Cardiff Metropolitan University has teamed up with Cardiff school Ysgol Bro Edern to deliver an International project that is focused on teaching adolescents about how to have healthy relationships.
The Lights 4 Violence (L4V) project, which is commissioned by European funding programme Horizon 2020, adopts a strength-based approach and aims to encourage 12-13-year olds to explore relationship skills while perhaps experiencing their first relationships, and to understand protective factors related to dating violence.
Through L4V, students at Ysgol Bro Edern have been encouraged to identify protective factors as present within themselves, their families, the school and other closed settings. They are then encouraged to learn how to properly use these protective factors to recognise and develop healthy relationships. This in turn limits the likelihood of them being exposed to or perpetrating violence within relationships.
The process involves psycho-education and asks the children to 're-write' the scripts for common conflict situations that can occur in relationships (e.g. jealousy, controlling behaviour, pressure, anger, threats etc.). The children are asked to create short films - write their own scripts, storyboard, record, edit and produce their own films that set out a positive response to a relationship difficulty. They will then use these to teach their peers as part of a film festival.
Lead by the University of Alicante, Spain, the project has been delivered on an international scale and is currently run across Europe in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Romania and the UK. Between 600 to 700 adolescents, both boys and girls aged 12 to 15 years old will benefit from the first project of its kind to be rolled out internationally.
The project was initially piloted with 19 students and then delivered to 130 school children, with teachers from the school along with members of staff from the Forensic Psychology team at Cardiff Met delivering the project. Dr Nicola Bowes and Dr Karen De Claire are project leads with filming supported by Jordan Musgrove and Arianne Kenworthy Videography.
Speaking about the project, Dr Nicola Bowes, Forensic Psychologist at Cardiff Met and Principle Investigator on the Lights 4 Violence Project, said: "It is important that children explore and develop skills for relationships whilst they are forming their first relationships because this sets the scene and expectations for future relationships.
"We know that by age 13, 63.8% of children have been in a dating relationship, 7% of those children report that they have been physically hurt by their partner (boys and girls). Exposure to dating violence is also more common than we might like, with 23.8% of children being exposed to intimate partner violence in their close social circle (16.2% indicating this had happened to their mum).
"This is a very exciting step forward for schools in the UK. Whilst this is a sensitive topic, it is absolutely essential that schools engage proactively with these issues and help prepare children for this important aspect of life."
Ceri Price, English Teacher at Ysgol Bro Edern, said: "Our pupils have really enjoyed the sessions so far, and it's great to see them looking closely at the skills needed for developing healthy relationships.
"The team at Cardiff Met have really given the pupils ownership of the project, which has seen them engage very well during the sessions.
A year 8 pupil at Ysgol Bro Edern, said: "I've really enjoyed the sessions on the Lights 4 Violence project so far, especially having the chance to create a storyboard and our own films.
"I've definitely learnt how to spot the differences between positive and abusive relationships."
The Lights 4 Violence project officially launched on 19th December 2017. This project is funded under the REC-RDAP-AWAR-AG-2016, an action grant to educate and raise awareness of girls and boys about gender-based violence to prevent it at an early stage.
For more information about the project, please visit: http://www.lights4violence.eu/
To read this story in Welsh, click here.