Pupils aged 13 and 14 at St Monica’s High School in Prestwich are the latest to attend a workshop which tackles sex, drugs, alcohol, crime, personal safety, anti-social behaviour and cyber bullying.
The Be Safe Be Cool Project was piloted in 2007 and has since gone out to every high school in the borough, reaching 2,200 pupils every year. Taking part are the police, fire service, environmental health and anti-bullying teams, staff from Six Town Housing, along with local drugs workers and health workers.
Students at Bury College give a performance in each school for the first hour, which forms part of their exam coursework. A professional film, funded by the Safer Schools Partnership, is shown which highlights the risks attached to anti-social behaviour and its impact on communities.
Three pupils from St Monica’s - Giovanna Brady, Kate Kenny and Charlotte Lloyd - were asked what they thought of the performance.
Giovanna said: “The things they talked about would have been really embarrassing if it had come across in any other way, but the way they handled the topics was not embarrassing at all, it was really entertaining.”
Kate added: “We knew some of the stuff from classes we already have in school, but there are things we’d certainly never ask a teacher that they covered and I felt it came across really well.”
Charlotte summed up the pupils’ reaction by saying: “I definitely felt that the issues were relevant to us and came across in a really meaningful way. I feel more informed than I did before and it was a really good way of getting so many messages across, it wasn’t like being talked at or lectured to.”
The content is refreshed every year so that the message is focussed on how the world is today. Mark Granby of Greater Manchester Police’s Bury Division said: “Be Safe Be Cool was designed to help young people become more informed about the consequences of their actions and the choices they face in life and, hopefully, enable them to make the right ones. It also allows pupils from schools across Bury to get involved in discussions around safety and personal responsibility and build relationships with their local neighbourhood police officers.”
Council Leader Mike Connolly attended the first session at Castlebrook High School this week, and said: "Today's young people are tomorrow's adults, with their own families, carers and neighbours to look after. There are always dangers out there which can threaten to stop them achieving all they can do, and programmes such as this can play a vital role in keeping them out of harm's way and on the right road."
One of the key organisers was Sergeant Carolyn Jones from the Bury Partnership Team, who said: “This has become an annual event which is welcomed by all Bury high schools. The important messages are delivered in an innovative but hard-hitting way. I know from feedback from previous years that these are really useful and have a long-lasting impact on the kids.”
From Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Bury Borough Manager Pete Riley said: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative once again. We hope that by taking part we can help young people make the right decisions as they make that difficult transition from childhood to adulthood.
“Be Safe Be Cool gives Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service a fantastic platform to engage with youngsters in this age group who may be tempted to get involved with anti-social behaviour, hoax calls, arson and attacks on firefighters, as well as all the other issues associated with adolescence.
“The project gives us the opportunity to tell youngsters about the impact of this behaviour on themselves, their families and the community and the potential consequences for those involved.”