Derbyshire’s leading child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound, has been appointed to work with more than 10,000 school pupils across the city and county to empower and give them confidence to stand up for their friends and intervene safely.

Safe and Sound has devised an active bystander programme entitled I Can I Will which has secured funding from the Derby and Derbyshire Serious Violence Partnership Board under the objective to keep young people safe from harm.

Pupils aged ten to 18 will benefit from the delivery of Safe and Sound’s I Can I Will workshops in the coming year which will be adapted dependant on the age group and SEND requirements. The workshops will equip participants with the knowledge of how to speak up and safely intervene in situations that make them feel uncomfortable. This will include situations where they witness bullying, violence and knife crime. The programme is in response to an 11% in serious violence in Derbyshire between 2019 and 2022 – particularly involving young people.

A survey by Safe and Sound of over 600 young people across the city and county also found that 50% were aware of violence taking place in their area and 37% had experienced violence personally; 45% were most worried about knife crime followed by 28% concerned about gangs.

Safe and Sound chief executive Tracy Harrison explained: “As well as an increase in reported crime, we know there is a growing issue in schools with bullying, harassment and violence. It is important for children and young people to be aware from an early age that emotional bullying can be just as damaging as physical harm and the need to challenge inappropriate behaviours. Peer-on-peer or child on child abuse can be motivated by perceived differences including on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other differences. It can result in significant, long lasting and traumatic isolation, intimidation or violence for the victim as well as the perpetrator who themselves can be facing violence and disruption in their lives. By educating students on bystander intervention, the ‘I Can I will’ workshops empower young people to actively contribute to the prevention of bullying, violence, and other negative behaviours within the school premises and beyond in local communities. These issues obviously need to be discussed in a way that is appropriate for children and very much focus on the positive elements of looking after each other, speaking up when you see something wrong and reporting incidents or concerns.”

Mrs Harrison continued: “We have been delivering ‘I Can I Will’ active bystander workshops in schools across the county having first developed the programme as part of the Safe Derby campaign to tackle violence against women in girls back in 2022 and these have been well received by teachers, parents and pupils. The support with funding from the Derby and Derbyshire Serious Violence Partnership  Board has enabled us to further develop the workshops and to roll this out across the county. We look forward to working with school safeguarding leads across city in the coming year to support existing school policies and actions that encourage pupil voice and pupil action.”