Drug offences in schools across country rise

Drug offences in schools across country rise New data reveals shocking numbers of Cannabis and Class A drug criminality and trafficking happening in schools
01 July 2020 New data obtained under FOI – individual regional police force data available on request Cannabis offences rise by 47%, hard drug offences rise by 65%, drug trafficking offences rise by 167% Worst offending regions for drug offences in schools revealed Drug experts urge teachers to take preventative, collaborative action to ease parent’s fears The number of offences for the possession of Cannabis, the possession of hard controlled drugs like Heroin, Cocaine and Ecstasy and drug trafficking in schools, colleges and Universities across England have all risen in the last few years, according to new insight by leading drug addiction experts UKAT. As part of a Freedom of Information Request, UKAT asked all Police Constabularies in the country for the number of offences for the possession of cannabis, possession of other controlled drugs and drug trafficking recorded in schools, colleges and Universities across their specific patch.  Of the responses gained, collectively the results show that in just four years, drug offences for cannabis possession have almost doubled, from 371 in 2015 to 544 in 2019, a 47% rise.  The data also shows a concerning uplift in the number of offences for the possession of controlled drugs like Heroin, Cocaine and Ecstasy. 63 offences were recorded back in 2015 and 104 last year, a 65% rise in just four years.  The investigation has been the catalyst for the launch of the UKAT Addiction Education Programme (www.ukat.co.uk/education-programme/v34/ )- a completely free, interactive workshop led by a drug and alcohol specialist, on site in schools, colleges and Universities across the country to educate and engage with pupils on the dangers of substance misuse and peer pressure.  Part of the workshop explores the risks that come with selling drugs, something that is proven to be happening more and more in schools across the country.  UKAT’s data shows that trafficking in controlled drugs offences have risen by a staggering 167% in four years, from 39 offences back in 2015 to 104 in 2019. Nuno Albuquerque, Treatment Lead at UKAT explains the importance of education providers in England taking proactive steps to prevent the problem developing further; “Our investigation has unearthed every parents worst nightmare; that some children are exposed to and involved in drugs whilst at school; a place they thought they’d be safe at.  “It’s important to stress the power of preventative action and education when it comes to substances, but those who teach may not have the time or the knowledge to confidently and correctly educate pupils on the dangers of drug and alcohol misuse.  “That’s why our addiction awareness programme has launched; to take this burden from the teachers who are already forced to wear many hats and to spin many plates, and to place it in the hands of our addiction experts.  “We are so passionate about working with education providers across the country to collaborate and prevent children from developing life-changing problems with drugs and alcohol. Together, we can make a real difference.”  It’s not just UKAT’s investigation which justifies the need for schools to take greater proactive action when it comes to tackling substance misuse on their premises.  Latest data from NHS England shows that a staggering 38% of pupils aged 11-15 years old were offered drugs in 2018. Furthermore, 19% of 15 year olds used drugs last month (data from 2018) and 29% of 15 year olds who were offered Class A drugs took them. Nuno continues; “Misusing drugs and alcohol as a child can cause significant short and long term life and health problems. The child could become physically and psychologically dependent on the substance, which more often than not, leads to taking ‘harder’ substances or consuming more alcohol in order to feel any effect.  “Because of their substance use, the child could miss out on their education, resulting in a lack of employability. They could then turn to crime to fund their lifestyle and to ‘fit in’ with others around them. Taking proactive, preventative measures will go a long way to ensuring this doesn’t happen to the children at schools in this country.” UKAT’s data takes into account 19 Police Constabulary responses, including Essex Police, Merseyside Police, Devon & Cornwall Police, West Yorkshire Police, Leicestershire Police, and Northamptonshire Police, all of which have recorded that the number of offences for the possession of Cannabis had more than doubled in schools across their patch from 2015 to 2019.  Surrey Police reported a striking rise in the number of hard, controlled drug offences recorded in local schools, colleges and Universities; from 3 in 2015 to 21 in 2019 and the highest number of offences across all police forces.  Drug trafficking offences in schools are the highest in the West Midlands, with 12 recorded last year compared with just 1 recorded back in 2015.   The remaining 20 Police Constabularies either failed to provide the requested data to UKAT under their statutory obligation or were unable to extract comparable data for analysis.  Details on the UKAT Addiction Education Programme can be found here.(link to www.ukat.co.uk/education-programme/v34/ )
Signs of Drug Use in Children (by Therapists at the UK Addiction Treatment Group)  Changes in mood, eating and sleeping patternsSocialising with different friendsEmotional distancing and isolating from family or loved onesLying or being evasive about whereabouts after school A lack of interest in personal appearance or hygiene Drug paraphernalia in bedroom, school bags, pockets Physical changes like weight loss, bloodshot eyes, regular headaches and sore throats 

HAS THE FACE OF THE CLASSROOM CHANGED FOREVER?

