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Warning on child sexual exploitation

A hard-hitting play designed to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation made a big impact on more than 1,000 students at six schools and colleges throughout Fenland.

Chelsea's Choice pic

Called "Chelsea's Choice", it explored a wide range of sensitive issues, including healthy relationships, internet safety, grooming and drug use.

Students and teachers praised the powerful way the play got the messages across and helped to identify risky situations. Afterwards, several students sought further advice after recognising some of the warning signs that had been highlighted

The tour was organised by the Fenland Community Safety Partnership (CSP).

Councillor David Oliver, Fenland District Council's Cabinet member responsible for community safety and the CSP's chairman, said: "Seeing this production and the young people's reactions to it, it was immediately obvious how their attitudes changed and that's really encouraging. It brought it home to them that this exploitation could be happening to them or their friends without them realising it."

Based on real-life experiences, "Chelsea's Choice" tells the story of three students who discover the diary of a young girl who, having fallen out with her friends and family, was approached by Gary, an older man.

He owned a car, had a flat and treated her like an adult.  Unfortunately, he was not what he seemed to be.

The story is played out and examined by the three students who, along with their teacher, attempt to understand what happened to Chelsea and how it could have been prevented.

The play, performed by actors from Alter Ego Creative Solutions, was staged for 13-15-year-olds at Thomas Clarkson Academy, Cromwell Community College, Neale-Wade Academy, Sir Harry Smith Community College and Fenland Learning Base and students from the College of West Anglia.

At four of the venues it was followed by hour-long workshops that looked in more detail at how to stay safe online and where to go for help.

One Neale-Wade student said: "The play was really effective in demonstrating what child sexual exploitation was all about in a way we could understand and relate to. All the actors did a brilliant job of displaying their characters' emotions, which made it interesting whilst at the same time getting all the important information across.

"Afterwards, they made us feel comfortable and able to ask about anything we wanted to know more about. We were also made more aware of just how careful you need to be online. I know a couple of people went home and set their Facebook profile to private that night because the play had such a big impact."

The programme also promoted the new Advice Chain App and website, which signposts young people to organisations that can help them through a variety of problems.

·         For more information on the work of the Fenland Community Safety Partnership, visit www.communitysafetypartnership.wordpress.com . For details of the Advice Chain App, go to www.advicechainapp.wordpress.com

Article added November 5, 2015