Protecting our children offline – Stay Safe programme in schools

The Stay Safe Programme as part of SPHE

I usually write about internet safety and educating parents on how they can keep their children safe online but, as a Mum of three young children, the terrible news of the sexual attacks on the 6 and 9 year old little girls over the weekend in Athlone have had a profound effect on me and I feel compelled to write this blog post. 

It’s unfortunately too late to help those two innocent little girls now but we must as parents try, where possible, to protect our kids from the evils that unfortunately exist in the real world too. We all talk to our children about stranger danger but bearing in mind that only 7% of child abuse is carried out by actual strangers, our children need more education than just ‘beware of strangers’.

Now, I’m not an expert in this area but I know that as a Mum, I need to talk to all three of my children about their bodies, about what’s private to them and what’s okay and not okay. I generally tell me three that any part of their body that is covered by a swimsuit is never okay to be touched by anyone but them. It’s a difficult conversation to have but an essential one nonetheless and one that every parent should be having on an ongoing basis.

To back this up, did you know that there is a programme that is thought in primary schools across Ireland called the ‘Stay Safe’ programme  as part of the SPHE curriculum. As a parent, you might not even know about this programme as children rarely have homework relating to this but it IS covered in class and it’s important that we understand what is taught.

The Stay Safe is a primary school based approach to the prevention of child abuse. The aim of the programme is to reduce vulnerability to child abuse and bullying through the provision of a personal safety education programme for children at primary school level. The Stay Safe programme is a personal safety skills programme designed for use with primary school children from Junior Infants through to 6th class. It seeks to enhance children’s self-protective skills by participation in lessons on safe and unsafe situations, bullying, inappropriate touch, secrets, telling and stranger danger. The programme aims to give children the skills necessary to enable them to recognise and resist abuse/victimisation and teaches them that they should always tell about any situation which they find unsafe, upsetting, threatening, dangerous or abusive. The programme has lesson plans which cover material on

  • domestic violence
  • physical and emotional abuse
  • bullying
  • development of children’s self esteem and assertiveness

In 1998, education on child abuse prevention became a requirement for all primary schools. Training is provided to school staff on an on-going basis by personnel from the Professional Development Service for Teachers.

Find out more about the Stay Safe programme by clicking here and in particular read the section for parents which offers good advice on how to discuss this topic with your children at home.

What are your thoughts on this?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Debbie Woodward

Debbie is a FETAC qualified trainer and delivers Social Media training for the Sligo County Enterprise Board in Ireland. Debbie also delivers talks on Internet Safety to parents and students in schools and also teachers in education centres. You can find Debbie on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.


  1. Karen said:

    The girls in Atlone would have received “Stay Safe programme education” and tragically it didn’t help them or protect them one bit. The Stay Safe programme perverts innocence rather than protecting it. Children as young as 6 are taught about “seed planting” in reference to semen into a vagina to make a baby. I read this and was told this directly by my daughter’s school principal but nowhere on the Stay Safe website is this mentioned. The programme also doesn’t alert children to the danger of the Garda. A Garda was found with a large amount of child porn on his computer at the same time of the Atlone event. Here is the link http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/child-porn-garda-can-be-named-at-5pm-today-29624967.html. Also children are told it is okay for doctors to touch their private parts despite the fact many doctors are also paedophiles. There are paedophiles in all walks of life and careers obviously but the Stay Safe programme lures children into a false sense of security with the Garda and doctors. Also the Stay Safe want to make this programme mandatory which is a violation of parental rights. The Stay Safe programme needs a lot of improvements and need to be more in touch with parents about the content. This kind of education is best taught at home as opposed to graphic and lacking education at schools.

    • Debbie WoodwardDebbie Woodward said:

      Hi Karen,

      Apologies for the delay in posting your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to write your comment and am really interested in hearing your view. I cannot comment at all on the content of the Stay Safe programme that is taught in the schools as I am not a teacher and my only experience of it is the couple of worksheets that my now ten year old was bringing home when she was working on what is a good secret and what is a bad secret. I had no idea that it was as advanced and graphic as you’re describing, I will certainly be going into my childrens primary school and finding out more.

      My point about my ‘limited’ knowledge of the programme was just to raise awareness with parents that the topic IS actually being discussed in schools and that parents should use that as a way to discuss this topic in more detail at home.

      I understand about your concern with the Gardai. In fact, I always tell my children that they need to be wary of EVERYONE, family members, friends parents, people in uniform etc. I agree with you 100% that this is something that all parents need to teach their children. I did not know about the specific content of the ‘Stay Safe’ programme being taught in schools but I will find out more.

      Are there any teachers reading this who can maybe shine a light on this?


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