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Case Study: Online Safety at Winstanley College

With approximately 2000 students, Winstanley College is a level 3 college for students aged from 16-19 located in Billinge, Wigan.

Factoring in the amount of time which is now spent online in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Winstanley see National Online Safety’s Certified School Programme as an essential part of their safeguarding approach.

Headteacher and Designated Safeguarding Lead, Deborah Owen, kindly took the time to speak to us about how the college have implemented National Online Safety’s resources and training, and what results they’ve seen from this.

The importance of online safety

As the online world continues to evolve, so do the risks posed to children and young adults – a view which is shared by Deborah and Winstanley as a collective.

With this in mind, they wanted a package that would support the whole school community and empower staff, parents and students alike.

Speaking about the significance of protecting children and young children online, Deborah said: “It’s never been more important, given that 50% of their learning is online at the moment! But going back to pre-COVID, online safety is really important to this age group because they do spend an incredibly large amount of their time online.

“So if you take education out of the mix, they socialise online, and communicate online. When they’re out of school, the National PSHCE Curriculum doesn’t apply to schools and colleges – so there are broad definitions of what they need to be following, where schools need to follow a pre-prescribed curriculum.

"Then also, from a very broad perspective, we’re trying to make sure that they leave further education and they go on to jobs and apprenticeships, and they are employable. We want to teach them how to be responsible online, how their Instagram posts need to be professional – so we speak a lot about their cyber footprint and try to educate them on that.”

Choosing National Online Safety

After being recommended to them, it quickly became apparent that National Online Safety was something that needed to be a necessity in the college.

Following this, Deborah and her team moved quickly to get Winstanley signed up and then began rolling out the resources and training available.

“We had an Ofsted report last year, and it talked in part about our students awareness of online safety issues. At one of our safeguarding briefings, someone recommended National Online Safety and told us that it was a really great way of doing things – becoming accredited,” she revealed.

“What appeals to me massively is the way the system is set up: you can get all your staff trained, track their progress and monitor everything that’s going on. You make it very easy for me as an educator! You can track it which makes it so easy for our senior staff to pull reports from.

“We had been looking for ages to find something that was high quality. There’s a lot out there and you’re really bombarded as a teacher, and as a school leader, by spam, every single day to try and sell you CPD courses. So this looked to me like the best thing on the market in terms of quality of resources offered.

"I also like the idea of getting accredited, which most schools and colleges also like – you can tell people that your school has completed training in this and that, but at the end of the day education is all about qualifications!”

Local online safety issues

Deborah spoke specifically about safeguarding issues in the local area, but the tailored nature of National Online Safety’s training and resources has helped with this immensely, she declared.

Wigan is an interesting one – there was recently a case that we use in our examples, which was an issue of online radicalisation. A young lad came that was around 3-4 years older than our students now, and he was friends with some students at our college. So that’s an issue we look at now,” she explained.

“Also, we fall under greater Manchester, so around this area there is some concern about county lines, knife crime and gang culture – that doesn’t really spill into Wigan and our college, but we are duty bound (and rightly so) to make our students aware of those risks.”

“Again, in terms of the college – it’s something that a lot of colleges face – one of the other issues is cyberbullying. We are trying to make the students aware that it doesn’t have to be posting ‘I hate so-and-so’, but it can also be liking, sharing, retweeting and printing screens. The issues we have with Snapchat – supposedly posts disappear after 24 hours, but not if you screenshot them! So that’s something we have quite a lot of issues with.

“Not so much anymore, but we’ve also had some problems with sexting.”

Tackling those online safety concerns

Developing those above points further, a huge plus point for Winstanley have been our weekly #WakeUpWednesday guides, which provide a topic-specific breakdown of the risks associated with the latest apps and games.

She said: “Apart from the online training, one of the things we have done is used the online safety guides. They’re really good, because we send them out to our tutors and the information on them is the basis of future tutorial sessions. They are also put on our online learning platforms on MS teams. We use every bit of it, really!

“Even if we don’t necessarily give those guides out or post them around the college, we certainly use them for the information on there. We have also sent a couple of them out on the parent app, just to make them aware.

"From a staffing point of view, I also like all the regularly updated information on social media platforms. We are diverse in age as a college, and for quite a lot of us, it has been a long time since we were teenagers! Quite a lot of things that students use are things we have never used ourselves.”

Ease of use

Furthermore, the user-friendly interface and navigation of our platform has been a major positive for the college too, with training and resources designed with the user in mind.

“It’s the functionality of National Online Safety that I really like, but I must say that the general training course that all of our staff completed was excellent,” she stated.

“I love the functionality of your system – the diversity of the online learning, and the autosaving function, it really isn’t like that anywhere else, and as teachers we’ve seen a lot of training platforms!

"That side of things is really, really positive. Staff have had really positive feedback and I think that’s a big reason why – a few of them have even gone on to do more additional courses because they find it so easy to use.”

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