Relationship abuse and consent is never an easy subject to talk about but it has been the topic of conversation at one Whanganui high school this week.

Whanganui Collegiate has got behind the Loves-Me-Not relationship education programme to educate and encourage its year 12 and 13 students on how to have healthy relationships and take action against violence.

The programme was created by Lesley Elliot, mother of Sophie Elliot who was brutally murdered by her boyfriend in 2008.

Alongside Bill O'Brien, a retired police officer of 32 years, they wrote a book and formed an educational workshop with the hopes of teaching young people how to keep safe in a relationship through a whole school approach.


Senior master of pastoral care and wellbeing at Collegiate, Sjaane Simpson, says two housemasters viewed a presentation of the programme at a New Zealand Boarding Schools conference and were very impressed.

"Loves-Me-Not aims to encourage young people to be safe and active bystanders who take action against unhealthy relationships," she says.

Simpson says other aims of the programme include making students aware of who they can go to in their community to seek advice and support and to encourage them to contribute or create to a wider community response to encourage others to accept only healthy relationships.

Suggestions were also made to run the programme from Constable Robert Conder who has helped train Senior Tutor Group Staff and six housemasters over two and a half hours last week to run the programme.

They are joined alongside Police Youth Officers and Non-Government Organisation Jigsaw and representatives from Youth Services Trust, Whanganui Safe and Free and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Support.

The programme takes one school day to deliver with year 13 students undertaking the programme first yesterday and year 12 students today.

"So far it's been positively received from students," says Conder.

Within their co-ed Tutor Group classes they are spilt into four tutor groups to use resources such as PowerPoint presentations, filmed interview clips and a free copy of Lesley Elliot's Loves-Me-Not book to learn.


"The key competencies that are achieved through Loves-Me-Not are managing self, relating to others and participating and contributing and being actively involved in communities," says Simpson.

Bill O'Brien says the day focuses on year 12 students as by the time they reach this age relationships can start to become serious.

"We want students to take this programme with them beyond the workshop and incorporate it into areas of the school by reinforcing it in student-led action.

"It's really valuable and it can help with all relationships be it romantic or at school or in the workplace."

Whanganui Collegiate is one of many schools in the region and nationwide that has undertaken the programme and O'Brien says they continue to receive a heartwarming response.

"We have found it's had a positive benefit for policing as well as it's helping police to interact more in schools," he says.

Constable Robert Conder says for anyone wanting to undertake the programme to get in touch with himself or Constable Paul Miller.