Wirral schoolchildren taught to find the right path away from crime

Primary school children in Wirral are taking part in a project aimed at helping to break the cycle of organised crime groups.

The Mini Pathfinder project, organised by Merseyside Police, forms part of a preventative policing approach to support young people to make positive choices through early intervention.

Holy Cross Catholic Primary School in Birkenhead was the first of 17 schools to take part in the project, which began rolling out last week and will be delivered before the end of the school year.

PCSO Peter Shone from the local policing team, along with a number of organisations, spent a week with Year 6 pupils aged 10 and 11 at the school on Gautby Road focusing on a range of crime types to learn about positive choices and consequences.

The morning of day one saw children learn about positive choices and consequences through a wide range of interactive games, role play and discussions on knife crime, anti-social behaviour, hate crime, drugs, underage drinking and general safety when out in the community.

In the afternoon, the children took part in three different taster sports sessions provided by Wirral Sports Development in an attempt to get the pupils to be more active, spend less time on social media and hanging around on the streets.

Pupils taking part in boxercise

The pupils took part in boxercise, tennis and football sessions which were led by Sports Development.

On day two pupils were taught first aid and basic lifesaving skills by Military Style Education (MSE) and were awarded with a level one young lifesaver certificate.

In the afternoon, the children learned about loan sharks with a visit from the illegal money lending team who taught the pupils the signs to look out for in people who may have fallen foul to a loan shark and what to do to help.

The children were asked by the team to enter a competition to design a new poster with the creators of the two best posters receiving £25 in Amazon vouchers funded by money seized from loan sharks.

Pupils also gained an understanding of cybercrime and cyber safety through a fun and interactive quiz where they competed against each other for a chance to win virtual cryptocurrency. The more questions they answered correctly the more cryptocurrency they received.

Trying out the drug and alcohol impairment goggles

On the third day, PCSO Shone was joined by Choices Education and Lifelong Learning Skills (CELLS) where those attending had either made the wrong decision at some point in their life and been sent to prison or had never been in trouble with the police, but crime had affected their families and communities.

The former offenders in the team have turned their lives around and attend schools to educate pupils on the mistakes they made to help deter pupils from crime.

Subjects covered included county lines, drug dealing, grooming, child criminal exploitation, bullying, gang culture, peer pressure, knife crime, family perspective and victim impact.

Pupils experienced a mock prison and the day-to-day routine of a prisoner. At the end of the day, the children took part in a mock court case about joint enterprise.

On day four PCSO Shone was joined by staff from the Paul Lavelle Foundation who delivered a workshop with the pupils about positive and healthy relationships, peer pressure and grooming.

The staff provided the pupils with different types of self-calming mechanisms and taught them what to do should they or a family member be suffering.

In the afternoon, Sale Sharks Foundation attended the school to discuss mental health with the pupils and the positive effect sport can have on wellbeing by helping to install discipline through focusing on goals and regular training.

The children also participated in a tag rugby session led by Sale Sharks Foundation coaches.

As a reward for all their hard work throughout the week and to help build self-confidence Gautby Road Community Centre attended with a number of different reptiles for the pupils to hold and learn about.

On the final day of the programme, PCSO Shone was joined by a local musician specialising in beatboxing and rapping who taught the pupils how to write their own raps about the subjects covered during the week such as anti-social behaviour, hate crime, knife crime, drug dealing, and county lines.

The children later performed their raps at an awards ceremony in the afternoon in front of the school with each pupil receiving a certificate for taking part, their level 1 first aid award and two pupils were presented with trophies for being the most enthusiastic.

PCSO Shone, who is responsible for delivering the Mini Pathfinders project to schools across Merseyside, said, “The majority of schools this project is being delivered to are in our EVOLVE neighbourhoods where we work together with our partners to build better futures for those living in these areas.

“Prevention is at the core of our policing and projects where we interact with children and show them the consequences of poor decisions can be powerful ways of helping to reduce crime in the future.

“EVOLVE is about making our neighbourhoods safer for generations to come and working with schools is an important part of ensuring this happens.”

Catharine Hall, Year 6 teacher at Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, added, “This is a much-needed and worthwhile project. It’s so important that children are educated about the dangers of drugs, carrying weapons, and other crimes, and how one small decision can impact them and their families’ lives.

“This was a fantastic experience giving children a real look into how easy it can be to choose the wrong path, but also what they can do to help themselves and their families.”

Anyone affected by crime is asked to call Merseyside Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

EVOLVE is a multi-agency partnership approach based on the Home Office designed Clear, Hold, Build strategy to rescue and regenerate areas most affected by serious and organised crime.

Partners involved in EVOLVE include Merseyside Police, Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner, local councils, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, housing associations, health services, schools, colleges, local businesses, community groups, and residents.

Lead image: Pupils learning First Aid

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