** Gen Z – and their teachers – say online learning is here to stay **

** In a major survey, 6 in 10 teens favour blended learning, wanting some or all lessons online and 8 in 10 teachers want it to become a permanent fixture of classroom practice **

Throughout lockdown, online learning has proved a lifeline for students up and down the country, and with all students due to be back in school from September, a ‘blended’ learning approach – which combines online and classroom teaching – looks here to stay.

According to a survey by content provider GCSEPod, the ‘lockdown effect’ – which has seen students flocking in record numbers to its site – could have a profound and lasting impact on teaching practices for generations to come.

Of the 5,000 students surveyed:

  • 64% said they wanted online learning to form all or part of their studies. Within this, 29% said they would like to do at least half of their work online and 10% said they wanted all their lessons to be online.

Of the 800 teachers surveyed:

  • Over half said blended learning was here to stay and over 80% said they were comfortable with online learning being a permanent fixture of teaching.

Used by 430,000 secondary school students, the online learning site has seen a recent surge in engagement from 14 and 15 year-olds, with its easily streamed and downloadable content available to watch at any hour of the day on any device. The platform appears to have struck a chord with teenagers who can spend small chunks of time studying, when it suits them, on their chosen device. 

1 million ready-made assignments have been submitted – and marked – by teachers, since lockdown – more than in the past two years combined.

Co-founder and Director of GCSEPod Anthony Coxon said:
“Our platform reaches young learners through something they already love – technology. It works around busy schedules, allowing students to focus on their most pressing needs, and receive quick and instructive feedback.

“It cuts the workload of teachers with its easy trouble-shooting tools and by engaging students who may not feel confident asking questions in the classroom, whether real or virtual / online.
“The current crisis has only served to strengthen the case for blended learning in schools. Online learning has earned its place at the table, and when combined with strong classroom-based practice, can be a great enabler and leveller. It’s clear that it is here to stay.”

GCSEPod provides short three to five-minute audio-visual learning aids, known as Pods, written by skilled specialists across 27 different subjects. Students can take assessment into their own hands and test their knowledge using the unique Check and Challenge feature and receive instant feedback, which immediately highlights any knowledge gaps they may have. Teachers can see how well their students are progressing and, because of the way the feature has been developed, how they are thinking, making it very easy to see where they may need additional support. 

Zabar Hussain, Head of IT at Eden Girls’ Leadership Academy, Birmingham, said:

“The key is to use GCSEPod in parallel with lessons, so for every topic/lesson taught teachers set the appropriate GCSEPod homework task.  It works as a flip tool mechanism, with pupils accessing the pods prior to their lessons, enabling the teacher to discuss and cement the learning in the classroom.”

The Pods can be viewed on a smartphone by students who do not have access to a laptop or tablet.  Content can be downloaded, watched offline and the collateral that accompanies perfect ‘catch-up’ programmes like Achieve English and Maths can be printed and sent home from school, should the students not have access to the internet.  

In terms of subject area, Maths has seen one of the biggest surges in Pod downloads since lockdown, with a 50% increase from pre-lockdown levels, which suggests students are serious about improving in core subjects. With demand so high, GCSEPod has announced a partnership with the BBC on Bitesize Daily Maths lessons for teenagers, making its content available more widely.  

Trauma-Informed Practice expertise guides teachers in supporting pupils’ return to school

School teachers on Teesside University’s MA Education (Trauma-Informed Practice) have highlighted how they are applying their studies to support pupils who have been directly affected by Covid-19 and the implications of lockdown.

With schools remaining open to key worker and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic, and in the past month ‘reopening’ for further year groups, students on the course have been practising their learnings around what constitutes a traumatic event and how it impacts upon children and young people. The MA, which launched last September and can be studied full-time or part-time, is designed to enable teachers to develop capacity to operate as reflective professionals in trauma-informed educational settings.

Katie Harris, Team Leader for Year 3/4 pupils at Breckon Hill Primary School in Middlesbrough, who is studying the programme part-time and due to complete her MA in September 2021, said: “The course has helped me to support pupils affected by the pandemic because it has taught me to question behaviour and ask why it is occurring. I am better prepared to help a child identity their feelings and help them find ways to feel safer. I appreciate the importance of taking the time to talk to children about how they are feeling and working together to find strategies to help. The course and assignments have provided me with a bank of ideas that I can draw on to use in the classroom.”

