Barnardo's Somerset Phoenix Project award for North Town School
A Somerset project has presented its first award to recognise schools which are working hard to improve support for families affected by childhood sexual abuse.

The Somerset Phoenix Project, managed by Barnardo’s and delivered in partnership with SARSAS, provides support and training to professionals across the county.

The team recently developed a new ‘School Champion’ scheme open to all local schools who 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.

North Town Primary School and Nursery, in Taunton, was the first in the county to complete the course and was presented with a ‘Bronze’ plaque this week.

The Somerset Phoenix Project was commissioned by Public Health at Somerset County Council, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England.

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 eleven school champions across the county, covering more than 20 schools.

Rhian Locker, the deputy headteacher of North Town Primary School and Nursery, said:

“We are delighted to have achieved the trauma-informed award and to work alongside the Somerset Phoenix Project.

“The work we have done has raised awareness throughout the school of the impact of childhood sexual abuse, and enhanced the support we are able to offer children and families who are affected by all forms of trauma.”

Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health at Somerset County Council, said:

“We are very proud of North Town School and Nursery becoming the first in the county to complete the course, which provides support and training to families affected by childhood sexual abuse. We hope they will be the first of many across our county. It is important professionals are trained to recognise warning signs and provide important support to children and families affected.”

For further information on the training scheme, visit www.barnardos.org.uk/somersetphoenixproject or call 07590 627693.