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Prestatyn I Spy: Bullying 'safe havens' for pupils

image captionWorkers will be able to help children being bullied while walking to and from school

Shops and businesses are being asked to provide "safe havens" for children being bullied en route to school as part of a crackdown in Denbighshire.

Workers in Prestatyn will be given training on how to support pupils who pop into their shops looking for help.

It is part of the I Spy campaign, which was set up 18 months ago to bring local schools, community groups and police together to tackle bullying.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews said it was making a "real difference".

The community scheme was created by Prestatyn High School, the town's Pop In Centre and the County Youth Service to proactively tackle all forms of bullying.

The group aimed to develop closer links with local schools, youth groups and the police to ensure training and information about bullying incidents could be shared.

Phil Pierce, head teacher of Prestayn High, said the project seemed to be working and the next stage was to ensure children were safe while walking to and from school.

"We felt that when they were at school they were safe because we had a system and when they were at the pop in centre they were safe," he said.

"But between those places there was no joined-up system so sometimes children and young people were vulnerable.

"The idea we have is to sign up local shops and businesses on the high street to help.

"If a child is anxious and fears they are being followed by a group or are being threatened or bullied they can go into a shop where the I Spy logo is displayed.

"Workers will be vetted and trained so they can get them home safely and pass on the information to the relevant authorities."

He said he hoped the "safe haven" scheme would be ready to launch next month.

'Parents pleased'

Mr Pierce said that since I Spy had launched, the issue of bullying was much more talked about in the school and community.

"The parents are really pleased about it and the children are talking about bullying, which can only be a good thing.

"I think this is something that all communities could do.

"Bullying in Prestatyn is no worse than any other place but we felt it should be tackled."

I Spy - Integrated Services Protecting the Young - is unique to Prestatyn and it was given its name by pupils at Prestatyn High School.

Among the organisations working on the campaign are North Wales Police, Denbighshire Youth Services and educational psychologist, the NSPCC, ChildLine and Barnardo's, along with the local MP Chris Ruane and AM Ann Jones.

'Frightening experiences'

ChildLine said the project was important as it brought the issue of bullying out into the open.

"Bullying is a matter of concern to all of us. It can make children's experience of school miserable and at times frightening," a spokesman said.

"If bullying is not tackled promptly and in the right way, the consequences can be very destructive."

Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones said she hoped the scheme could make a wider impact across Wales.

"The anti-bullying campaign group is doing fantastic work in tackling the root cause of bullying in all its forms and in making sure that everyone knows that bullying is unacceptable," she added.

Mr Andrews will visit Prestatyn High School on Friday to see how the campaign is helping young people.

He said: "The I Spy initiative is making a real difference in tackling bullying amongst young people in Prestatyn.

"We believe that bullying of any kind is unacceptable.

"It's encouraging to see projects like I Spy developing in local communities and good news that the scheme is going to be rolled-out to other schools in the area so they can benefit as well."

Mr Andrews launched a new smartphone app called Wmff! earlier this week offering guidance, support and information to young people about bullying and other issues.

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