She explained how the MA was preparing her for better supporting Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), trauma-exposed and vulnerable pupils. “I signed up to the course as I wanted to know more about the effects of trauma on children and how best to help them in an education setting,” Katie said. “This was not covered when I was training as a teacher and I wanted to extend my own knowledge in order to best support the children in my care. Now I have a better understanding of the brain’s development, the barriers that can prevent ‘normal’ development, and how these may present themselves in a classroom. I also understand how some classroom practices can negatively affect pupils and I am learning to adapt these in order to reduce triggers and promote feelings of safety.”

Katie added that she felt able to better understand her pupils and identify how she can help them feel safer and happier in school. “I remember sitting in a lecture after a particularly long day and suddenly realising just how important schools and teachers are to a child’s life,” she revealed. “All teachers want to make a difference, but I never truly understood the power and influence we could have until then. Some of the content covered within the MA should be part of CPD for all teachers because it is so important to understand the barriers to learning that ACEs and trauma present and how this affects a child’s behaviour in the classroom.”

Sophie Nolan, a Year 3 teacher at another primary school, is also among the first cohort of students on the MA Education (Trauma-Informed Practice) based in Teesside’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law.

“I feel privileged being able to understand, to a certain extent, how this pandemic may affect children’s relationships, academic achievement and personal growth. Comprehending the science behind a child’s brain functions has enabled me to better educate myself and my colleagues about the importance of the relationships we have with our pupils and how much of an impact we can have on them. Additionally, learning about many different techniques and practises that can help children, such as mindfulness, allows me to implement them to help pupils at my school during what I predict will be a difficult transition back to school,” she said.

Having started the MA last year, Sophie pointed to “a sense of excitement knowing that my pedagogy was growing” as she was able to integrate her new knowledge into practice. “Over the past few years, I have enjoyed the opportunity of teaching in a challenging area and helping many pupils who face many different hardships every day,” she said. “I know I have taken my role as a classroom teacher very seriously and have endeavoured to encourage and support not only the pupils in my class, but all of the pupils I have met. It is the challenges I see these pupils face daily that rooted my interest in the MA. Through theory and practice, I wanted to better equip myself in aiding any child who faces difficulty, and I wanted to improve my understanding of how ACEs could affect a child’s life.”

Sophie added: “This course has made me realise that any behaviours are external prompts for a how a child is feeling internally. Whilst teaching and supporting children from a deprived area, it has helped me better equip myself in understanding many of the various adversities my pupils may experience. I now feel capable and well informed to be able to evaluate different children’s behaviours, in conjunction with their home life circumstances, and be able to understand the theory behind why the children are the way they are. I would definitely recommend this MA, because I now know how important and necessary this course’s content is to educate professionals to best support and foster our children’s holistic development.”

Lynn Miles Star award nominee

For an informal discussion about opportunities to study the MA Education (Trauma-Informed Practice) or the new Postgraduate Certificate in Trauma-Informed Learning and Teaching which is available for educators of children and young people across all settings, please contact Lynn Miles at L.Miles@tees.ac.uk. The trauma team in Teesside University’s Department of Education and Social Work also offer CPD and short courses, both face-to-face and online, and are available for consultancy work. For further details please contact business@tees.ac.uk / telephone 01642 384068.

Consistent communication is the biggest challenge of staggered school return, say teachers and school leaders

  • New research from Renaissance found consistent communication (31%) and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of pupils (23%) are the biggest challenges to teaching during the phased return
  • But one lockdown silver-lining is that almost two-thirds (65%) feel more confident using edtech

New research from Renaissance, which creates educational software tools to improve outcomes and accelerate learning, has revealed that consistent communications (31%) and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of pupils (23%) are the biggest challenges to teaching during the phased return. The research asked almost six hundred (598) senior school leaders, department heads, and teachers about their experience of teaching during this period of blended learning. 

But the period of remote education means that now nearly two-thirds (65%) of teachers and senior leaders say they are more confident using edtech compared to pre-Coronavirus.  This is positive as three-quarters (75%) believe online remote or blended learning will play a continued role in education after lockdown ends. How schools deliver online learning will therefore continue to be a key consideration.

