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This Is Serious

Unpacking why vulnerable 16- and 17-year-olds need our help

by The Children's Society

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To consider some of the most difficult situations facing 16- and 17-year-olds, using the latest research by The Children's Society and its Seriously Awkward campaign.
‘This is a crucial time in the Seriously Awkward campaign, with the next stage of the Policing and Crime Bill having started on the 26th April 2016. Your support will make a difference to strengthening the law to ensure 16 and 17 year olds are protected from sexual exploitation.'
Please visit for more information.

Preparation and materials


  1. Explain that turning 16 is an important milestone because, at that age, young people start to make independent decisions about many things. It is a risky time because young people begin to explore adult life without having much experience of it.
    Around the age of 16, young people undergo significant physical and emotional changes and can begin to socialize in new circles of friends and develop romantic relationships. This period of adolescence is often referred to as an awkward age, including when it comes to the law.

  2. Using the Seriously Awkward PowerPoint slide show (Slides 1-19), play the Seriously Awkward quiz.
    You can invite a few students to answer the questions at the front or invite everyone to play via signals, such as placing their hands on the floor if they think that the answer is 16, on their shoulders for 17, on their head for 18 or in the air if the answer is awkwardly ambiguous.
    Use the Seriously Awkward answer sheet for a greater explanation of the answers.

  3. Explain that, despite ambiguities in the law, most young people get through this transitional period with support and care from their families. But young people who don’t have a consistent and reliable adult around, or a stable home to live in, need extra support and protection to keep them safe from harm, abuse and neglect.

  4. Show Slide 20.
    Read, or ask a student to read, ‘Chloe’s Story’ and share the practitioner’s quote (Slide 20).
    Ask the students to think about the following questions.
    - At what points did Chloe most need help and support?
    - At what points did Chloe’s age become an issue?
    - If you were her friend, what might you have noticed and what would you have done?
  5. Ask the following questions.
    - At what age do you stop being a child?
    - At what age do you stop being legally recognized as a child?

    Explain that, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, everyone should have the rights and protection of being a child until they turn 18. Yet 16- and 17-year-olds are the least protected from abuse and neglect in law, and get much less support than younger children.

    Show Slides 21 and 22.

    Young people aged 16 and 17 are more likely to go missing or be victims of violent crime than any other age group. They are a high-risk group for sexual exploitation and domestic violence. (You may want to read out the statistics from the slide show.)

Time for reflection

Explain that The Children's Society has a campaign based on the challenges that it sees teenagers facing in its projects across the country. For the most vulnerable, the inconsistent laws and lack of protection are Seriously Awkward and cannot be ignored. That’s why The Children's Society is calling on the government to change the law to better protect 16- and 17-year-olds from harm, abuse and neglect.

A crucial opportunity has arisen to strengthen the law to protect 16- and 17-year-olds from sexual exploitation. The Policing and Crime Bill, introduced by the government in February, could see changes that mean older teenagers are better protected. As the law stands, police cannot step in and protect older teenagers in the same way that they can protect young people who are under 16, and these young people don’t always get the support they need to recover.

The Bill is currently going through Parliament and we urgently need as many MPs as possible to support the changes we want to see. Now is the time to act. You can make a difference by signing our petition.

Over 10,000 campaigners have already signed The Children's Society's Seriously Awkward petition. By adding your voice, you're helping us to put more pressure on the government.

You may wish to hand out the petition forms and pens. When everyone has had an opportunity to sign them, please return the completed forms to the following address:

Campaigns Team
Edward Rudolf House
Margery Street
London WC1X 0JL

Unchanging God,
In these years of change,
Thank you that you are constant.
In these years of change,
We give thanks for those who are our rock and refuge.
In these years of change,
We praise you for the new experiences and excitement.
In these years of change,
May we see change for those at risk of abuse and neglect.

Publication date: June 2016   (Vol.18 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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