This year’s National Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day took place on Saturday 18th March. Its aim was to highlight the issues surrounding Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE); encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse to prevent adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children developing inappropriate relationships with other children.
In the run up to the national awareness day, a group of Withernsea High School students attended a CSE Youth Summit at Hessle High School. The summit was organised by ‘Not In Our Community’ – a Humberside Police initiative to protect young people from grooming and child sexual exploitation.
The well-attended event brought together students from a number of schools and further education establishments around Hull and the East Riding in an effort to raise awareness and educate young people on the dangers of CSE.
The summit’s interactive workshops, drama presentations and real life survivor stories inspired the group to become ‘champions’ of the campaign - to share their knowledge and create a culture of awareness within our own school community.
Towards the end of March, the champions delivered a presentation to students from across the school in a number of special assemblies. Year 8 pupil Robert Westoby gave an introduction and brief explanation of the campaign which was followed by Sixth Form student Sabrina Docherty asking the audience to identify any warning signs a parent may see in their child’s bedroom.
The assembled audience was shown a picture of a child’s bedroom which, to the untrained eye, looked like a regular scene. However, closer inspection revealed a number of warning signs such as an extra mobile phone and unexplained money / gifts which could be potential warning signs of grooming. Sabrina, assisted by Devon Smith - another Year 8 champion, then showed the audience the hidden signs they might have missed.
|| The champions chose to end their assemblies with a hard-hitting video entitled ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’ – a film which reconstructs aspects of the last 13 days of the life of 15-year-old Kayleigh Haywood. The Leicestershire schoolgirl was groomed online by Luke Harlow, a man she had never met, before being raped and murdered by his next door neighbour Stephen Beadman. The film was made by Leicestershire police to serve as a warning to children and adults of the dangers of grooming and sexual exploitation following Kayleigh’s tragic death in November 2015.
The decision to end the assembly with the video clip was not an easy one to make. However, the champions felt that although it was hard-hitting, it was a message which needed to be shared. The response from the audience left them in no doubt that the message had been received and understood – you could hear a pin drop at the end of the film.
Child Protection Officer Julie Hare commented: ‘Withernsea High School is committed to promoting the safety and well-being of our students. We believe that educating our young people is imperative. Only with awareness can come understanding. If anyone has any concerns about themselves, or any young person, please contact me directly on 01964 611530.’
ABOVE: Child Protection Officer Julie Hare works with the students who attended the CSE Youth Summit at Hessle High School on Thursday 2nd March.
BELOW: Julie Hare with the student champions against CSE - Robert Westoby, Devon Smith and Sabrina Docherty.