With such a variety of online tools available, experts at Renaissance are encouraging schools to take advantage of teachers’ improved edtech confidence and expand their digital offering so they can set consistent learning for pupils in-school, and at home. Renaissance’s latest research found that during remote learning the online tool that teachers cited as the most effective was quiz-style formats with instant feedback (24%). 

The government has announced a Covid-19 catch up fund, and a number of organisations have expressed concerns about learning inconsistencies during lockdown. When it comes to successful learning, over a third of teachers and schools leaders (34%) believe that the input from parents will have the biggest impact. This is followed by a quarter (25%) who say feedback from teachers, and 16% who believe the ability to set tailored work, would make the largest difference to learning achievement during lockdown.

To enable schools to help their pupils keep reading all summer long, Renaissance is offering free access to around 6,000 enhanced digital books and articles from myON and myON News for schools who register here

Renaissance’s other practice and assessment solutions like Accelerated Reader and Star Reading can help teachers to track, monitor and improve their students’ reading for those at home and in the classroom. For those looking to assess student progress at the end of this academic year, or the beginning of 2020/21, it offers complete comprehension quizzes giving teachers invaluable data to track pupil development and guide future learning.

Margaret Allen, Curriculum and Education Specialist at Renaissance, said: “We have been so impressed by how quickly pupils, teachers, and schools have adapted to these exceptional times. No technology can replace the role of a teacher in a classroom but it can help teachers to enhance the educational experience for their pupils, and effectively and consistently track their progress.

Our tools are designed to help teachers stay on top of their pupils’ performance, and encourage their love of learning, wherever they’re doing it.  Education technology can transform pupils’ outcomes now more than ever, and we’re committed to supporting schools to make the process as easy as possible.”

Kate Jennings, Head Teacher at Mission Grove Primary School said: “Every school will be experiencing challenges as we try to navigate a staggered school return. We’re determined to provide tailored learning and structure to every child’s education and Renaissance’s products have enabled us to do this over the last few months. It’s been great how the products have been adapted to enable pupils to use them at home during Covid-19.

Our teaching staff have found it invaluable to be able to track the progress of each student at home. The pupils get so much enjoyment reading and quizzing on Accelerated Reader and it’s a brilliant way for our teachers to identify which children need different levels of support, both now and for when they return to school full time.”

To further support schools and trusts in providing students with uninterrupted access to a full suite of tried-and-tested practice and assessment solutions, Renaissance has created the Continual Learning and Assessment Solution (CLAS) for MATs at a reduced rate. Find out more at www.renlearn.co.uk/clas-for-mats/

Inspire Partnership appoints IMP Software to support MAT budget forecasting following schools expansion

Inspire Partnership, based in South-East London and Kent, has added IMP Planner – budgeting and forecasting software which is designed specifically for multi-academy trusts (MATs) – following the Trust’s near doubling of size during the current academic year.

The MAT, which increased from five to nine primary schools on 1st March and now has ‘hubs’ in Croydon, Medway and Greenwich, turned to IMP Software after incoming Chief Operating Officer Julie Lombardo identified a need to “strengthen financial management” in the Trust.

“We were looking for an easy way to forecast accurate financial performance in all our schools using a tool that would be directly linked to our existing finance system,” Julie said. “Forecasting software that involves minimal input from users is not easily available – I held similar roles at 15 and 27-school MATs previously and I always felt that there was a huge gap. I needed to find a tool that would allow MAT reporting and forecasting to be done, and this was a fairly urgent requirement given our growth. IMP fills this gap and gives schools the opportunity to focus on managing the most important aspects of financial monitoring and budgeting, including that all-important forecasting.”

Julie, who is now completing the implementation of IMP Planner across the Trust, explained the “critical issue” driving the need for such a system. “The problem is, in general, the education sector focuses too much on historical financial reporting, not where we need to go in the future, and the ability to understand what impact decision-making today has on the financial position in the future is often missing,” she said.

“As MATs we are all mindful of not running into deficit, but this can be easily done if the sector is not looking forward. School business managers are invariably involved in multiple disciplines and to provide accurate forecasts they need a very simple tool. To forecast they require historical information, budgeting information and an effective system to be able to change and reflect the current position quickly and regularly – they should be able to review and reforecast the budget and bring that information into their finance system easily and accurately.”

This is also a requirement for Trustees, Julie added: “Boards need financial information to make decisions and reflect the level of risk – if they do not have the future picture, how can they make decisions without understanding the risk? We now have an effective method of making comparisons across schools and understanding trends. IMP Software is an integral part of what we are looking to do and success from our relationship with them will be a regular set of accurate, timely management accounts across all our schools – and an updated forecast each month, together with a set of reports for different stakeholders drawing on IMP Planner and our finance system, which are totally integrated.”

