Pupils from Newton Primary School in Ayr train with Ayr United’s Alan Forrest
Pupils from South Ayrshire are preparing to spread the word about the potential dangers of online and physical abuse. Eight young people from four schools will be sharing their experience as part of UK National Stalking Awareness Day 2016 (Friday 22 April).
130 primary seven pupils from Annbank, Coylton, Dalmilling and Newton have been taking part in the 'Pass the Ball' pilot project since the start of February 2014. The project aims to raise awareness about internet safety, stalking, and healthy relationships.
Pass the Ball is a partnership with Ayr United, with various members of the team, including Captain Nicky Devlin, taking the time to engage with boys and girls on the importance of team work. The sessions have been backed up by sessions on internet safety and respect from Police Scotland and South Ayrshire Women's Aid.
The response from the children involved has been encouraging with many of the pupils already saying they're looking at these issues through fresh eyes:
Sophie, (11), "Staff from the project were teaching us to really think before we react. This could be in sport where we have to think about who we are passing to or what our next move will be. It could also be when we are online and are about to post something."
Commenting on the progress so far, Eileen Howat, Chief Executive, South Ayrshire Council, said, "It's encouraging, even after such a short time, to see that our young people are taking away really positive messages from this important project.
"With so much of our lives spent online the issue of internet safety is important for all of us, and the dangers of stalking need to be understood before the problem can ever be dealt with.
"The main weapon to help defeat inappropriate and dangerous behaviour is through targeted education and I look forward to seeing this programme develop in the months ahead."
Using football training as the medium to bring young children together the project aims to deliver a positive message about the importance of developing respectful relationships while at the same time enforcing a healthy and active message.
Ann Moulds founder and chair of the Scottish National Stalking Group said, "Recent research from the UK Criminal Justice Survey suggests that 1 in 6 men and women experienced have experienced stalking in the last 12 months.
"It's an issue that underpins some of the worst forms of abusive and violent crimes such as domestic abuse, racial, community hatred crimes, bullying, and sexual crimes.
"Raising awareness in schools and local communities needs to be part of the solution, with young people at the heart of implementing change."
Children look up to sporting professionals as role models. Sporting establishments across the country can play an important role in helping shape healthy attitudes and reduce anti-social behaviour within our schools and our communities
Pupils involved in the Pass the Ball programme will be giving a presentation on their experience at County Buildings in Ayr on Friday 22nd April to mark UK National Stalking Awareness Day 2016.