As it currently stands, Birmingham has the highest number of National Online Safety Certified Schools in the UK. After such a turbulent year, Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School wished to join the ranks of schools in the area that are going the extra mile to keep children safe online.
Beginning an online safety journey
Protecting children online has always been at the heart of everything Our Lady’s strives to do, but it was only through National Online Safety that they found that perfect suite of guidance and information.
John O’Shea, Head of Computing and Mathematics at Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School, told us how they first came across National Online Safety.
“We’re a one-form entry catholic school in east Birmingham,” He said.
“We’ve been trying to push online safety for the last couple of years - we tried a lot of different ways of doing things, but we came across National Online Safety on Twitter through the #WakeUpWednesday guides.”
He went on to explain how they initially implemented online safety training throughout the school.
“After deciding to go ahead with the package, we jumped straight in with the staff training first of all, in order to get them trained up; using the webinars which (NOS) have available.
“At the school, we have what we call inspire workshops, where each class hosts a workshop for parents, and there’s always a theme. Tagged onto that, we started running online safety briefing for parents and we found that was the best way to engage them, so we used National Online Safety’s materials in those sessions.
“They were really enthused by the materials which we printed off and we then got them to sign up and undertake some of the courses.”
The students from Our Lady's proudly display the school's NOS certified school certificate.
A proactive approach during a time of crisis
With Covid-19 forcing vast numbers of students to continue their learning remotely, an increased focus has been placed on the effective use of technology to help make this process as smooth as possible.
However, in light of the heightened internet use, Our Lady’s wanted to take a proactive approach and upskill the community on what potential dangers children could encounter online.
“With increased remote learning comes the pitfalls of the internet and online safety, so we really pushed that with our staff to make sure that they were up to date on the training,” Mr O’Shea explained.
“Staff took upon themselves to self-select their own topics, because the issues you face in Year 5 and 6 are different to the ones which you encounter in Year 3, so they were able to handpick what they were looking at.
“We moved to Microsoft Teams for our remote learning. The children then saw that it had a chat function and viewed it like WhatsApp and thankfully within the application we’ve not had any issues, but we were able to signpost to your guidance and remind the children that it was an extension of school.”
Validation for all involved
Becoming an accredited school is a collective effort on behalf of teaching staff, governors, support staff and parents.
This is something that delighted Mr O’Shea and the rest of the school, because it highlights just how serious they are about protecting their pupils when they engage with an ever-evolving online world.
On this point, Mr O’Shea stated: “It’s brilliant for the school!
“Everyone bought into it, and it shows that we’re committed to online safety and not just teaching staff, but our office staff too. They take great pride in being up to speed with everything and, since lockdown, they’re pretty much the face of the school.
“The governors have done the training too, so it provides that thread throughout the school. We’re all singing off the same hymn sheet and we all know what’s expected of us.”