Despite introducing IMP Planner during ‘lockdown’, Julie praised the organisation for its approach throughout this challenging period. “The implementation phase has been great, the process has been easy, and IMP have very clearly defined what is needed from us,” she said. “The turnaround has been remarkably quick – one call to go through set-up and discuss the parameters, so not a huge time commitment for me at all. The system was released to us and our school business managers had their first training session in early May. Navigation around the system is easy and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It was also very evident, in that session and afterwards, that IMP are happy to spend as much time training our colleagues as is required in order to support them.”

Julie also revealed that IMP Software’s “commitment to improving the product” had impressed her. “The team are always listening and taking things on board – the way they continually develop IMP Planner is phenomenal,” she said. “I would absolutely recommend the process we have been through so far. Our experience has been extremely positive and I have no reason to think that will be any different going forward. It is really important to stay on top of forecasting and IMP Planner will help us achieve that.”

IMP Software co-founder Will Jordan said: “Our whole product is built around the pain of MAT budgeting and supporting Trusts like Inspire Partnership which have identified an issue that we can help to address, in this case forecasting. We are now working with 30 MATs – both small-to-medium sized and large Trusts – and over 350 schools. Having worked with Julie in her previous roles at larger MATs, it is a privilege to be appointed by Inspire Partnership and have the opportunity to support the central team as well as individual business managers in each of the nine primary schools.”

“Instructional coaching” partnership to support mentor development and teacher performance

The National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) is delighted to formally announce a new partnership with instructional coaching platform Powerful Action Steps (PAS) – https://powerfulactionsteps.education/pas.

PAS, an online learning mentoring tool, is underpinned by the principles of a trained expert working with teachers individually to help them learn and adopt new teaching practices, and to provide feedback on performance. For teacher educators PAS will improve the quality of mentors and setting of appropriate targets, create accountability by tracking trainee targets and mentor feedback, and track progress by evidencing when and how trainees are meeting targets.

It is the brainchild of Josh Goodrich, who formed Powerful Action Steps in September 2018 alongside his current role as Assistant Principal (Teaching and Learning) at Oasis Academy Southbank. “I have been a teacher educator for the past eight years and during that time my focus has been on helping teachers to improve, firstly for my school, and now for my Trust,” he said. “I have observed skills and technology barriers to effective CPD within schools and, in seeking to solve the problems that I was personally experiencing as a teacher educator, the PAS platform emerged. What we have now is a huge library of coaching content and a decision-making tool to guide coaches in the selection of an action step for them. So for example, when watching a lesson, in which area does a teacher need the most help? Within this area, what is the most powerful change that a teacher can make?”

PAS guides teacher educators to “accurate selection of precise action steps” through instructional coaching. Each action step has an attached practice task so that coaches know exactly how to practice the step with their mentee. “Ultimately this is about ensuring that coaches have the knowledge and skills to set effective, appropriate action steps and hold teachers to account to improve,” Josh explained. “At the heart of PAS is a series of bite-sized granular actions – this is about making a number of tweaks to help trainees continue to transform their practice, and bring different component parts together. No teacher is a ‘natural’ and they need deliberate practice to support their trajectory. We drill micro skills in isolation, and ultimately overcome the ‘OK’ plateau through deliberate practice, breaking bad habits and ingraining good ones, to get to expert status. Knowing how to practice something with a struggling teacher is a skill that takes a lot of practice.”

Already used by over 100 schools, Josh’s ambition is to support the “professionalisation of teacher education through lifelong learning – the journey from novice-to-expert”. He said: “NASBTT is an extremely influential and respected organisation and this is a really important partnership for helping us to provide PAS to schools and trainees. Our aim is to support teacher educators across the country, and internationally, and our vision is to rapidly improve the quality of teaching in schools and therefore the education of children.”

NASBTT Executive Director Emma Hollis added: “We are delighted to partner Powerful Action Steps, which we see as an extremely positive method for tracking and developing teacher performance. It is an impressive online tool that effectively solves three issues: 1. The quality of mentors themselves through their ability to set appropriate targets for trainees; 2. Accountability, in terms of how mentors are observing trainees and subsequently making suggestions on improving the learning of the students; and 3. Monitoring trainee progress versus targets set against the curriculum, which is built into PAS. It is currently being introduced to our members through a series of webinars and will be available for paid-for use in September 2020.”

