Help for the shy cooks...

Nicola Porter

Easily-embarrassed school cooks and bus drivers are being given lessons on how to explain the birds and the bees to teenagers.

A pilot scheme, the first of its kind in Britain, has been launched to help red-faced adults tackle hot-under-the-collar encounters with teens in their care. Any worker whose job involves young people is invited to attend the workshop days in Swansea, west Wales. The workshops, which are funded by a Welsh Assembly special grant of pound;5,000, are divided into sessions on child protection, communication and challenging behaviour.

Course leaders are specially trained to provide those taking part with solutions for any situation they might come across when dealing with young people.

Workers take part in role-playing exercises to learn how to tackle personal questions and deal with embarrassing situations. This could include answering any questions they may be asked about sex, or dealing with more serious concerns about child or sexual abuse.

Alan Twelvetrees, children and young people partnerships' strategy manager for Swansea council, said the pilot scheme had been an outstanding success to date.

He said: "Teenagers today are a lot less prudish than some of us oldies, and discuss subjects such as sex much more openly."

Two workshops have already taken place, both with a full quota of 32 workers, and organisers are bracing themselves for a bumper intake next time.

Norman Bifield, course leader, said: "I believe that incidental workers are becoming more aware of a lack of knowledge and skills in their relationships with young people.

"Young people themselves have changed. So has legislation to protect children. Workers are realising they need knowledge and skills in building positive relationships with them."

He also said the course helped workers to defuse any aggressive behaviour by young people towards themselves. Teachers do not currently take part in the Welsh Assembly-funded initiative, but including them on future courses has not been ruled out.

Mr Twelvetrees said: "We can all be really good at what we do, but we can't all be good relating to children on a personal level."

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Nicola Porter

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