YORK schoolchildren have reported allegations of abuse for the first time after seeing a play promoting the message that being abused is ‘never OK’.

The ‘It’s not OK’ play, which features four characters exploring issues around child sexual abuse, exploitation, sexting, relationships and consent, has been performed at every York secondary school and others elsewhere.

Now it has been turned into a series of films which can be used by schools across the country, and it emerged at the films’ launch at York St John University that ‘disclosures’ were made by pupils after the York performances.

Simon Westwood, independent chair of the City of York safeguarding children board, said a number of young people in York were “able to speak to an adult about abusive experiences in their lives” after watching the play and taking part in theatre workshops.

He said: “A safeguarding expert was present at each of the sessions to ensure that any disclosures that were made were handled sensitively and the appropriate support was provided.

“Disclosures would be referred to City of York Council’s children’s social care team and North Yorkshire Police, as appropriate.”

A council spokeswoman could not say whether anyone had been arrested or prosecuted as a result of disclosures.

Helen Westerman, of the NSPCC, said children who had suffered abuse or neglect were often worried what would happen when they revealed the details and would only do so to adults who they trusted.

She said: “Often, these disclosures of abuse are made directly to the NSPCC via our Childline service, when our trained volunteers and staff are visiting schools across the UK or as a result of events like the play currently touring schools. When this happens we seek immediate support for the child affected and make sure appropriate protection measures are put in place.”

The ‘It’s not OK’ play was created in 2015 by York St John University’s School of Performance and Media Production, commissioned by the Local Safeguarding Children Board and developed by the NSPCC to reach every Year 7 pupil in York with healthy relationship messages, said a university spokeswoman. It then went on a national tour, reaching more than 25,000 young people across the UK.

The play, performed by York St John students, gave a single clear message that abuse is never OK, she said.

To reach more children, the NSPCC then commissioned the university to develop it into an online digital resource, now available on the charity’s website free of charge for schools and youth organisations to use with young people.

Helen Westerman, of the NSPCC, said: “This is a vital tool in shattering the hidden nature of child sexual abuse; perpetrators can rely on manipulating their victims into believing they are in loving relationships rather than the toxic reality.

“With this resource we can empower children to know when something isn’t right, to have the confidence to say no and speak out.”