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Respecting children’s views to shape the Cumbria School Games Safeguarding practices

March 26, 2015

At Active Cumbria, we believe that the welfare and safety of children and young people is of paramount importance, and that all children and young people have the right to protection from abuse and to take part in sport and physical activity without risk or harm.

As an outcome of Active Cumbria’s Safeguarding Self-Assessment Framework Review and the Cumbria School Games Local Organising Committees (LOC) Competitive Edge Self Review is was felt that it was important that we increased consultation with our service users, particularly around getting young people’s views to help improve and develop our planning and delivery of the Cumbria Level 3 School Games programme.

In January 2014 Active Cumbria alongside the Cumbria LOC decided to ask youngsters across the County what they thought of our County School Games Events which included asking whether they thought our Safeguarding practices were effective or not. 

Two members of the CSPs Core Team contacted coaches/teachers to arrange visits in the North and the South of the County to talk to small groups of children and young people including Silloth Primary School, Walney Windcheaters running group, Walney Central Under 12’s Football Club Training Session and Barrow Amateur Football Clubs Performance Centre Training Session. Across the different groups a total of 32 boys 21 girls aged of both primary and secondary ages were asked to express their views on our County Level School Games events including who they would go for help if they felt unsafe and what they thought of our school games safeguarding practices and how we might improve them.

Firstly youngsters were asked what would be the first thing they would do if they felt threatened or felt unsafe whilst taking part in their sports activities or at an event.

Responses included comments such as; “It would depend who it involved, if I felt threatened by another young person I’d inform a Leader, but if it was an adult I’d wait till I got home and tell my parents”, “I’d tell the coach or go home and tell my parents”, “I’d tell the adult I was with” Secondly youngsters were asked if they wanted to find out about an organisation which could offer advice around child abuse, harassment or bullying what would they do to find out who they were. Responses included comments such as;

Secondly youngsters were asked if they wanted to find out about an organisation which could offer advice around child abuse, harassment or bullying what would they do to find out who they were. Responses included comments such as; “Internet Search on Google”, “Don’t know”, “Ask someone at school or ask parents”, “Ask one of our coaches”

Lastly children and young people were asked if we wanted to direct them to a web page where they could find useful information and advice, what could we give them that would help them to remember the webpage? Responses included comments such as;

“Not a key ring, people are always handing out free key rings and nobody ever uses them”, “Something useful like a decent writing pen that we could use in school and for homework which we would look after”, “Football boots, Xbox game or stationary”, “Football or multi-use ball”, “Leaflet or a bookmark with the website on”, Something fun not boring. A ball that they would use and not throw away so would remember the website advertised on it”, “Event Staff at School Games could have a badge saying if you have any problems come speak to me – also introduce them at the start

The feedback from the groups were taken back to the Cumbria LOC where they discussed and agreed actions in response to the youngster’s views.

From the consultation it was apparent that children and young people would either speak to an Activity Leader, Coach, Parent or Teacher if they felt unsafe. To support this we felt it was important to provide essential information and support to those responsible for safeguarding children (parents, teachers and sports club personnel) about where to go for help in relation to child abuse so the LOC launched a #safeinsport Twitter Competition in April 2014.

This included producing ‘Safe in Sport’ posters which included useful information on where to get help in relation to child abuse along with useful contact details (Cumbria Triage Team, Cumbria Police, LADO etc.) and web links (Active Cumbria Safeguarding Page, NSPCC, Child Protection in Sport Unit and Childline etc). Active Cumbria promoted the competition throughout our wider  partner networks via our Main Active Cumbria Newsletter and Social Media Networks and offered the first 5 sports clubs/facilities to tweet a picture of them displaying the #safeinsport poster in their club/facility to receive free goodies for their members which included goody bags, snapper bands, pens, etc

Clubs requested copies of the posters from Active Cumbria and tweeted pictures of which the first 5 received goody bags. (Picture to the left shows the safe in sport poster on Aspatria Hornets RLFC clubs notice board). The posters are now continually promoted via all Active Cumbria programmes including Sportivate, Satellite Clubs, and Beginner Running Programme etc

In response to the feedback from youngsters around what could we provide them with to ensure they had information about where to go for help in relation to child abuse, harassment and bullying the Cumbria School Games LOC ordered and distributed fluffy headed pens and bouncy balls which included a weblink to the Active Cumbria Safe in Sport page to over 700 participants and 150 young leaders involved in the Level 3 School Games Multisport Festival in June 2014. The webpage includes contacts, specialist advice, information and resources to assist children and young people who are being abused in finding help.

Some of the lessons we learnt along the way which may be useful to other partners are:

• Don’t overcomplicate/over think your consultation, just get on and do it! Children appreciate being asked what they think and often come up with really innovative ideas and suggestions.

• Face to face consultation with young people seems to be much more engaging rather than expecting youngsters to give their views on a questionnaire or survey. It’s beneficial to carry out the consultation at the beginning or during an activity session as it’s less formal than a classroom setting. This relaxed informal atmosphere seemed to make youngsters more comfortable and more likely to get involved in discussions.

• Engage in small groups so you can allow every young person to freely contribute their views. This also allows the opportunity to encourage the quieter/less confident children to have their say.

• Ensure you get a balance of boys and girls, different ages, abilities etc. involved in your consultation as we found the responses from boys were different from girls etc.

• Use open questions that are easy to understand so that children can have the opportunity to say exactly what they think (rather than using closed or leading questions)

• Encourage and respect all children’s opinions and suggestions no matter what they are.

If you would like more information related to this case study please contact Nicola Maclean on 01229 407954