The child protection charity wants ChildLine installed in every primary school and to talk to every pupil in bid to prevent abuse before it happens.
Chilld abuse could be reduced dramatically if more is done to stop it before it starts, the new head of the NSPCC has said.
The claim from Peter Wanless comes as the children’s charity launched its “Now I Know” campaign asking for ChildLine to be installed in every primary school in Wales.
The NSPCC, which runs ChildLine, also wants to go into all 1,556 primaries in Wales every two years to talk to children about abuse so they can recognise the signs, protect themselves and know where to get help.
At the moment too many cases come to light only when victims are teenagers, Natalie Evans, ChildLine schools service coordinator for South Wales, warned.
She said neglect, one form of abuse, was widespread.
“From what I have seen going into schools I think neglect is a much bigger problem than people realise,” she said. “It can happen to any child in any school in any area.”
The ChildLine Schools Service, which has been running in Wales for two years, is part of a major shift by the charity towards preventative work to help children know what to do if they think abuse may or is happening.
NSPCC’s new chief executive Peter Wanless, who wants ChildLine in all UK primaries, said: “People in this country do not want to tolerate child abuse.
“We no longer need to convince them of the suffering it leads to, or the costs to future lives – Jimmy Savile’s crimes are one shocking illustration of the consequences when people do not speak up and are not heard, for whatever reason.
“But we must now inspire everyone to believe that such horrors can be prevented and that they can help.”
At least two children in every primary classroom has suffered some form of abuse or neglect, the charity claims. But the majority of those contacting ChildLine are 11 or older and often talk about abuse that happened months or even years earlier.
Ms Evans said schools were key to recognising risk of abuse as well as abuse.
“Schools can ask us in to talk to year five and six pupils about ChildLine and about abuse,” she said.
“By the time most people call ChildLine they’re teenagers and the abuse has been happening for some time. We realised there’s a whole generation of people not knowing where to go.”
Ms Evans, who trains volunteers going into schools to talk to pupils and teachers, said many children didn’t realise abuse was abnormal until they were older.
“What goes on in your family is seen as normal so, if no one highlights it as not normal, you don’t know what is normal and where the boundaries are,” she warned.
“Among the things we talk about in schools are the things that happen in abusive situations. We talk to children at the pivotal age of nine, 10 and 11 in year five and six and do assemblies and workshops highlighting different types of child abuse.”
Teachers and pupils are also told neglect can happen in any family and include not having enough food, comfort or clothing.
The need for a preventative service is underlined by a new study conducted for the NSPCC by YouGov2 showing 32% of adults in Wales think they would have recognised abuse if it was happening to them at primary school and 35% would have known who to ask for help if they were being abused when they were aged nine to 13.
More than three quarters (78%) thought educating children aged nine to 11 about what abuse is and where to get help could help stop abuse.
Since launching two years ago ChildLine’s Schools Service has visited 12,743 children in 223 schools across Wales.
Ms Evans said feedback from was positive with many schools saying they felt more confident in approaching and recognising abuse.
Feedback from schools across the UK visited by ChildLine in the 2012/13 school year, reported pupils’ knowledge of child abuse and bullying was better and 91% said pupils were now more aware of who to talk to if they felt unsafe.