Breaking the Cycle of Abuse; CHILD WELFARE: Jane Harries Seeks Allies in Both Teachers and Pupils

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Byline: JOANNE ATKINSON

AS THE NSPCC's regional education advisor for Wales, Jane Harries forms an important link between child protection agencies and education.

Her role involves advising teachers on how to detect and deal with signs of abuse, helping schools with anti-bullying schemes, and setting up peer support groups for pupils to talk about their problems.

The REA's position was created in 1999 as part of the NSPCC's Full Stop campaign to end cruelty to children.

Education is one of the five key areas highlighted by the campaign, the others being child protection, parenting and family support, child-friendly communities and cultural change.

Mrs Harries was a modern languages teacher in South Wales schools for over 20 years, after moving from Cumbria in 1976.

She became the NSPCC Regional Education Advisor in August 2000, with the aim of developing its education programme strategically with schools and local authorities.

Mrs Harries, who lives in Bridgend, says the link between education and child protection agencies is crucial.

"After parents, teachers are the adults who have the most contact with children. They are in a unique position to detect the signs and symptoms of abuse, " she said.

"Not many children will have a social worker, but every child will have a teacher. Teachers can have an enormous impact on the personal and social development of children, and have a large part to play in fostering positive personal relationships, thus breaking the cycle of abuse."

Mrs Harries, 51, believes that teachers can work alongside social services, educational welfare officers and the police in protecting children.

"As has been seen in the tragic cases in the news recently, it is the failure to fit the 'jigsaw pieces' of information from different agencies together that has led to abused children slipping through the net.

"Partnership and the sharing of information is the key to making sure this doesn't happen in the future, " she said.

In conjunction with social services, Mrs Harries takes sessions at teacher training colleges, including the University of Wales, Swansea, to give new teachers advice on how to deal with child protection issues.

Equivalent sessions are run for existing teachers at their schools, with the Bridgend area currently being targeted.

Mrs Harries said, "Child protection is a sensitive issue, and one that teachers may not be informed about.

"We try to help them with how to deal with suspected abuse cases and their reporting, and how best to help the children involved."

Research has suggested that when young people have a problem they are more likely to confide in their peers than an adult. …