Thames Valley Police

View the ITV Meridian report on this event here

Dot Com Values Versus Violence Programme

Offical Press Release

Tuesday 9th December 2014

Police and Primary Schools Join Forces to Tackle Child Abuse, Violence and Exploitation in Oxford

Thousands of school children in Oxford are being taught vital life skills to help identify child abuse and prevent them becoming victims of violence.
The groundbreaking schools programme Values Versus Violence is being piloted across 12 primary schools in the city and has already had dramatic effects, according to teachers and the police. Pupils are learning how to protect themselves against being exploited by adults, coping with domestic problems, and how to speak out if they believe they or a friend become a victim of child abuse.

The Values Versus Violence programme is being supported by Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council’s safeguarding board in response to Operation Bullfinch – the investigation into a sex grooming ring.

It has been developed with the police and emergency services, schools, and civil servants, and designed to recognise problems in children’s lives and teach them how to speak up to somebody they trust at the earliest opportunity.
Children are introduced to a cartoon character friend, Miss Dorothy Com – nicknamed Dot – and fill out a personal journal, using words and drawings. It gives them a chance to talk and think about who they trust, what they value, the differences between rightand wrong, and making the right choices.

Police Community Support Officers also work with the schools as part of the programme to provide practical information on keeping safe. The programme also helps schools deal with gang violence, bullying and coping with bereavement. 

Headteacher Jackie Ranger, who runs the Values Versus Violence programme at John Henry Newman School in Oxford, said:

“The children have lots of fun filling in their own personal journals about their lives. But there is a more serious side to this.

“Our school is in one of the most socially deprived areas of the city. A lot of our children are affected by issues in the home. With the help of the programme we did an audit of our children and believe about 60 per cent of our children are affected by domestic violence one way or another. 

“We’ve incorporated the journals and the programme into everyday life at the school, so pupils feel they always have somewhere to turn if they need to talk

“If we believe a child is at risk from violence or child abuse, we have a structured plan in place about how to handle this. The lessons have also helped with anger issues among pupils and bullying, and as a result we are seeing less exclusions.”

The programme is funded by the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board and provided by charity the Dot Com Children’s Foundation, which was founded by former news reader and child abuse survivor Sharon Evans and her husband Neil Evans, a former police officer.

Mrs Evans is on the government’s Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

She said: “The police and safeguarding board in Oxford is outstanding in providing this programme for schools because they have recognised punishment is only part of the issue. 

“We have to address how we prevent the next generation of children from suffering the same abuse. I also think those head teachers who have been among the first to implement this resource are inspirational and have shown their commitment to giving children the skills to protect themselves from sexual abuse and violence.” 

Chief Constable Sara Thornton of Thames Valley Police, said the force had enabled the programme earlier this year as a result of widespread exploitation of children in the City of Oxford, namely the victims of Operation Bullfinch.

She said: “This is about helping children to protect themselves from those who might exploit them, children where there’s violence in the home, but also where children have been preyed on by those who seek out vulnerable youngsters and exploit them in the most terrible way.

“We all worry about children. We want to protect them from harm and make them as safe as they possibly can be and I think that the Values Versus Violence Programme is a really good approach which helps our children to help themselves, and I recommend it to all schools.”

Superintendent Christian Bunt, Local Policing Area commander, Oxford, said the feedback about the programme from teachers has been “very positive”.

He said: “The schools that are rolling out he programme at the moment have said it’s unbelievable…The children really get it! Teachers are liking it.
That’s been fantastic to hear.

“Speaking purely from a police perspective, I hope that this changes the views of young people as they go through their lives. There’s a real opportunity for kids to see that actually the police are there to help. We are not there just to arrest people when they’ve been bad. We are there to help, we are there to keep you safe and we are the people that you should turn to should you not feel safe. And that is really, really important for me and I hope they take that through into their adult years.

In attendance and available for interview on the day were:

Superintendent Christian Bunt, Local Policing Area Commander, Oxford.
Sharon Evans, CEO of the Dot Com Children’s Foundation
Jackie Ranger, Principal at John Henry Newman Academy
Pupils across all years who are in the Values Versus Violence programme
Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Tim Forrest

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