Inspiring the next generation to be safer
As a new generation of youngsters start school another busy year begins for Essex County Fire and Rescue’s Education Team who will give help and advice to more than 100,000 young people before schools break up next summer.
The team of four deliver targeted and co-ordinated safety messages to pupils at various stages of their school career's. Last year they spoke to more than 117,000 school pupils giving them advice about fire, road and water safety.
Throughout October – the busiest month for the team - they will work with 54,000 young people as they speak to school assemblies across the County about firework safety in the lead up to November 5.
The rest of the year the team visit classrooms giving advice to pupils at all stages of their education, from reception right up to year 12 students getting ready to head off to university.
Dan Bailey, Team Manager, explained: “We write to every school in the County offering to visit them and we end up going to around 80% of schools. We look at places which have the most fires and then make sure we target schools in those catchment areas offering lessons and advice.”
The team delivering that advice all come from a fire service or educational background. Stuart Huxter and Peter Shipton are former firefighters and Lisa Mitson was a classroom assistant.
Lisa said: “It’s an incredibly rewarding job. You go into schools and the children are always glad to see you, they pay attention and when you leave you know that they have all learnt an important lesson. Sometime they literally follow you out down the corridor when you’re leaving saying thank-you so you know you’ve got through to them.”
Stuart said: “You see children having the time of their lives’, especially at primary schools, and you know you’re getting through to them. They’re enjoying themselves, all taking part and asking questions so you know the message is really hitting home.”
The main focus for the team is on visiting pupils in years three, seven and eight with lessons in home fire safety, the dangers of arson, road safety and water safety. Above and beyond the regular lessons the team create especially tailored courses to give to pupils in different year groups from ‘People who help us’ for four year-olds in the reception class right up to advice on how to stay safe in your first flat or student accommodation.
All the courses have been vetted and approved by Roehampton University before they are used.
“You know the message is getting across because we see a lot of the children more than once as they get older,” said Peter. “They come up to you and tell you all the lessons you’d given them last time you were in their classroom.
“There are just four of us in the team yet we speak to tens of thousands of young people giving them fire safety advice at a highly formative stage in their lives. The work we do is literally creating a new generation of fire safe citizens who will take our message and pass it on to parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters.”
The Service has put forward proposals to make sure it visits every Essex school child in years three, seven and eighth. The proposals come as part of the Service’s 2020 consultation. The first stage of the consultation finished at the start of September and the next stage is set to launch in the New Year.