VIEWS & OPINION How to survive the parent

online safety evening Comment by MARK BENTLEY, London Grid for Learning

As a team we’re often posed with the question: ‘I’ve been asked to run a parent session on online safety – what should we do?’ These evenings are often intimidating for teachers: how do you ensure parents turn up and once they’re sitting down, what should you teach them? Here are my top tips on how to run an interesting and informative parent online safety seminar.

Try drip-feeding information throughout the year instead Ask yourself (and your SLT) if a parent session is really the best way to keep parents and carers informed. Our top recommendation is drip- feeding information to families throughout the year, making the news and advice less overwhelming. Face-to-face sessions can be very helpful too - but ensure you

consider whether a stand-alone annual approach is the most effective. Will parents come? Will your efforts lead to measurable, sustainable support? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, it might be time to rethink your school’s technique. One more efficient method is to include an online safety briefing within another event where parental attendance is guaranteed.

Find out if parents feel confident discussing online safety with their children A good way to spark a productive discussion is to present the following statistics (compiled from our Hopes and Streams survey of 40,000 young people) onscreen as parents enter the session: • Two in five pupils have never told anyone about the worst thing that has happened to them online

• But of those who did, 94% told someone they knew, and 71% chose to confide in a parent/carer

• 73% of pupils trust parents’ advice on online safety, but only 56% talk about it more than once a year Point out that the first two stats prove why it’s so important that

families are open with each other. The third stat demonstrates how children recognise that adults’ life experience and wisdom is helpful when facing a challenge online.

DO NOT scaremonger about the latest worrying apps, sites, games, or dares! We don’t recommend providing lists of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ apps as it generates a false sense of security, provides the sites with free publicity that may draw more young people to them, and spreads panic among parents. Focus on helping parents understand the latest features and functionality of games and apps and ensure they know the general guidelines of sensible behaviour online. If you feel the need to issue warnings, which can be helpful at times, help them understand that the dangers can exist in a range of apps, some of which haven’t been invented yet.

Get the kids involved! Hearing live testimonies from the children is a strategy that has the biggest impact. Get some pupils to come along and tell parents what video games they play, apps they use and their online likes and dislikes. Make sure there’s enough time for parents to ask questions. You’ll be surprised by the answers, and so will the parents!

End on a positive note Screen time is not inherently dangerous, and in fact has many educational and social benefits, so it’s important that parents are informed of the many positives associated with the internet. In today’s technologically dominated world it’s essential pupils are equipped with digital skills to thrive and prosper, so make sure you emphasise this to parents.

June 2019

The importance of a thorough mental health

policy in schools Comment by ELLIE COLLIER, High Speed Training

It is truly shocking that three-in-four mental health issues start in childhood. It can affect an individual’s emotional wellbeing and their educational attainment if they are struggling to cope. As exam season commences, it is fundamental that those within education take extra precautions to ensure students feel capable of thriving during this defining time of their lives. The exam period can be a catalyst for mental health problems and a school

should, ideally, have an effective mental health policy already implemented prior to the end of the academic year. It is a stressful time for pupils and schools have a responsibility to make sure their students are able to cope with the pressure. The main aim of a mental health policy is to demonstrate to both

students and parents that the wellbeing of individuals, including students, staff and parents, is a top priority. Additionally, it should highlight the school’s ongoing commitment to understanding the severity of mental health issues within education and ensure that teachers feel equipped to encourage students to come forward and discuss any difficulties they might be facing. It’s important that the policy showcases the school’s commitment to supporting any individuals that may be struggling – whether at school or home - all year round. It is essential that a school mental health policy is thorough,

insightful and accessible to all. Included should be procedures that will support individuals suffering with mental health issues, and procedures that stress the importance of positive mental wellbeing and resilience. The policy should be written in clear, direct language and follow a logical structure. It is also imperative that school-specific details are included in the policy – including relevant staff names and any bespoke policies and procedures - so that the information is tailored to the school. The key elements can be summarised as follows: • Policy Statement • The Policy Scope • The Policy Aims • Key Staff Members • Teaching about Mental Health • Support at School and in the Local Community • Signposting • Identifying Needs and Warning Signs • Managing Disclosures • Confidentiality • Whole School Approach • Working with Parents • Working with Other Agencies and Partners • Supporting Peers • Training • Policy Review The school’s approach to creating a mental health policy should be

an extensive and thoughtful process. The stigma around mental health is starting to shift, and it’s important that schools continue to support pupils beyond their academic development. High Speed Training, which provides professional safeguarding training courses for the education sector, has created a template to help schools create their own mental health policy.

Sources: attachment_data/file/252660/33571_2901304_CMO_Chapter_10.pdf “Three in four mental illnesses start in childhood” 23

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