Acorn Aspirations partners with NASA and Microsoft to host the 2018 NASA International Space Apps Challenge

The winning groups created innovative AI-led products to tackle wildfires and help people find shelter on Mars

31 October, 2018: Acorn Aspirations, the award-winning social impact enterprise, partnered with NASA and Microsoft to host the 2018 NASA International Space Apps Challenge in London on 20th – 21st October 2018.

The London event was part of an international hackathon which occurred over 48 hours in cities across the globe. For the first time ever, teens were invited to join coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, technologists and space enthusiasts to address major challenges for Earth and in space.

The winning teams in London were SpotAFire, an AI powered application that enables users to inform others about wildfires in their area, without wifi; and Otter Space, a wearable device that contains sensors to measure radiation levels, oxygen levels, temperature and blood pressure and can alert you if these levels become unsafe and will send your coordinates to the nearest shelter in Mars. Both teams will be entered into the Global Awards.

Other participating teams in London received NOVA DIY AI Robots, Lunch & Tour of Microsoft’s London offices, one month in residence at the Microsoft for Startups Accelerator, tech mentoring sessions and lunch at Twitter.

Almost 70 teens aged 10 to 18 had a chance to mentored by specialists in AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, Marketing and Design Thinking, and compete against other space tech enthusiasts across the globe.

The theme of this year’s event was Earth and Space, and the six challenge categories were:
• Can You Build a…? contestants were asked to use NASA data to show how to create a variety of things from buildings, to robotic helpers, to tools for citizen science.
• Help Others Discover the Earth. Participants were asked to use NASA data to craft a story, game, video or other solution that helps people discover how Earth works.
• Volcanoes, Icebergs and Asteroids. Contestants in this category were challenged to analyse NASA data to help anticipate, monitor and recover from natural surprises or disasters, such as damaging floods.
• What the World Needs Now Is… Members in this category tackled problems affecting some aspect of life on Earth and on other planets.
• An Icy Glare. This challenge category asked participants to use NASA data to better understand, monitor and interpret Earth’s cryosphere (sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets and frozen ground).
• A Universe of Beauty and Wonder. Contestants in this category were invited to think about space science and exploration.

Elena Sinel, founder of Acorn Aspirations, opened the event by talking about the importance of empowering young people into solving real problems from an early age as it is the young people who will be shaping the world of tomorrow. Other speakers included Raju Sonawane, Head of Distribution Transformation, Innovation and Initiation at M&G Investments, Mandy Sanghera, Human Rights activist, motivational speaker and government advisor and Daniil Sourianos, Winner of NASA Space Apps Challenge 2017.

Elena Sinel said: “The time is right to engage young people into innovation in space technology using Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, and we are delighted to be working with NASA Space Apps Challenge to fulfil this mission. It is really important to ignite young people’s imagination, to further innovative solutions in response to current problems using data provided by NASA.”

Speaker at the event, Mandy Sanghera, the Award-winning Philanthropist, Community Consultant and Global Campaigner, said: “It was an honour to be involved in this event, where I watched young people aim for the stars! It is my goal to formulate strategies which ensure the trusted, safe and inclusive development of AI technologies and equitable access to all young people. It was a joy to watch this inspiring group of young people discuss the benefits of sharing AI tools and resources, datasets, and supporting knowledge and expertise.”

This event took place at the Microsoft Reactor in London, teens submissions can be viewed on Space Apps Challenges site:

London judges include:
Galiya Warrier, Data Solution Architect, Microsoft; Kate Rosenshine, Data and AI, Microsoft; Gen Ashley, Director of Women Who Code, Peter Bloomfield, AI and Machine Learning Policy and Engagement Manager at Digital Catapult, Eleanor Harding, Product Designer, Twitter.
Some of the products developed by the teens in two days include:
• Prepear — An app to help people prepare for natural disasters
• Pyrot — an app to help people to escape wildfires as fast as possible.
• Bouncy Hubble — 2d game that involves using images from the Hubble Space Telescope for entertainment and learning
• Happy-Air- a quiet multi-functional machine that cleans your air, but also clears it of all potential triggers for an allergy attack.
• SpotAFire — an AI-powered application that enables users to incorporate crowdsourcing technology to inform others about wildfires in their area, without requiring wifi.
• Mission to the moon- A base on the moon
• IntuSpace — a mobile app that allows people with an interest in space and rocket launches, to plan trips to see a rocket launch take place in person.
• Volant — Space Free-flyer
• Green Launches — A website that tracks rocket launches and shows their effect on the Ozone layer.
• MartianHealth (MHS) — Martian Health is a wearable device that contains sensors to measure radiation levels, oxygen levels, blood pressure, temperature. It will alert user of dangerous levels and send coordinates of user to nearest shelter/ station in Mars.
• Wild Fire Insights — A crowd sourcing tool to get early warnings of wildfires

Children’s authors Nicola Davies and Dara O Briain join BookTrust to celebrate National Non Fiction Month