WHO ARE THE NEW HEROES AND SHE-ROES FOR CHILDREN NOW?

According to a survey of 1,000 children in 2017, more than three quarters of children aged 6 to 17 aspired to be YouTubers, vloggers and bloggers. The research by travel firm First Choice revealed that 34 per cent of children would like to be a YouTube personality, while one in five wished to start their own channel.  Traditional career choices, such as teaching, were much less popular three years ago. The research also revealed that children would rather learn how to use video editing software instead of studying traditional subjects such as maths and history.

From an evolutionary point of view, it is no surprise that YouTube stars have become celebrities to young audiences and the contents produced by these stars are fervently consumed and have a powerful hold over them. This will be a familiar battleground to many parents pushing back against the pull of these influencers, even testing the boundaries of millennial parents who themselves have grown up in the digital age.

According to new research by Kids Insights[1], there appears, however, to have been a seismic shift in children’s occupational aspirations over the past few months with scientists, teachers, supermarket workers, doctors and nurses now the new superheroes of the COVID-19 generation. A return to the type of role modelling that is perhaps about to once again change the dynamics of career aspirations and educational priorities? Perhaps.

The first observation needs to be that this is nothing new. Role models come into young people’s lives in a variety of ways. They are educators, leaders, mothers, fathers, peers and ordinary people encountered in everyday life. In my case they ranged from Robin Hood, his bravery and sense of fairness, to Johan Cruijff’s turn and ability to orchestrate a team, to wanting to be able to speak like Dr Martin Luther King, be a doctor like Christiaan Barnard, teach like Mr Beurskens, and actually be my grandad. I was ten. There are, I believe, at least five criteria required to elevate a person or profession to role model status in the eyes of a child.

  1. Role models demonstrate passion for what they do and have the capacity to infect others with it. They are often good at what they do.
  2. Role models shows a clear set of values and live them in their world. They lead by example. Children admire people who act in ways that support their beliefs. It helps them understand how their own values are part of who they are and how they might seek fulfilling roles as adults. Role models make good things happen.
  3. A role model shows commitment to community. They are others-focused as opposed to self-focused and are usually (pro)active in their communities, freely giving of their time and talents to benefit people.
  4. Role models shows selflessness and acceptance of others who are different to them. They are fair.
  5. A role model shows the ability to overcome obstacles. Young people develop the skills and abilities of initiative when they learned to overcome obstacles.  Not surprisingly, they admire people who show them that success is possible.

Of course, the reign of the YouTuber or vlogger per se was always going to be flawed as a framework of aspirational longevity, like so many others in the past.  Despite YouTube celebrities being influential in shaping trends and guiding pop culture, not all by any means really fit the role modelling matrix in the first place, showing young people how to live with integrity, optimism, hope, determination, and compassion; in turn, helping develop the skills, abilities, and motivation to become engaged citizens. Like so many in the past. I was lucky. I choose well. Robin Hood, Johan Cruijff, Dr Martin Luther King and Christiaan Barnard all passed the test of time, as did, of course, Mr Beurskens and my grandad – for me anyway.

My mantra has always been that “Children can only aspire to what they know exists” and over the past few months, they have not only witnessed the existence but have vicariously experienced the value of rewarding jobs and careers. It is vitally important that we, now more than ever, continue to inspire and educate our global citizens of the future. This, as adults, surely is our role to play! We need to facilitate the experiences that lead to the discovery of positive role models and from that to role play, i.e. copied behaviour. We need to show the environment is the third teacher, including the environment of imagination, aspiration and role models – a modern day Sherwood Forrest, De Meer stadium, De Groote Schuur hospital and a new Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Only then do these experiences and does this learning become visible.

Should we not now collectively draw up a list of experiences, with school, offline as well as online, that we believe our children are entitled to by, let’s say, age 7 – and then again at 11, 14, 16? Museums, galleries, restaurants, ballet, sports, concerts, teamwork, performing, receiving an award, places of work and government, visiting their capital cities, social media, YouTube, Sir David Attenborough in the Galapagos Islands … It is our collective duty to twitch curtains, open windows and doors, and widen horizons to a better possible, for all children to write their own narrative of their possible. We do this through leading by example, role modelling, through early opportunities and through facilitating experiences. And when we do this, we find ourselves in a world where not every classroom has four walls, where the environment becomes a teacher. To all involved, the value of the connection between being taught in school and experiences out there will soon become very clear – believe me. It is these experiences that will lead to bigger dreams, greater aspirations and better role models. “If you have a strong purpose in life, you don’t have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there”[2].

