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Pupils' phone line for voicing education hang-ups

Service will give 247 advice for children who feel they are being let down by the system

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Service will give 247 advice for children who feel they are being let down by the system

A groundbreaking service that will allow pupils to complain about the way their school and teachers deal with them was launched today.

Meic, a national advocacy and advice helpline, will support children and young people if they feel they are not being listened to or their opinion is not being taken into account.

Supported by more than pound;450,000 of funding from the Assembly government, the service is the first of its kind in the UK to be rolled out on a national basis.

Advisers will offer children and young people under the age of 25 round- the-clock support through free phone lines, texts, email and online instant messaging. The service will provide users with information or refer them to other agencies.

Pupils can turn to it if they feel their schools or teachers are letting them down over issues such as bullying or exam stress, or if their local council is preventing them from attending their school of choice.

Although contacting the service will not spark an investigation into allegations of bullying, for example, it will point pupils in the right direction to help them take action.

A number of schools across the country took part in focus groups to help develop the new service, including St Christopher's in Wrexham, which was recognised by the Assembly government for its good practise in giving pupils a voice.

Maxine Pittaway, headteacher at the special school, said: "Children have a voice and I think it's important that they are encouraged to use it appropriately. But sometimes children have to get help from others and it's important they can have somebody to speak for them if they are not able to. That's why the phone line is such a good idea.

"I think it will be a great help for our pupils especially, not because of their special needs but because of their vulnerability."

Speaking at the launch in Wrexham, Huw Lewis AM, the deputy minister for children, said Meic was a "significant step forward" for children and young people's advocacy in Wales.

"Not only are we leading the way, we are making sure children and young people are getting support to have their voices and opinions heard in decisions that affect them," he said.

"For the first time, children and young people have a single point of contact - whether that's by phone, text or instant message - to get the help and support they need."

Keith Towler, the Children's Commissioner for Wales, said: "Meic will provide a voice for children and young people, and any service which enables their voices and opinions to be heard is to be welcomed."

On the Meic

Children and young people can get in touch with Meic - short for Meicroffon (Microphone) - by free phone on 080880 23456, free text on 84001, or instant message at www.meiccymru.org.

Initially, Meic will run for eight hours a day, seven days a week, before becoming a 24-hour service.

Meic also works with other advice services and helplines, such as ChildLine, which have a prominent safeguarding role.

Original paper headline: Phone line allows pupils to voice their education hang-ups

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