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Child exploitationEducation

Catch On expands free educational resource with activities for children and young people with SEND

A male teacher stands at the front of his classroom, in front of the whiteboard, smiling at the camera.

Since launching last year, Catch On has been downloaded over 1,300 times by teachers, parents and wider professionals across the country.

Following feedback, Catch22 has expanded the free educational resource to include activities that are suitable for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. It is launching this expanded resource for Child Exploitation Awareness Day 2024.

Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are more vulnerable than their peers to being groomed and exploited, and this is reflected in the number who are referred to Catch22’s child exploitation services. Last year, 25.5% of the children and young people referred to our exploitation services had a specific learning difficulty, and 23.4% had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This figure does not include the number of children and young people who are suspected to have special educational needs but do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), and so we know this number is likely much higher.

The new activities were developed with an interdisciplinary team across Catch22 that involved child exploitation specialists, teachers from our alternative provision schools, and communications and design specialists. It was piloted by one of our Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation and Missing from Home Caseworkers in a Special School in Merseyside with a group of Year 9 students. Teachers told us: “The resources were pitched at just the right level for our students” and “the students were really engaged with the subject matter.” We got lots of great feedback, with children saying they learnt “lots of advice and information”, “the meaning of ‘nude’ and that it’s bad to send naked pictures”, “how to block people online” and “lots about exploitation”.

Gemma Wall, Head of Quality and Impact for Catch22’s alternative provision schools said:

“At Catch22, we support children and young people who display a wide range of complex barriers to education, including those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion and those with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs or Special Educational Needs.

We know that the children and young people we work with are targeted by groomers and exploiters. This resource provides vital support to teachers who need to give students the awareness and information to reduce their risk of exploitation.”

Vikki McKenna, Service Manager for Catch22’s Pan Merseyside Child Exploitation and Missing from Home service said:

“We can’t stop groomers targeting children and young people, but we can try to prevent exploitation. It isn’t simple, but one thing we must do is give our children and young people the tools and knowledge to spot the signs of grooming and exploitation and understand who can protect them in their community if they do encounter risk. We must talk to them about exploitation before exploitation occurs.

This resource is a crucial step towards that goal. Our schools and teachers are often the first to detect exploitation risks. Catch On helps teachers, pupils, wider professionals and parents/carers to safeguard children and young people.”