More than 7,000 students across the county will learn how to protect themselves from child sexual exploitation (CSE) as a powerful play prepares to tour Buckinghamshire’s secondary schools.
Chelsea’s Choice tells the story of a girl who falls out with her family and friends and starts a relationship with an older man.
It explores a number of themes to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation among young people, including what makes a healthy and unhealthy relationship, safe internet use and where to go for help and advice.
The play, produced and performed by AlterEgo Creative Solutions, will visit 29 secondary schools and carry out 40 performances for Years 8 and 9 students.
The performances are part of an ongoing awareness-raising campaign taking place across the county and have been arranged by the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board, which is made up of representatives from the county and district councils, Thames Valley Police, local health organisations and charities.
Fran Gosling-Thomas, Chair of the Bucks Safeguarding Children Board said: “We are delighted that we have been able to again bring Chelsea’s Choice to Buckinghamshire schools and we are grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner who has agreed to fund this year’s performances.
“By the end of the production run we will have directly reached 7,200 young people with crucial awareness and safety messages about child sexual exploitation and internet safety.
“Safeguarding children is everybody’s business and by working together through our partnership we are informing, educating and tackling this form of child sexual abuse in Buckinghamshire.”
Bucks County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Warren Whyte said: “It’s so important that children and young people are armed with enough information to keep themselves safe and we know from the last time we ran Chelsea’s Choice in 2015 that it’s a brilliant way to engage young people with the subject.
“I would ask parents, carers and the public to take a few minutes to take a look at our campaign website www.ruwise2it.co.uk so they can be aware of the warning signs to look out for, and can say something if they see something.”
Barnardo’s R U Safe is supporting the productions by offering pupils a confidential check-in following the performances and sign-posting them to local support services.
Michelle Kukielka, Barnardo’s assistant director of children’s services said: “Young people can get into situations where they don’t always realise they are being exploited.
“Chelsea’s Choice helps to raise awareness of what can be a difficult subject and allows young people to recognise the signs of grooming and exploitation which in turn helps them to have the skills and knowledge to protect themselves.”