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23 November 2016
Pupils from Central Bedfordshire have been learning more about internet safety and child sexual exploitation in a hard-hitting play,
Chelsea’s Choice which is currently being performed in upper, secondary and special schools across the area.
By the end of the three-week run it is expected that more than 2,500 pupils across Years 9 to 14 will have seen the production by Alter Ego.
The play tells the story of a group of three students who discover the diary of a girl called Chelsea. Having fallen out with friends and family, she hooks up with an older man who initially treats her well before revealing his true colours.
The story is played out by the three students and their teacher, with regular moments for reflection on what has just taken place and how it could have been prevented.
It is the second year that the play has been performed in Central Bedfordshire, with the script adapting year on year to reflect current trends, advice and social media usage.
Speaking to an audience of Year 9 pupils at Samuel Whitbread Academy this week, Jason Clare (who plays Shane) said: “It’s important that the relationships you have are healthy – we don’t want you to go through what Chelsea went through.
“We hear stories about people who use the internet to prey on people who are down or have low self-esteem. It only takes two minutes to set up a fake profile. So, it’s important to keep yourself safe, so when you get home, check your internet privacy settings. And remember: if you are asked to send a naked or explicit photo then that is child pornography.”
The play will also be performed in Bedford Borough this month and will be returning to Luton early next year.
That is part of an ongoing awareness campaign taking place across Central Bedfordshire, Bedford and Luton with the three councils, together with the three area local safeguarding children boards, Bedfordshire Police, Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, the University of Bedfordshire, Luton Youth Offending Service, the NSPCC and Crimestoppers working together to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation, the signs and where to go if you have a concern.
As part of the campaign the advice and information section for young people on the Bedfordshire Against CSE website www.bedfordshireagainstcse.org has been updated. There are now specific sections on different issues including sexting; spotting the signs of CSE and grooming; keeping yourself safe; healthy relationships and where to go for help.
Sue Harrison, Director of Children’s Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Working together is vital if we are to protect our children from harm. The collective work which we are doing to combat child sexual exploitation was recognised by Ofsted inspectors earlier this year in our Joint Targeted Area Inspection.
“What matters most of all is the safety of our children and young people and we have been building on the inspectors’ recommendations to reach as many young people as we can.
“Chelsea’s Choice is just one way that we are working together to educate young people about the dangers of things like sexting. We will be targeting everywhere from GP surgeries to Pokemon Go stops to help spread the awareness message and try to keep our children safe.”