BookTrust recommend their top non fiction books from their Greats Book Guide 2018

To celebrate National Non Fiction month this November BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, has selected 12 brilliant non fiction books from its new Great Books Guide to help parents and carers get their children reading.
These engaging non fiction books approach subjects like nature, science and history in a variety of interesting ways and are suitable for children aged 4-11. Non fiction books are an excellent tool to help children understand the world around them and can often help reluctant readers turn pages.
We spoke to Dara O Briain, author of Beyond The Sky, about why he thinks non fiction is so important: “The thing about non fiction is that it’s about specialising and kids finding their passions. Start general, and then begin to find the things that children are really captivated by. Then you can burrow down and dive a little deeper.
“I think there’s a bit of a fear around reading non fiction with kids, maybe in case they find it less interesting than fiction. We maybe have a tendency to think of non fiction as being linked to a school subject rather than an interesting thing in itself. We’ve got in our heads, bedtime stories not bedtime reading and I think we take that too literally at times. So my advice is fill their heads with facts, fill their heads with rockets, fill their heads with dinosaurs and all sorts of stuff that’s real and honest – and give them great dreams about science!”
BookTrust Writer in Residence and non fiction author Nicola Davies said: “Reading non fiction is your key to the world and everything that’s in it. It can be the start of all sorts of explorations in time and space and send you off on adventures to find your way to see the world. And writing non fiction is a key too, a key you can offer people, so they can see how the world looks to you!”
BookTrust’s Great Books Guide 2018 has 100 book recommendations for children aged 0-12 and was delivered to 22,000 schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland during October. This year the guide is beautifully illustrated by Mini Grey and features books from a host of wonderful authors and illustrators including current Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, Taran Matharu, Judith Kerr and Chris Riddell. There are books in there about animals, space, mysteries and icons.
Diana Gerald, BookTrust CEO said: “Non fiction books can help to teach your children about the world around them whilst also being fun, entertaining and beautiful to look at. Non fiction books can be a fantastic way to tempt a reluctant reader into sitting down with a book. We hope these non fiction recommendations and the other books in our Great Books Guide 2018 inspire you to help children find the right book for them.”
Non Fiction recommendations:
Creature Features by Natasha Durely (Big Picture Press) Age 4-5
This large format book about nature features tough card pages full of brightly illustrated animals, organised by their special features. Excellent for young readers building their vocabulary and learning about the natural world.
The Variety of Life by Nicola Davies, Illustrated by Lorna Scobie (Hodder Children’s Books) Age 6-7
Jam-packed with fun facts and figures, and stunning illustrations, this book not only encourages children to treasure the world’s biodiversity, but also indicates which species are threated by extinction.
The Zoological Times: The Animal Kingdom’s Wildest Newspaper by Stella Gurney and illustrated by Matthew Hodson (Lincoln Children’s Books) Age 6-7
This funny newspaper-style non-fiction book features tons of facts, puzzles, jokes and activities about all manner of animals, from giraffes to lions.
Dogs in Space: The Amazing True Story of Belka and Strelka by Vix Southgate, Illustrated by Iris Deppe (Wren and Rock) Age 6-7
This informative and appealing picture book details the true story of two space dogs journey through training to orbiting the earth and returning to safety.
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez, Illustrated by Felicita Sala (Andersen Press) Age 6-7
Atmospheric illustrations accompany informative text in this inspiration picture book biography of a pioneering female scientist.
Sports are Fantastic Fun! By Ole Konnecke (Gecko Press) Age 6-7
Full of brilliant detail about a vast range of sports this humorously illustrated picture book gives children a good introduction to the rules ad ethos of all manner of sports.
Corpse Talk: Ground- Breaking Women by Adam and Lisa Murphy ( David Fickling Books) Age 8-9
In this comic book, chat show host Adam Murphy interviews 18 historical women, including Joan of Arc, Pocahontas and Anne Frank, all freshly dug up from the grave.
Real-Life Mysteries: Can You Explain the Unexplained? By Susan Martineau and illustrated by Vicky Barker (Small publishing) Age 8-9
This fascinating collection of case files covers everything from crop circles to monsters, with a view to examining and evaluating all the evidence.
Splat the Fake Fact by Adam Frost, Illustrated by Gemma Correll ( Bloomsbury) Age 8-9
With a series of interactive activities, this book not only allows children to find out what is and isn’t true, but also gets them to doodle, lasso and deface the fake facts.
Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins
This beautiful book celebrates a selection of black icons from history and the present day to inspire all children to discover what they can achieve.
Alastair Humphrey’s Great Adventures by Alastair Humphreys illustrated by Kevin Ward (Big Picture Press) Age 8-9
An inspiring introduction to 20 adventurers and explorers from the last 700 years. This book will encourage readers to think a little more boldly and go a little further themselves.
Beyond the Sky: You and the Universe by Dara O Briain, illustrated by Dan Bramall (Scholastic) Aged 10-11
Packed with fascinating facts covering fundamental scientific questions, O Briain’s genuine love for science shines through, and his chatty, accessible style is perfectly complemented by the witty illustrations.
Download your copy of BookTrust’s Great Books Guide 2018 here.