It is an unfair and sad reality, that, for many disadvantaged children in particular, who have experienced positive shifts in their perceptions of role models and aspirations for the future, this has been offset by disruptions to schooling and education in a wider sense, despite hugely admirable efforts by the teaching professions. Children whose context is one of disadvantage have had little or no access to online connectivity, something that needs to be laid fairly and squarely at the doors of governments and societies as a whole. For those children there has been no “The [online] environment is the third teacher”[3].

The landscape of education is, and has been, changing with educationalists recognising that personal development and achievement are at least as as important as academic attainment and that children need a robust set of core skills for the future world of both employment and self-deployment, including leadership, collaboration, independence, initiative, creativity, communication, perseverance, resilience and flexibility[4].  It is now up to us to step up to the mark. If we want our children to be truly successful in life, to answer the question “Who do you want to become?” instead of “What do you want to be?”, then we need to play our part and in this case we need to accept and advocate that “Every child is everybody’s responsibility”[5]. “Becoming Me”[6] is a journey full of awe and wonder and the role we play is vital.


[1] https://kidsinsights.com/ac/

[2] Roy T. Bennet

[3] Carla Rinaldi

[4] e.g. Bett’s Global Council for Education (GEC) and its ‘Manifesto for the Future of Education’

[5] Vanessa Langley

[6] The Week Junior in partnership with Prof Dr Ger Graus OBE

Guidance launched to help schools adapt with hygiene in mind

A new visual guide for specifiers has been launched to help get schools, colleges and universities Covid-19 ready.  

Bringing together a suite of materials with hygienic benefits, the guide has been designed to support educators as they reorganise teaching spaces to cope with social distancing measures and subject their surfaces to a harsher cleaning regime. 

With a huge range of products available, each with different levels of hygienic performance, materials supplier James Latham developed the guide to help building owners and occupiers navigate their choices.  

Steve Johnson of the Advanced Technical Panels division specialises in health-related products at Lathams. He said: “While some year groups have gone back already, there are many children and young adults still at home. The latest suggestions from government are that all education settings will be reopened by September 2020, with further guidance in the process being drafted now.   

“It means that education providers have got the summer months to make changes to their teaching facilities, on top of the usual maintenance that often takes place at this time of year. This will put extra pressure on specifiers to get things ordered and installed quickly. With so many products available it is not always clear what the differences are between them.  

“For example, there is a lot of confusion between anti-microbial and anti-bacterial products. The difference is that anti-bacterial materials prevent bacteria from growing on their surface, while anti-microbial products halt the growth of bacteria and a broader range of viruses, organisms, protozoa, and fungi such as mould or mildew. This makes them significantly better for high-use surfaces.” 

Products in the guide have been organised into five categories, based on a range of performance criteria and potential uses. Top of the list is advanced thermoplastic KYDEX. Mouldable to any shape, it is heavily utilised in healthcare because of its robustness and inherent hygienic qualities. It can withstand tough cleaning products, without any staining, fading or surface damage, and contains Microban for anti-microbial protection. 

It is equally well-suited to classroom and technical spaces, such as science labs, because of its hard-wearing nature. KYDEX is used for a wide range of objects including desks, worktops, chairs and storage units. As a homogeneous product, any damage to the top layer does not negatively affect its anti-microbial properties or visual impact, which makes it perfect for high traffic areas.  

Unlike KYDEX, which is more suited to an off-site manufacturing process, other products within the guide can be easily added to existing surfaces and therefore offer a much quicker turnaround. These include laminates, with Abet Lamishield the highest performer.  

Abet Lamishield is an anti-microbial laminate that incorporates silver-ions within the decorative layer. Utilising BioCote technology, it inhibits surface growth by 99.9%. It is one of the only certified anti-microbial laminates and when combined with good cleaning practices it is highly effective.  

Another challenge that may need to be considered is the installation of barriers and other protective measures. This includes adding partitions or screens to divide classrooms to allow smaller working groups or using them as part of a traffic flow system around buildings and campuses.  

The Lathams guide recommends AcryBright, a lightweight clear acrylic sheet ideal for protective screens and sneeze guards. While costing slightly more than a standard piece of acrylic, it is more hardwearing, something that Steve believes makes it worth the investment. 

He added: “These materials are going to be around for a while and will need to be cleaned more often, with higher strength cleaning chemicals. These chemicals can cause damage, from small surface scratches through to potential warping or clouding of the screen.  

