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April 2007

Childnet’s school outreach continues to expand

Childnet is wanting to expand its Kidsmart School Activity Days programme to respond to the growing demand from both primary and secondary schools for Childnet staff to run sessions with their pupils, staff and parents

Pupils engage in Childnet role play sessions as part of their Activity Day

Originally established in 2002, this Childnet programme has evolved and now includes 2 staff, and a growing group of volunteers, visiting schools across the UK.  Such has been the demand that we are now seeking additional funding to employ a further schools’ worker.

During the Activity Days, Childnet staff have the opportunity to engage with students from year 3 to year 13. Using drama, films, interactive presentations and discussions with pupils, Childnet staff are able to showcase and help inspire students to use the internet positively but also to listen to and help pupils reflect on the safety issues surrounding internet. For many of these pupils it’s the first time they have been helped to assess for themselves the risky online behaviours that could potentially result in very real harm.  The role play sessions particularly are proving an excellent way for young people to recognise how their actions can put themselves, or others at risk, and how they can avoid difficult situations online.

Nicola Sanders, Childnet’s schools’ manager says,

“Working in 2 or 3 schools a week can be demanding, but there is no substitute for this face to face engagement and the students are keen to open up to us and discuss their experiences of using websites such as Bebo and MySpace and what to do if they are being cyberbullied over their mobile phone or through Instant Messenger. This day-to-day feedback and engagement with children also gives us such valuable insight and ensures that our policy reflections and production of new resources is relevant and impactful."

To give an example of this impact, in the last 3 months we have run 22 Activity Days and estimate we have reached some 6,500 students with this face-to-face training. The feedback from school staff indicates that for many pupils these sessions can be life-changing.

One ICT co-ordinator from a recent school wrote to us,

“Many, many thanks for coming out to us yesterday.  I have had so much encouraging feedback from both kids and staff. The Jenny's Story film you showed the older children really hit home and my form said they could really relate to you as they felt you understood what their needs were and that you were knowledgeable about the stuff they do. Colleagues here were really impressed with your delivery style and the advice."

Over the last year, Childnet has also expanded its training programme for teachers and volunteers so they can start to use the Childnet resources on an ongoing basis.  Whilst there is now excellent policy information and online resources for schools, the value of presenting the issues face-to-face to groups of teachers is proving invaluable. For example last week Childnet staff ran a session for 50 ICT co-ordinators of the Trafford Local Authority in Manchester.  After the session, Margaret Billington the ICT co-ordinator for the LA wrote,

“We have taken proactive steps in supporting schools, partly by putting technological solutions in place and offering advice through the distribution of relevant publications and websites.  However, I don’t think we should ever underestimate the importance of face to face presentations of this type, particularly when provided by an organisation that plays a part in influencing policy at national level.  You presented a balanced view which allowed the audience to feel comfortable in sharing and discussing issues that had occurred in schools without teachers feeling ‘responsible’ or in any sense ‘inadequate’.  It is so easy to demonise the technology and create a culture where teachers seek to abdicate responsibility.  You captured the essence of this with the question about responsibility, and education, stopping at the school gate?  This was the specific aspect of the input that I particularly welcomed and felt was so important for this audience.

My first contact with Childnet International was in response to a difficult incident of cyberbullying that had occurred in one of our secondary schools.  The advice offered was pragmatic and demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues involved.  This was passed on and followed up with the school to a satisfactory conclusion.  I had not appreciated at the time what a small organisation Childnet is, but as a LA with limited resources I have found the support from Childnet invaluable”

Stephen Carrick-Davies CEO from Childnet writes,

“We really believe that this pro-active, tailored education programme for both pupils,  and increasingly teachers,  is needed now more than ever before.  We are seeing that the subjects covered in the activity days are supremely relevant to the PSHE and Citizenship curriculum and Teachers need our help. We now need to find new funding so we can work with more schools so teachers are better equipped to help pupils to use the internet safely whether in school or out of school."

For more information about the Childnet school activity days contact Nicola Sanders or see Childnet’s Kidsmart website.

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