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Church of England takes its modern slavery fight into primary and secondary classrooms

Posted on: October 22, 2018 7:51 AM
Photo Credit: Ira Gelb / Flickr

The Church of England’s Clewer Initiative is taking its fight against modern slavery into primary and secondary schools, with lesson plans, assembly guides and a fun song, which it is encouraging schools to sing as part of a national competition. The project is based on the premise that the tools to tackle modern slavery already exists in local communities; and that the Church – present in all those communities – has the primary responsibility to lead the efforts to tackle it.

The resources were launched last week during a reception in Lambeth Palace – the official residence and offices of the Archbishops of Canterbury in London. Although the subject matter is dark and serious, the writers of the resources hope the lessons will be delivered in a fun and non-scary way. They have launched a singing competition, inviting schools to send in recordings of a new Freedom Song – the winning school will receive a prize of £1,000 GBP and a day in a professional recording studio.

The educational resources are the result of a partnership between the Clewer Initiative and the Just Enough charity, which is also working to tackle modern slavery. The charity’s Head of Education and Training, Ele Girling, told the Anglican Communion News Service that the resources have been written to ensure that they are not frightening.

“When we look at modern day slavery with primary schools we focus on the ideas of who we can turn to and what we can do to protect ourselves”, she said. “We don’t go into the details of things such as sexual exploitation because it can be very scary; but to help the children understand the signs of when somebody might be trying to convince them to do something that they are not meant to be doing; or if somebody is going to contact them online; or in terms of what might happen with those sort of aspects of it; because the idea of what we talk about in the lessons is about empowering children and making sure they know how to protect themselves and what to do, rather than getting scared and shocked.

“We never scare and shock the children, that is never the idea”, she said. “It is about telling them what is happening and what they can do about it and giving them that safe space to talk to their teachers [and] to talk to their parents.”

The recently retired Bishop of Derby, Alastair Redfern, has been leading the C of E’s fight against modern slavery for a number of years. He now chairs the Clewer Initiative and is passionate about the scheme’s importance.

“Children are vulnerable by definition, but they are particularly vulnerable to trafficking”, he said. “A third of the people trafficked in 2017 were children. Ten million children worldwide are in slavery. So it is happening. Many people don’t notice it and in the school environment there are tragic cases of young people being abused, being oppressed, but going to school and nobody noticing.”

Estimates suggest that almost 41 million people worldwide are in slavery. But the figures vary widely: estimates say that within the UK there are between 13,000 and 136,000 such victims. Exact figures are impossible to obtain because – as the campaign says – many victims are hidden in plain sight in local communities.

Last year, some 5,145 victims of modern slavery were found in the UK. One third of them were under 18. The campaign’s message to them is simple: “we see you”.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, is supporting the initiative and encouraging schools to “sing for freedom”. He said: “In my work with young people I am always amazed and encouraged by their passion and commitment to working towards a better world. I am delighted that this song competition, and the accompanying modern slavery schools resources, will enable young people to bring their enthusiasm and dedication to this urgent topic.”

The C of E’s anti-slavery initiative takes its name from the Clewer Sisters, a community of Anglican nuns which was established in the 19th century to help women out of prostitution. The Community is now down to two remaining residents; but they are putting the Community’s resources behind the initiative as a way of continuing the work for which the order was founded.

“All in all, it has been a very good way of giving money which is working in today’s world in the way the sisters worked when there was lots of sisters and they could all help with the work”, the community’s Sister Anne said.

  • Click here for more information about the Clewer Initiative and its education resources.