Protective Behaviours – a new approach to being safe

There is a difference between telling children and young people what is a dangerous situation or dangerous behaviour, and helping them to recognise for them selves what it means to feel safe or unsafe.

As adults we are very good at telling and showing children and young people what is and is not safe. We give them an ‘external reference’ so that they can recognise and measure ‘unsafe’ activities and circumstances – crossing the road, using a sharp knife, conducting an experiment in the science lab, talking to someone in a chat room. What Protective Behaviours adds is the ‘internal measure’ of safety – how do I feel? What does safe feel like? What does unsafe feel like? What does it feel like for me? And crucially, what can I do if I feel unsafe?

Protective Behaviours is not a set of lesson plans but a process, a web of ideas and strategies that feed into and support each other. Staff training leads to an internalisation of the process and access to the skills and strategies which support the two themes:
We all have the right to feel safe all of the time
We can talk to someone about anything even if it is awful or small

These skills and strategies are applicable to young people’s whole lives: an understanding of ‘unwritten rules’; the connection between feelings, thoughts and behaviour; the recognition of intuitive early warning signs; the knowledge that it is ok to break the rules in an emergency; a network of people who can help; the language and vocabulary to express their feelings.

An ethos of Protective Behaviours can support a school on many levels, from whole school policy development – what better start to a behaviour or anti-bullying policy than ‘We all have the right to feel safe’ – through classroom activities, to individual crisis intervention. Protective Behaviours has a particular and critical role to play in
Personal safety
Risk taking behaviour
Restorative justice
Inappropriate behaviour / relationships
Anger management / challenging behaviour
Resisting pressure / saying ‘no’ / consent
Abuse and child protection
Assessing and managing risk
Respect for self and others
Emotional literacy

The Health Education Service offers Protective Behaviours training to schools, children’s centres, indeed any organisation that works with children and young people. It is available on a number of different levels
• Whole staff awareness raising
• Bespoke training for organisations
• Foundation Level training (2 days)
and is applicable and relevant to all age ranges. Details of the centre-based courses can be found at,228/view,listevents/

For further information or to discuss protective behaviours training in your school please contact Liz Bates at