“This damage not only reduces the hygienic properties of the product but also affects its visual appeal, which can have a negative impact on student wellbeing. Why pay twice when there is a better option available now?” 

Other categories within the guide include Compact Grade Laminates (CGLs) and Solid Surfaces, both highly recognised for their robustness and resistance to intensive cleaning regimes. Both products are solid sheet materials, which will not delaminate when exposed to the rigours of repeated cleaning with detergents and other chemicals. A range of options from market leading brands such as HIMACS®, Avonite, Kronospan, Egger and Xylocleaf mean that there are colours and textures to suit any design scheme.  

Back to School: New COVID Course Released to Support Teachers Returning to the Classroom

Following the government’s announcement this week that schools in England will reopen with “full attendance” in September, a new COVID-19 Essentials course has been launched to provide practical skills and support for teachers feeling apprehensive about returning to a full classroom. 

While many teachers have taught key worker and vulnerable children in schools over the last three months, a recent professional poll has found that more than a third (36 per cent) are feeling unconfident about returning to work and that nearly one in five would feel more confident if employers evidenced compliance with best practice procedures. 

The poll reveals that as many as 40 per cent incorrectly identified the correct temperature for handwashing – which is between 35 and 45 degrees Celsius – suggesting that a knowledge gap exists.

The data has been gathered by online training provider, High Speed Training. The education compliance specialists have created the COVID-19 Essentials course to meet the surge in online searches for professional coronavirus support which occurred throughout lockdown. The course, which covers non-clinical infection prevention and practical PPE training, has received more than a 1,000 pre-registration requests.

Richard Anderson, Head of Learning and Development at High Speed Training said: “Whilst the majority of schoolchildren in the UK will remain at home until September, and the imminent reopening of businesses is welcome news for the economy and livelihoods of workers across the country, it is completely understandable that people will be feeling cautious about their personal role in upholding strict new safety procedures within their working environment. This is brand-new terrain that organisations need to navigate with confidence and our new course distils the crucial information that all teachers need to know before returning to work.”

The course includes clear instructions for using PPE and how often it should be changed, along with COVID-specific guidance on the correct way to clean and decontaminate the work environment and hand washing techniques.

For more information and to register, simply visit   https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/health-and-safety/infection-prevention-ppe-essentials.aspx

Futurelearn’s ‘How To Teach Online’ course wins Overall e-Learning Solution of the Year Category

25 June 2020: EdTech Breakthrough Awards announced FutureLearn as its winner of the ‘Overall e-Learning Solution of the Year’ category. 

This is the second year of the EdTech Breakthrough Awards programme, which honours top technology companies and education solutions that drive innovation around the globe. Their goal is to perform the deepest evaluation of the global educational technology industry each year to select and highlight the “breakthrough” solutions and companies. With over 1,750 nominations this year, the competition was fierce for each and every award category. 

This year, FutureLearn’s ‘How to Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students’ course received the award for Overall e-Learning Solution of the Year. A course developed in response to the impact of the outbreak of the coronavirus on the education sector.

Globally, many schools and universities have been forced to close their buildings, leaving teachers and students to move rapidly to online learning. It has been a challenge for many to enable students to continue receiving quality education with minimal disruption while adapting to the situation. 

The course was developed and taught by FutureLearn’s Learning team – our in-house online teaching and learning experts, and designed to give teachers practical steps towards online teaching and student support. The team moved rapidly to meet the needs of these learners, and time between initial discussions and teachers being able to start learning was just 10 days.

Supporting educators and academics during this unprecedented shift from the classroom to online learning is one of FutureLearn’s biggest priorities at present. Our mission is to transform access to education and, in spite of the disruption that COVID-19 is bringing to schools and universities across the globe, it is incredibly important that students continue to receive a quality education. 

Matt Jenner, lead educator of the course and Head of Learning at FutureLearn, said:FutureLearn’s Learning team are delighted to be this year’s winner of the EdTech Breakthrough: Overall e-Learning Solution of the Year award. We knew school and campus closures were going to significantly and detrimentally impact the lives of hundreds of millions of students and educators, we had to act. We knew the best thing we could do was to provide a supporting educational environment for those who needed to suddenly teach online. With nearly 30 contributions from our partnership, offering top advice and support overnight, we built the How to Teach Online course on FutureLearn. We made it completely free, with permanent access and certified professional development for those who completed it. The community of practice really came to life in the course, with mentors, learners and us as facilitators joining the conversation on how to provide emergency remote teaching for our students across the world. That was an amazing thing to see and no doubt a substantial contributing factor to us winning this fantastic award.”