A place of danger opens for pupils

21st October 2005 at 01:00
"Don't sit down, you might impale yourself," is an unusual way to be greeted at a children's activity centre. But a visit to DangerPoint is unlike any other day out.

Yes, there are buttons to push, video screens and films to watch. But a mocked-up seaside scene where everyone is either drowning, being swept out to sea or tangled in netting?

A replica house with knitting needles on the sofa and the kettle flex in the sink? And a mini Co-op stocked with spirits, solvents, scissors and cigarettes?

Welcome to Wales's first danger awareness centre, where children will be taught, in a series of realistic settings, about everyday dangers from smoking to dodgy internet chat rooms.

The pound;2 million project is run and staffed by North Wales police and fire services, and is housed in BHP Billiton's former visitor centre at its Point of Ayr gas terminal near Prestatyn. Three years in the making, it is the newest of three such centres in the UK and opened last week.

Among those to have test-driven DangerPoint, with head danger ranger and centre manager Alan Morgan, are pupils from Ysgol Caer Drewyn, Corwen, who scripted and acted in the centre's bullying and drug-abuse videos.

"Right, if a car was travelling at 30mph, how far away would it need to be to stop safely if you stepped off the pavement?" asked Mr Morgan, at a replica road junction with real traffic lights and pelican crossing.

"Show me," he shouted as the children ran away. Nobody went remotely far enough.

With lesson one learned they were on an emotional roller-coaster, excited by the technology but sobered by the message it conveyed - especially when watching a film in a real Arriva train carriage about a boy killed while playing on railway lines. "We can't tell them not to do something because then they want to do it," said Mr Morgan. "What we do is explain their choices and their consequences."

Afterwards the children were united in their enthusiasm.

"It was fun, but don't take drugs was the main thing I'll remember," said 11-year-old Kevin Windmill, who played a bullied boy in one of the films.

But is the centre in danger of terrifying its young visitors?

Not at all, insists Dilys Elis, deputy head of Ysgol Maes Hyfryd, Cynwyd near Bala, whose pupils took part in the drug-abuse film. "They are quite tough, really."

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