, it is often people known to children that pose the greatest threat.
‘Clever Never Goes aims to give children practical safety skills which they can use as they get older and become more independent.
A FRESH APPROACH
HAMPSHIRE Constabulary has branded the Clever Never Goes initiative as a ‘fresh approach’.
The police authority has backed the programme and contributed to the initial pilot with Crofton Hammond School.
PC Maria Carrick said: ‘As a more relevant and effective approach to ‘stranger danger’, the Clever Never Goes concept helps children to develop the skills to help them make safe decisions in situations where they may be asked to go with people when it has not been arranged with their parent or carer, regardless of whether the child knows the person or not.
‘Children are taught to recognise their senses and how these can help them to assess personal safety. Putting them into a range of video scenarios, children are given the opportunity to actively decide if the given situation is safe, unsafe or unsure.’
The police think the method will also help teachers to recognise any safeguarding concerns with children who may appear to be struggling with recognising bad situations.
PC Carrick added: ‘Recognising that children can be equally at risk from people they know, the fresh approach that Clever Never Goes offers to educating children and parents, also aims to change the cultural view that all strangers are bad people; it is important children are educated in a balanced way that helps them identify risk in situations and not in people, given that the vast majority of people would help and not harm a child.’