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Close to 700 West Suffolk primary school students take part in Crucial Crew in Bury St Edmunds over June and July





An initiative that has helped generations of young people since it was established has just given hundreds of pupils real-life skills to help keep them safe.

Crucial Crew, which puts primary school students into controlled situations so they understand what to do in real life, has seen 690 children from 24 West Suffolk primary schools take part in sessions from June 26 to July 9.

The scheme, which was launched in the mid-1990s, helps young people learn skills designed to keep them safe and deal with some of the modern-day issues that they may come across in the years ahead.

South Lee School: anti-social behaviour session with PCSO Rachel Darvill. Picture: Mark Westley
South Lee School: anti-social behaviour session with PCSO Rachel Darvill. Picture: Mark Westley
South Lee School: healthy relationships. Picture: Mark Westley
South Lee School: healthy relationships. Picture: Mark Westley
Hardwick Primary School: fire safety. Picture: Mark Westley
Hardwick Primary School: fire safety. Picture: Mark Westley

The programme is coordinated by West Suffolk Council as part of its strategic priority for thriving communities and delivered by a range of public sector and charity partners.

Students learnt about everything from fire safety and what to do if they are caught up in a fire from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service to understanding healthy relationships with Bury St Edmunds Women’s Aid, a charity which helps victims of domestic abuse.

They discussed understanding consent with Brave Futures, a charity which offers specialist support for children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse.

South Lee School: healthy relationships. Picture: Mark Westley
South Lee School: healthy relationships. Picture: Mark Westley
South Lee: healthy relationships. Picture: Mark Westley
South Lee: healthy relationships. Picture: Mark Westley
Hardwick Primary School: Sam Evans, swim leader, water safety session. Picture: Mark Westley
Hardwick Primary School: Sam Evans, swim leader, water safety session. Picture: Mark Westley

Abbeycroft Leisure, which runs the council’s leisure centres, taught pupils about how to stay safe in and around water.

Suffolk Police worked with the students around recognising hate crime and avoiding exploitation and what to do if they come across either scenario in real life.

Police also discussed anti-social behaviour and the damaging impact it can have on people’s lives plus how to report it.

On July 3 it was the turn of students from Hardwick, South Lee and Sir Peter Hall schools in Bury St Edmunds and Hopton CEVC Primary School, near Diss.

Cllr Donna Higgins, a former Suffolk teacher who is now cabinet member for families and communities at West Suffolk Council, said: “Crucial Crew has benefitted more than two generations of young people since it was established.

“I’ve attended several Crucial Crews as a teacher and have first-hand experience of seeing how the scenarios can so effectively engage the pupils and enable them to ask questions about how they can respond to a range of situations that they may encounter during their lives.

Hardwick Primary School: hate crime session with PCSO Anne-Marie Powell. Picture: Mark Westley
Hardwick Primary School: hate crime session with PCSO Anne-Marie Powell. Picture: Mark Westley
Hardwick Primary School: Sam Evans, swim leader, waters safety session. Picture: Mark Westley
Hardwick Primary School: Sam Evans, swim leader, waters safety session. Picture: Mark Westley

“It goes beyond what is possible in a traditional classroom setting. As a teacher, and now as a councillor, I continue to be passionate about supporting young people in our society. This is pivotal to helping our future so that our communities can thrive.

“I’d like to thank our partners for helping us once again deliver a varied and successful Crucial Crew, providing skills that will benefit the young people including their health and wellbeing as they grow older.”

The Crucial Crew Sessions took place at West Suffolk College, in Bury.