RM seminars (Online safety stream – ‘Sexting in schools and colleges’)

Well, yesterday was a very long and intensive day, but well worth the time and effort.  It was an early start for me in order to arrive in good time for RM’s seminar at the National Conference Centre near Birmingham.  When pre-booking, I opted for the online safety stream, which was entitled ‘Sexting in schools and colleges‘ and was to focus on responding to incidents and safeguarding young people.

After a formal welcome and brief introduction, we heard from our first speaker, Ally Sultana. Ally was representing the NSPCC (https://www.nspcc.org.uk) and is a Local Campaign Manager for the Midlands region, helping to keep children and young people safe.  She discussed the NSPCC’s definition of what sexting is, along with findings from their recent research and provided support on how to handle such incidents.  The research to date has focused very much on 11 to 16 year olds/18 year olds; however, this is not to say that there are no instances of sexting among primary age children.  The NSPCC’s intention is to extend their research to consider younger children in future, I believe.

Next, Will Gardner, CEO at Childnet International (http://www.childnet.com) in London, spoke on behalf of the UK Safer Internet Centre (http://www.saferinternet.org.uk), an umbrella organisation which includes themselves, SWGfL and IWF.  He talked about how to deal with sexting incidences from their perspective, as well as outlining the resources available to teaching professionals.  We watched a brilliant movie clip from the soon-to-be-released ‘Crossing the Line’ resource pack.  Many agreed that this not only needed to be used with teenagers, but also shown to staff and parents/carers.  Will later gave some insight into the types of calls their helpline has taken surrounding the subject of sexting.

We were fortunate to have Gareth Edwards from Norfolk Police pay a visit too.  Gareth is a Principal Policy and Performance Advisor to Chief Constable, Simon Bailey.  He focused on the police involvement in putting together the new safeguarding guidance and how local police can support schools in managing sexting incidents.  Once a device is seized by the police, it is unlikely to be returned to its original owner.  Several delegates were unaware of this and saw the implications that this might have, e.g. parents/carers demanding the return of confiscated devices due to their expense, it being a vital means of communication with their son/daughter, classwork and homework links contained on it.  Gareth also emphasised about not copying evidence onto school or personal equipment as this could have wider repercussions.

A representative from Farrer & Co (http://www.farrer.co.uk), an independent law firm, talked about case law in relation to sexting and highlighted some of the cases that they have had to deal with as lawyers.  It was interesting to learn how the relevant legal documents are worded and terminology is interpreted.  In fact, schools have more power than the police in certain circumstances!

Time was allocated for us to put forward our questions to the panel before breaking for lunch in the main hall downstairs.  An hour’s respite enabled a spot of networking and perusal of exhibitor’s stands, products and services.  I spoke with those from Big Brain Maths (http://www.bigbrainmaths.com) and Literacy Planet (http://www.literacyplanet.com).  I am looking forward to trialing their recently developed products both in the classroom and with private tutees shortly.

Jon Needham is a Safeguarding Advisor based at Birmingham City Council.  He supports local schools to educate and advise on safeguarding and issues online.  Whilst the content of his speech related very much to Birmingham, the picture is similar elsewhere.  I know there is a MASH that has been established in Gloucestershire and have recently read documentation on the County Council’s website concerning reporting procedures and the services and support on offer.  Nevertheless, it may have been more beneficial to take a generic approach to safeguarding again here, so that all delegates gained something from this session.

I particularly enjoyed the interactive workshop that followed, which was led by Charlotte Aynsley from www.e-safetytraining.co.uk.  Charlotte’s delivery was exemplary and her knowledge extensive.  It was also a great opportunity to chat with other delegates about their role, experiences, etc.  We were given a variety of case studies and had to assess risks and make decisions about how best to handle incidents.  This really helped to bring home the reality of sexting within our society today.

A quick break for tea/coffee and flapjack ensured we were suitably revitalised and refreshed before the final reflection and wrapping up of the day.  This event is repeated in two further locations – do go to one if you can.