Children's safety is paramount in ‘Stranger Smart’ project
Young people and children in the Highlands can learn how to stay safe going to and from school thanks to a new project “Stranger Smart” launched today (20 May 2015) by Police Scotland and The Highland Council in Inverness.
The overarching aim of the new initiative which was revealed at the Council’s Education, Children and Adult Services Committee is to ensure that children, young people, parents, carers, teachers and Police are all working together to ensure that children know how to stay safe if approached by strangers.
The Council and Police Scotland have worked with schools, parents and the Safe Strong and Free organisation to produce Stranger Smart information and guidance.
Councillor Alasdair Christie, Chair of the Council’s Education, Children and Adult Services Committee welcomed the new initiative, he said: “While Highland is one of the safest places to live; we need to remain vigilant to ensure that all our children and young people feel and remain safe. Stranger Smart is an excellent partnership with the Council, Police, parents and pupils. It gives clear guidance to children and families on what children should do if approached by a stranger and it also sets out a protocol for schools, the Council and Police on how they will deal with any reports.
Highland Children’s Champion, Councillor Linda Munro added: “Our children and young people’s safety is everyone’s responsibility. Often ‘stranger danger’ reports turn out to have innocent explanations but this new Stranger Smart advice and protocol will hopefully help to get to the route of any issues faster.”
The Stranger Smart project has produced a simple short leaflet that outlines how to keep children and young people safe and how they can be ‘Stranger Smart’. The leaflet gives advice to parents and carers and their children on what they should do if approached by a stranger on the way to and from school or while they are ‘out and about’. The leaflet will be sent home with pupils over the coming weeks, following class discussions, and parents and carers of all primary-aged school children are encouraged to talk through the leaflet with their child.
Guidance and a joint protocol between The Highland Council and Police Scotland has been produced for Head Teachers to advise them on what to do if they are informed by a pupil or parent/carer that they (or their child) has been approached by a stranger. Schools have also been provided with simple messages for pupils to help teachers explain in assemblies or classes to pupils how they can be Stranger Smart.
Julian Innes, Chief Superintendent, Police Scotland, Highland & Islands Division said: “Keeping children and young people safe is at the heart of what we do in the Highlands. Stranger Smart sends out 3 key messages: that while incidents involving suspicious persons are rare, it is important that we all work together and quickly to make sure that we get it right; that Police Scotland are notified at the earliest opportunity when an incident occurs; and that it's everyone's responsibility to keep children and young people safe.
“I am delighted to be launching Stranger Smart today along with our colleagues in Highland Council. This joint preventative approach to ensuring that we get it right for every child and young person is another example of our commitment to listen and respond to the concerns of our communities and work effectively with our partners."
The leaflet for parents was designed in consultation with Crown Primary school Parent Council and ‘Safe Strong and Free’. Head Teacher, Elspeth Mackenzie also advised on the Stranger Smart project group.
Crown Primary parent, Mrs Michelle Hardie, said: "You always hope these kinds of situations will never occur but it's really helpful to know what to do in the unlikely event something does happen. It's not an easy conversation to have with your child as you don't want to frighten them, but it's best for everyone to have discussed how to react if your child is approached, and this leaflet provides useful guidance. It's also reassuring to see how the schools and the police are working together to make sure children in the Highlands stay safe."
Hannah Lind, Project Co-ordinator, Safe Strong and Free added: “We were very pleased to be given the opportunity to work in partnership on the Stranger Smart project on what is a very important matter for children, young people and their families. We were delighted that our feedback was useful and included. We will include Stranger Smart information on our new website http://www.safestrongandfree.org.uk/.”
The Stranger Smart leaflet for parent/carers, children and young people along with the “Joint protocol Guidance for Head Teachers on Suspicious persons / pupil approached by stranger” can be found on the council’s website at: www.highland.gov.uk/strangersmart