The Barnardo’s Somerset Phoenix Project is presenting the charity’s second only ‘School Champion’ award in Taunton, for schools providing additional support to survivors of child sexual abuse. The award recognises schools which are working hard to provide support for families affected by this serious issue.

The Somerset Phoenix Project, managed by Barnardo’s and delivered in partnership with Somerset & Avon Rape & Sexual Abuse Support, provides support and training to professionals across the county. The team recently developed a new ‘School Champion’ scheme open to all local schools which want to be recognised as providing a ‘trauma-informed education setting’. The free course helps staff to understand what sexual abuse is and to recognise the warning signs and the impact of trauma. It also highlights the effect of disclosures on teachers and other staff.

Schools can work towards Gold, Silver and Bronze awards depending on the level of training undertaken. Nerrols Primary School, a brand new school in Taunton which only opened in September 2019, is the second in Taunton to complete the course and will be presented with a ‘Bronze’ plaque.

The Somerset Phoenix Project was commissioned by Somerset County Council and NHS England in response to estimates that around a thousand local children are sexually abused in the county each year. Barnardo’s team manager Emily Evely said: “The aim of our project is to build capacity among frontline professionals and significantly reduce the negative impact of this horrendous crime.

“Physical, emotional and behavioural issues for children can include flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, eating problems, truancy, depression, isolation and aggression. School staff can also be impacted by the disclosure of such crimes and need their own support and understanding.

“It’s vitally important that we work together to address these problems before they become too serious and entrenched. We always work with hope, and believe – with the right support at the right time – victims can recover their childhoods and rebuild their lives.”

‘School Champions’ complete a two-day course. The foundation course defines sexual abuse and trauma, disclosures and legal processes, self-care, and signposting to other agencies. The advanced course takes a closer look at guilt, shame and empathy, building trust, and pathways to further support. Barnardo’s is currently training fourteen school champions across the county, covering more than 10 schools.

Rhian Locker, Head Teacher of Nerrols Primary School, said: “Nerrols Primary School and Nursery is delighted to be recognised as a trauma informed education setting. Having achieved the award at my previous school I am very aware of the excellent work of The Somerset Phoenix Project and Barnardo’s. The School Champion scheme has a really positive impact and having all Nerrols staff trained to support children affected by trauma is a fantastic achievement that will benefit the whole school community”.

Photo shows (l-r): Emily Evely (Somerset Phoenix Project Team Manager), Rhian Locker (Head Nerrols School) and Heidi Gray (Support Officer, Phoenix Project).