Grove Street Primary School is a nurturing primary school and nursery, situated in the small town of New Ferry in Wirral.
As a school that caters from ages 2 to 11, it is vital that the staff at Grove Street are able to keep on top of the latest risks when it comes to digital safeguarding across different age groups. The school is also situated in an area of high deprivation, rendering the work of the staff all the more crucial for students in potentially vulnerable situations.
For this week’s case study, we spoke to Hannah Kingsley who, along with her colleague Phillip McClements, holds the role of Online Safety and Digital Curriculum Lead.
An early-years approach
Whilst Mr. McClements is responsible for implementing online safety education for students in Key Stage Two, Miss Kingsley ensures that the youngest pupils are kept safe online.
“Me and Phil are both online safety and digital curriculum leads,” She explained.
“This is a new role that was created this year to highlight the importance of online safety to us as a school.”
So, why is it important for younger children to be properly educated when it comes to staying safe online?
“The main reason, I would say, is the prevalence of devices these days.” Said Miss Kingsley.
“Nowadays, you have toddlers who use devices, which would have been unheard of five or 10 years ago - so we feel that we have a duty of care to ensure that our students have the knowledge and skills to use these devices effectively.
“We do actually have a twos room, so our computing curriculum runs from toddlers to year six. Of course, not everything is based on devices, some of it is more practical, but we can still have those conversations as far as device care goes, what apps children are allowed to go on, what they should avoid.”
Embedding online safety in the curriculum
Since signing up with National Online Safety, Miss Kingsley and her colleagues have recognised that digital safeguarding for all ages should play a key part in the curriculum – not just on occasion, but all year round.
“I would also say that staying safe online is a constant concern rather than a one-day-event.” She said.
“For example, in the past we may have just done one day, like safer internet day, then not talk about it again - but now we want to discuss it all the time, during every single computing lesson.”
She went on to describe some of the most prevalent online safeguarding issues for the students at Grove Street.
“Most recently, TikTok and YouTube have caused the most problems.
“For TikTok, the problem is twofold. First, it’s access in general – as our children shouldn’t be on there – and the second issue is not appreciating other people’s privacy whilst they are on there.
“Another issue we’ve had recently was YouTube, specifically with younger students accessing videos that are just not appropriate.”
The students at Grove Street hard at work on their tablet devices
To tackle these online safety issues, the team at Grove Street have been working hard to get staff, students, and parents up to speed on the latest digital trends. They have done so by rolling out courses and guides from National Online Safety.
“All the staff have completed the relevant courses with National Online Safety – we’ve also got an online safety governor, who has completed the governors' training.” Explained Miss Kingsley.
“Phil and I have also written a set of digital literacy questions that we ask before every computing lesson. The discussion takes place at the beginning of each session, and it can be either a question chosen by the teacher or one that reflects current events, like something that has recently happened in class.
“We have had ongoing issues with videos and games that aren’t age appropriate, and there’s a guide on that subject that we sent to parents. We distributed a guide every day during anti-bullying week, and because we use Class Dojo we were able to share those resources with single classes or the whole school.”
Miss Kingsley and her colleagues have also worked hard to expand their efforts beyond NOS courses and resources, enlisting help from the local community.
“As well as our work with National Online Safety, we also follow the Wirral online safety procedures.
“We are going to have internet safety week – a whole week rather than a day – which will complement what we do, rather than act as a standalone event.
“Finally, the local community support officer recently visited to talk about online bullying, so we now have great links with him.
“Online safety is really growing here – we’re thinking of new things to do every day!”
After receiving their Certified School accreditation for 2020/2021, the staff at Grove Street were pleased with how much progress had been made.
“We’re really pleased and happy about how the school has come together,” Said Miss Kingsley.
“It’s not just us [the online safety and digital curriculum leads] doing the work, but everyone across the community is getting involved with it.
But she also notes that it is important to stay ahead of the curve – especially when it comes to younger children and online gaming.
“We’re excited to carry on and continue our commitment to online safety – we’re going to build on this achievement.
“The most important thing is keeping up to date with things because they change so often.
“I really think that when you’re trying to teach children about online safety, there is nothing worse than having outdated information… it makes you look unprepared.
“If you talk to children about something they no longer use, how are you going to get them to trust that you know what you’re saying if you can’t even get the latest game right?!”