Ballyclare High School - 'Our approach to esafety'

Posted on 02 March 2015

Mhairi Hill, eSafety co-ordinator from Ballyclare High School, tells us what she has done to implement effective esafety provision throughout the school.  

Acknowledging new technologies and the social web as an always-on extension to our lives is an essential element of effective Pastoral Care. In early 2013, we reviewed our esafety provision using the 360 Degree Safe eSafety Self-Review Tool. The tool benchmarks provision against other schools, and has been proven to have a significant impact in raising the standard of esafety practice. It became clear that, whilst embracing the opportunities the internet offers, our school community was being left exposed to the risks. 

It became my priority to formulate an action plan that would take us to a position where we met the benchmark level for the eSafe Mark, at minimum. I started with myself: I formed connections with like-minded professionals by tweeting about esafety from @mrs_hill08 and I searched for training that would equip me with the knowledge that went beyond my own experiences of the social web, discovering CEOP’s ‘Ambassador’ training. Aside from the information and understanding I gained from this two-day course, I realised that the delivery of esafety training and education had to be straight and undiluted, acknowledging both the benefits and risks.

Effective eSafety provision requires consideration of practice and policy in equal measure, and for successful implementation, whole-school buy-in is essential: staff were encouraged to discuss esafety issues with some well-placed resources in the staffroom; Heads of Subject worked in cluster groups and focused on how elements of their Schemes of Work might require an esafety ‘risk assessment’; training days included the Safe & Effective Use of Social Media, Protecting Professional Reputation and eSafeguarding, with the Pastoral Team completing additional training in the form of the NSPCC’s Keeping Children Safe Online course. Our eSafety Policy was developed, and our Social Media and Handheld Devices Policies followed. Policy plus training provision ensured our staff were protected in both their personal and professional use of technology, and importantly were equipped to safeguard our pupils and support members of the school community through online incidents.

Pupil voice was a powerful tool in shaping our set of esafety-related policies, and our pupils have been key to some of our most successful awareness-raising events in recent months. Since forming on Safer Internet Day 2014, our pupil eSafety Group have been a part of the policy consultation process, held a Social Media Workshop for parents, created a video encouraging their peers to ‘Make the Right Choice Online’, and, in September 2014, embarked on an exciting pilot programme with Childnet as Digital Leaders. As part of the Digital Leader programme, pupils studied six modules, blogging at https://digitalleadersbhs.wordpress.com and tweeting from @BHS_DL as they went. On completion of their training they delivered a peer-education session that reached all 187 of our Year 9. 

With INEQE ‘How to...’ videos playing on our big screens, wall displays in keys areas and esafety prompt posters in most classrooms, the esafety message at Ballyclare High School is designed to empower pupils to make the right choices online, with the know-how to minimise negative consequences of over-sharing or inappropriate communication, and to respect the rights of others. For Safer Internet Day 2015, our pupils came together to acknowledge that creating a better internet is well and truly #up2us.

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