Safety in Action (or Junior Citizens as it is known in other Counties) is an interactive learning experience for year 6 children before their move on to secondary school and their greater independence that comes with it.

3pm: Wednesday 7 March 2018 ….. I wont forget this time and day. Is was the end to my last day managing a Safety In Action event in Kent. My first was 22 years ago in 1996!

Back in April 1996 I had just been appointed as a Kent Police schools officer working in and with schools in the Maidstone area, (sadly and shortsightedly a role Kent Police axed 3 years ago). One of my first tasks was to coordinate the bookings from schools for the forthcoming Safety in Action event held at Invicta Army barracks in the town in June, and coordinating attendance of the agencies that supported the event.  Little did I know that I would still be doing so, so many years later. Over the last few years I have actually met teachers bringing year 6 children that remember coming to Safety In Action themselves – and some have even recognised me from that time! I have been around a long time….

I was involved with the Maidstone events as a schools police officer until my retirement in 2009. Following my retirement I helped deliver 2 other events in West and North Kent for a few years, until in 2014 I was asked if I would take over the management of them. By this time I was working for Salus and felt it a great opportunity for the company to add to the portfolio of school and family based projects we delivered. I subsequently found myself spending all my part time hours arranging, coordinating and managing Safety In Action events.

At the time it was just the West and North Kent events we took over the management of, but in 2014 I ran a new project for the benefit of schools in the Folkestone and Hythe areas. Then in 2015 Salus were commissioned by Maidstone Borough Council to run their event on a 3 year contract and in 2015 Shepway Council asked if they could support and commission us to hold the event in Folkestone with their support. I was now managing 4 events across the County.

I have always been aware of the gaps in the County where children miss the opportunity of attending these events and although for a couple of years I was involved with an event in Swale it hadn’t proved viable to continue. In summer 2016 out of the blue I received a call from a member of staff at Dreamland Margate saying they had heard of our event in the west of the county and wondered if we could hold one in Thanet. Needless to say the rest is history as we come to the end of holding our second event for the benefit of Thanet primary school children. The only other event in Kent is held in Ashford, arranged by the local council.

I have am heartened by the way in which Thanet schools have supported the project with 740 children attending this year, an increase of nearly 120 children from 2017. I really do hope even more schools sign up next year.

One of the best developments I introduced to these events is the liaison with local secondary schools offering 6th students the opportunity to get involved in delivering a first aid scenario. Salus fund their training on the understanding that they come along to deliver an Emergency Life Support workshop to the children. The students benefit from gaining the knowledge and training of a certificated first aid qualification and we provide a letter of thanks recognising their volunteering and community work. Both valuable assets to add to their personal portfolios. Every time I have been reminded of why over the years I have enjoyed working with children and young people. The students that have attended, (this week from Royal Harbour and Hartsdown Academies), have been fantastic. Their enthusiasm, confidence and personalities have been amazing. It has been a real pleasure to have met them all.

As I hand over to my successor, Jo Stirland, I can reflect on the success of Safety in Action and am pleased to be leaving knowing that this year 5500 children from over 150 schools will have attended one of our 5 events across Kent. I must point out though that this success is only thanks to the support of all the agencies and funding providers that support us. Without them there would not be any Safety In Action. So to close I must say a huge thank you to all the agencies, organisations and volunteers that have made these events possible over the years. A rough calculation is that since I started over 50000 children in Kent have attended an event I have managed.

It’s an old cliché but it is a ‘lifelong learning’ experience for children. I hope Safety in Action continues for years to come.

Will I miss it – of course I will ……………..

Martin Carter