29/07/2014 08:16 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Preparing Your Child For Travelling To Secondary School


I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little concerned about waving my 11-year-old daughter off to secondary school in September, when she will take a 35 minute journey involving a train and a bus ride.

With this in mind, I called in Safety Box, an organisation that goes into schools and other youth organisations to address the growing concerns of anti-social behaviour and offers workshops in personal safety.

"By equipping youths with non-violent tools and ways of protecting themselves through self-defence, danger awareness and conflict resolution, we are tackling one of the most worrying issues of our society," says founder Nathaniel Peat, 31, who set up the organisation in 2006. So it was that Louise and 11 of her friends found themselves in a church hall on a stifling summer's afternoon recently role-playing being on a bus with two trouble-making "teenagers" (trainers with attitude Tonya Smith and Chanel Edwards) who were demanding they hand up their money, their seats and, crucially, their sense of worth.

"The focus is to help youngsters find ways to handle and manage themselves in different situations appropriately. Sessions are designed to challenge the individual into thinking ahead and taking action if necessary, but also about believing in themselves and improving their self-esteem," says Tonya.

Liz Taylor's daughter Charlotte attended the course, and bounded home afterwards with a wealth of small but hugely effective tips for keeping safe when she embarks on travelling to and from secondary school in September.

"Charlotte was given rudimentary self-defence tips, such as being shown how to guard the vital organs in the face of a knife attack, and it was reiterated time and again that we all carry a crucial weapon with us at all times – our voice," says Liz.

"The trainers reminded the children that challenging your attacker in a loud, clear and calm voice may well be all you need to draw attention to your plight and recruit some adult help."

Other equally useful advice included not sitting on the top deck of a bus, keeping your mobile phone out of sight, not walking to or from school listening to an iPod and keeping your wits about you.

"In the vast majority of cases children can keep out of trouble by simply keeping their eyes open," adds trainer Tonya. "Even if it makes you late for school, avoid the empty carriage on a train and if you can't get into the crowded one, wait for the next one. If you explain to your teacher the predicament you found yourself in, and how you kept yourself safe, they should understand."

Of course, I'm hoping Louise will stay safe and happy as she embarks on this next exciting chapter on her road to adulthood. But I'm also hoping that should she encounter trouble, she will know how to side-step it. After all, as with so many other things, prevention is always better than cure.

Top five dos for your child as they head off to secondary school:

1. Don't be late - being late leads to rushed decisions and doing things in a panic. Pack your school bag and sort your uniform the night before and get up in plenty of time.

2. Walk with a sense of purpose - head up, back straight.

3. If you're lost or feel you're in trouble, head into the nearest shop and ask someone who works there to help you.

4. I-pods are for listening to music when you want to relax - not when travelling to and from school. Leave it at home - you're just drawing attention to yourself if you keep messing about with it, and are likely to miss your stop.

5. Always make sure your phone is charged up - a seemingly obvious one but you'd be surprised how many youngsters let their phones run down or out of credit. Also make sure you know emergency contact numbers, and aren't reliant on your phone memory.

Top five don'ts:

1. Try not to sit on the top deck of the bus - the best place to be is near the driver. If you have to sit on the top deck, try to do so with a friend and at the front with easy access to the stairs.

2. Don't loiter around after school. Come out of lessons or your after school club and set off for home straightaway.

3.Don't exchange mobile phone numbers straightaway with new "friends". Let the dust settle for a little while before deciding who to share your personal details with.

4. Avoid going out in large groups of children - the more in a group the more potential for arguments and splitting up. Far better to go out in a group of two or three and stick together.

5. Don't change your plans without notifying home first. Your parents are less likely to mind if they know where you are, who you're with and when to expect you home.