Wandsworth Junior Citizen

March 2012

Wandsworth Junior Citizen Scheme is a safety education programme run by Wandsworth Council and supported by a diverse group of partners from across the health, public and not-for-profit sectors.

What is the programme?

Citizen Road sign

The Wandsworth Junior Citizen Scheme is a partnership initiative that aims to give children hands-on experience in tackling dangerous situations in a safe environment. The scheme aims to give them the skills they need to assess and minimise risk so that they can keep themselves safe, as well as make a valuable contribution to their local community. The partnership has been running schemes throughout Wandsworth for the last 20 years.

Junior Citizen

Aimed at Year 5 (9-10 year olds) children, Junior Citizen runs twice a year in the spring and summer terms. Schools in the local area bring groups of children, who experience up to 12 safety scenarios throughout the day. Accompanying teachers receive a pack which outlines a range of ideas and projects they can use to build on what the pupils have learned, and pupils receive packs and leaflets to take home to their parents/carers.

Safer Citizen

Alongside Junior Citizen, Wandsworth Council also runs Safer Citizen – a similar programme aimed at 11-18 year olds with visual or hearing impairments. The pupils participate in four different safety scenarios, which are selected by their teaching staff according to which ones are most relevant for them.

Expanding the programme

In 2009, the Wandsworth team realised that there was scope to take the safety message to more vulnerable groups. Young carers were targeted as a group that could really benefit from help and advice about safety, so a scheme was set up to give them the safety advice that would be most relevant to their situation.

The target group for the first session was carers aged between five and ten. They were brought to a fire station for the day, and took part in four safety scenarios including kitchen safety and fire safety. They also had the chance to meet police ‘Safer Neighbourhood’ teams from their area, so that they would know who to get in touch with if they had any problems.

Children learning about water safety

“It was so good to watch these children having such a good time and, of course, learning vital safety messages. When I initially suggested the idea it hadn’t been done before, but I think the children are in such a vulnerable position that it’s vital they get some support,” explains Sue Yoxall, Community Safety Manager for Wandsworth Council. “We’ve been asked to do it again next year, and we’re running more sessions this year for older child carers, aged 10-13.”

Unlike the SafeSide Safety Centre, Wandsworth Junior Citizen programme does not have a permanent site. Each year Sue scouts for new places to take the pupils, making sure that each venue has the right facilities and space to set up the scenarios. In the past they have used a day centre, fire station, and a private school.

Who else is involved?

Wandsworth Council funds the programme, and runs it each year, but there are a number of partners involved who contribute staff, expertise, some equipment and occasionally venues.

The police are heavily involved in the scheme – the scheme was originally set up by two local police officers – and they now co-ordinate most of the activity. The fire service has a growing role in the programme as well, and recent events for young carers were hosted at the local fire station.

The programme also receives support from the third sector - Leonard Cheshire Disability hosted a recent ‘Safer Citizen’ scheme with disabled children, as the facilities at their centre met their needs as well.

One of the main benefits of partnership working is the ability to draw on other people's expertise and skills. For Wandsworth’s Junior Citizen Scheme, partners from various sectors provide the knowledge and skills to help deliver a more diverse programme than would have been possible otherwise.

Once a year all of the staff in the partnership get together to review the success of the schemes that have been run. Every two years Sue performs a major review of all the safety scenarios. She explains that it is important to establish which of the scenarios are most relevant for the pupils.

“I ask everyone to justify their scenario to the group. Is it relevant? Why is it relevant? Is it still something that the pupils need to learn about or are there more relevant issues that need to be tackled? Recently we abandoned our ‘stranger at the door’ scenario from Junior Citizen, and replaced it with a personal safety scenario. At the time street robbery was a growing problem, and it was more relevant for the pupils to learn how to stay safe on the streets, as lots of them walked to school on their own.”

What are the main challenges of the programme?

One of the main challenges of working in partnership is that the partnership can be reliant on strong individuals – those who drive things forward or really push for a good idea. If those people leave then it can be tough to pick up momentum again. The fact that police officers often get moved on can often be a real issue, especially if one of these officers is pivotal to the scheme.

Junior citizen activity

It can also be difficult sometimes to keep track of all your different partners and their individual priorities. Sue explains: “You do have to make sure that all of your partners are kept informed about what is happening. This can be quite difficult as, with Junior Citizen, there are a number of different partners involved.”

Funding is also a challenge for the scheme. When it was first established there was a lot of corporate sponsorship, but now it is reliant on Wandsworth Council for funding. Although many of the partners who run safety scenarios provide their own equipment, there is a real need for money to keep the scenarios fresh and up-to-date. Sue is currently looking for new corporate sponsors to help keep the scheme relevant for the pupils who take part.

How is the programme evaluated?

All participants have the chance to give feedback on their experience. Pupils, teachers and parents fill out evaluation forms at the end of the day, which feeds back into the programme. Sue also receives plenty of letters from pupils after the event telling her what they have learned.

A more rigorous evaluation was carried out in 2008/9 to evaluate how well students retained the knowledge that they had gained at the safety centre. Volunteers visited a participating school one month before the pupils were due to take part in Junior Citizen. They asked questions to test the pupils’ safety knowledge and recorded the results. The safety knowledge survey was repeated three months after they had taken part in the scheme, and the results were positive.

“We found that they’d learned a lot during the day, but more importantly we learned that they had retained that knowledge three months’ after their experience. I think the interactive nature of the day helps the key messages to stick,” says Sue. However, she would like to try a more ambitious test, examining whether the pupils can put their safety skills into practice in real life situations.

“I’d like to take some pupils to a different location a few months after their initial Junior Citizen day. We’d pretend that it was for a different reason, for instance looking round a university. Then, in this new environment, I’d like to subject them to some of the same scenarios that they learnt on the safety day, and see if their behaviour reflected the safety lessons they had learned a couple of months before. I’m trying to set this up for next year.”

In the meantime, the scheme has received great feedback from pupils and teachers across the borough. In 2008 Junior Citizen won a Personal Safety Award from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to recognise the contribution that the scheme has made to the personal safety of citizens in Wandsworth.

Updated February 2014