Well, today, I had my Online Safety Accredited Assessor’s ‘hat’ on. A couple of month’s ago, Ron Richards, Online Safety Consultant at SWGfL, asked me if I would like to pay a visit to The Catholic School of Saint Gregory the Great in the centre of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, as they were due for an Online Safety Mark re-assessment. The school achieved an Online Safety Mark three years ago and it was time for them to apply for re-accreditation. Would they be able to step up to the mark once again?
I received a warm welcome on arrival at the school. I met briefly with the Head Teacher, Mrs Charlotte Blanch, and the Online Safety Lead, Miss Jo Fowler, to confirm arrangements for the day, before discussing the school’s completed 360 degree safe self review tool’s submission with them and the Computing Lead. The school had undertaken a detailed review themselves, reaching the accredited level or above in all 28 aspects. There appeared to be several areas of strength and only a couple of aspects that might be gleaned to be somewhat ‘weaker’. I had a few questions to ask about points that had been noted, e.g. their Digital Online Safety Group, the taught curriculum, staff and governor training, parent/carer and community engagement, and was keen to discover more about their future plans. Answers to my questions were forthcoming, positive and enlightening.
It was then time for the real interview stint! Firstly, I met with a Year 4 teacher, who is also the School Council Lead, and members of the School Council, the Online Safety Champion and his deputy. The children responded willingly to my questions and a lively discussion ensued. I was impressed by both their level of digital literacy and awareness of online safety issues.
Next up, were parents/carers and governors. The school’s communication with parents/carers is very good and an openness was clearly apparent. Parents/carers admitted that they often learn about aspects of online safety following discussions with their child/children at home, as well as via newsletters and magazines sent from school, links displayed on the school’s website or items shared via their Twitter feed. They also felt very comfortable approaching the school for support in dealing with online safety issues that might arise beyond the school boundary. Having a former Further Education computing teacher and GCHQ employee on the Governing Body is certainly helpful when reviewing and evaluating online safety policies and practices in school too!
After a short break, it was the turn of the support staff, representing a variety of roles, e.g. teaching partners, School Business Manager, Lead Pastoral Practitioner. They provided additional information about online safety education and training and the expected procedures in school. Our discussion also gave them a few ideas for areas for further development, e.g. to consider hosting another of SWGfL’s fantastic online safety briefings and inviting individuals from local schools too.
Being a two form entry school, it was great to have the chance to meet with professionals from a number of year groups, plus the Computing Lead again. Teachers were clearly aware of online safety issues and how pertinent it is to relay related messages to youngsters that they teach. Not only do they deliver a specific online safety module, but they team teach the eLIN computing curriculum alongside the Computing Lead, referencing online safety at regular intervals, as well as on an ad hoc basis in the classroom. It was also pleasing to hear the same procedures being reiterated, suggesting that a consistent approach is maintained throughout the school.
I then spoke with Martin Treacher from Hempsted IT, the school’s out-sourced technical support and the Online Safety Lead once more. Whilst I have liaised with Martin and his counter-part, Mike Webb, on numerous occasions before, I have never had to interview him formally. Fortunately, Martin was extremely cooperative and did not put me on the spot! Seeing a familiar face, and knowing the expertise and insight that both him and Mike have between them, reassured me that the school is in very capable hands.
A 30 minute break to review the evidence and reflect upon what I had heard throughout the morning was much appreciated before feeding back to the Senior Leadership Team. Although more material is available to access online in advance of an assessment today than even just a few years ago, it is always useful to have some time in situ to explore other documentation and seek any necessary clarification from the Online Safety Lead.
Following my lengthy discussions and perusal of relevant material, I was pleased to be able to give very positive feedback to those ‘at the top’. The school certainly deserved to have their Online Safety Mark renewed and it was a pleasure to present them with a certificate of attainment. I hope that they are able to truly fulfill their ‘next steps’ in the very near future and look forward to reading/hearing about their successes. Remember to ‘get tweeting’!