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Upskilling the Whole School Community: Case Study from Willow Park Academy

Willow Park Academy believes that learning should be engaging, purposeful and challenging.  That’s reflected in their approach to online safety, which led to them ultimately opting for a Certified School Membership with National Online Safety.

Headteacher Louise Hayes joined us to discuss how Willow Park is empowering its whole school community to keep children safe in the digital world.

An ever-changing digital world

Reflecting on the move to remote education throughout the pandemic, staff had to adapt to new ways of safeguarding their pupils online.

Louise explained: "Over the last two years, we've all had to get on board with a different way of working and had to think of new, innovative ways to teach the children."

"We've had to move with the times and get a bit more progressive in terms of the use of technology,” she continued. "Technology is becoming such a big part of our everyday lives."

She reasoned: "Thinking about how quickly things are progressing, we need to think of ways in which we can make them savvier and smarter when it comes to using the online world safely."

"They all have the world at their fingertips with smartphones, laptops and other devices."

Louise stated: "It's a big part of our job as educators to acknowledge the online risks and dangers. We can only do that by upskilling our staff: allowing them to understand the online world and to encourage children to be critical about the things they’re seeing online."

"Ultimately, we’d like the children to be able to enjoy the benefits of being online in a safe and appropriate way."

Joining National Online Safety

National Online Safety frequently updates our resources and training – so that all our member schools can remain up to date with the latest developments in the ever-changing digital world.

Louise said: "At Willow Park Academy, using National Online Safety was a big part of upskilling our staff and providing them with the confidence and the knowledge to support the children to make the right choices when they’re using devices."

"I was looking for really up-to-date content within the CPD package for staff,” she elaborated. “I wanted to make sure that it aligned very closely to the latest guidance and legislation, particularly the DfE's Keeping Children Safe in Education. I wanted it to be accessible for staff and not too overwhelming."

A big advantage for Willow Park Academy was our package’s comprehensive nature, with the ability to empower not only school staff but the wider community, too.

Louise confirmed: "I think the mix of the webinars and courses, and the different training and resources available through the Certified School programme, makes it really accessible to the whole team."

"From cleaning and catering staff to senior leaders within school, it's relevant for everyone and is something that they can all benefit from."

Louise revealed: "Staff find it very useful that they can dip in and out of training. There's a lot that we can signpost staff and children to when different issues crop up in school."

"National Online Safety helps our staff to keep up to date with the latest guidance and updates, ensuring that they’re keeping their teaching and learning relevant to the children."

Parent and carer engagement

At Willow Park Academy, it’s not just the school’s staff who are benefiting from award-winning resources such as our free mobile app.

"We're able to direct parents to the app,” Louise nodded. “It's really useful and we can share that with them on our social media. They have access to a wealth of information on how to keep their children safe at home."

Responding to the latest apps, games and online trends, our weekly #WakeUpWednesday series has been invaluable for Willow Park, who’ve been able to send out timely information when necessary.

Louise agreed: "The #WakeUpWednesday guides are very relevant and easy for parent and carers to access. They immediately engage the parents, showing the latest trends and risks, which is really useful."

Achieving Certified School Accreditation

Reflecting on the achievement of becoming a Certified School, Louise says that the resultant feeling of pride will only spur the team on to promote the resources and training even more.

She declared: “We're very proud. We've achieved certified status for the last two years now, and it's something that we continue to promote and share with the whole school community."

"We take a lot of pride in sharing the Certified School Accreditation with parents."

"The biggest positive is seeing the confidence that it's given the whole school community, to improve their knowledge of online safety," Louise summarised. "It's a reassurance that we’re doing everything that we can to keep our children safe online."

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