Murrayfield Primary Academy announces permanent principal

31 October 2018: Neil Winn, currently interim principal of Murrayfield Primary Academy in Ipswich, is to become the school’s permanent principal with immediate effect.
Neil became interim principal in June 2017 following the death of the then principal Amanda Phillips. Since then, Neil has worked hard to improve the teaching and results in the school to deliver the outstanding education that every child deserves.
Neil Winn, principal at Murrayfield Primary Academy said:

“I am delighted to accept the position of Principal at Murrayfield. We have made good progress but I am looking forward to working with my colleagues and the parents / carers to continue our efforts to ensure every one of our pupils receives the outstanding education that they are entitled to. We are also looking forward to our first Ofsted inspection as an academy so that we can demonstrate what has been achieved.”

Bill Holledge, chief executive of Paradigm Trust, said:
“Neil has done a great job at Murrayfield so was an obvious choice to take on the permanent role and was unanimously appointed by the Board of Directors. During his time at the school, he has overseen real improvements for the pupils and we are confident that under his leadership there will be more exciting developments to look forward to in the future”.
Prior to joining Paradigm Trust, Neil was Principal Headteacher – Curriculum and Teaching and Learning – at Sacred Heart RC Comprehensive School in Teeside for five years before joining the BMAT Forest Hall School in Essex as Deputy Headteacher till 2017.

Cambridge Assessment English celebrates 30 years of CELTA by honouring the English language teaching community

English language teaching tutors and trainees took part in a series of birthday parties this month, as Cambridge Assessment English celebrated the 30th birthday of its industry leading CELTA qualification.

To show its appreciation to everyone who has championed the CELTA qualification over the past 30 years, Cambridge Assessment English provided CELTA centres with a ‘Birthday in a Box’ party kit. More than 45 CELTA centres hosted parties for their CELTA staff, alumni and current CELTA trainees.

Established in September 1988 by Cambridge Assessment English, CELTA is a qualification for teachers of English as a foreign language. Based on an intensive four-week course, or more extended part-time study, it combines theoretical study with assessed practical teaching experience. CELTA courses are available at over 300 approved centres in more than 70 countries.

Blandine Bastie, Country Head (UK and Ireland), Cambridge Assessment English, says: “Over the past 30 years CELTA has become very highly regarded across the globe, and this is thanks to our dedicated tutors who teach the qualification year after year, and the bright trainees who use their CELTA qualification to teach English as a foreign language all over the world. We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate with our centres. From London to Dublin to Malta, the birthday parties truly represent the strong international reputation that CELTA upholds.”

David Riddell, a CELTA trainer at International House London, the renowned language school that played the leading role in the development of the qualification that became CELTA, said: “I have been teaching on CELTA courses for 30 years, and on every course I do it is inspiring to see our trainees develop their teaching skills as they progress through the course. Whether they use the qualification to seek work as an English language teacher in the UK, or go off to teach in other countries, it is always incredibly rewarding to see trainees go on to apply what they have learnt on their CELTA course to the benefit of English-language learners around the world. Through the 30th birthday party, Cambridge Assessment English has given us the opportunity to bring our community together and celebrate with current staff, trainees, students and alumni. We all look forward to the next 30 years of CELTA!”

CELTA is highly regarded internationally and, according to recent research which looked at requirements for English language teaching (ELT) jobs around the world, CELTA is the qualification most often requested by employers. The study revealed that CELTA is requested by 71.5 percent of ELT employers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, compared to just 23.6 percent asking for CELTA’s nearest equivalent the Trinity CertTESOL*. The data from the study further revealed that, in the UK, 88 percent of jobs that require an ELT qualification specifically ask for a CELTA qualification.

The benefits of technology for education

Image courtesy of AiLab

The digital age has changed the face of nearly every sector. From construction to retail, transport to the arts, it seems like technology has transformed our whole world.
It has left its mark in the classroom too. With tablets and interactive whiteboards all commonplace now, not only are kids learning how to use technology in lessons, the lessons themselves are a frequent interaction with it. Is it a benefit or a hinderance though? Providers of print management software, United Carlton, investigates…
Educational technology
It’s been a long time since blackboards and chalk have been used in the classroom. Universities, colleges, high schools, primary schools and even nurseries have adopted technology into their classrooms to deliver a better learning experience for all – not only does this provide young people with a better education, it gives them the preparation they need for what has now become a tech-savvy working world.
Tablet devices such as iPads are a common sight in 68% of UK primary schools, according to data from the Family, Kids and Youth research group. 9% of these schools said that there was a tablet device for every pupil studying at their establishment. For the remaining schools that do not have tablet devices in place, 45% of them said that it was something they were looking at introducing in the future. In 2014, it was reported that there were 430,000 tablets in education establishments and this figure was expected to rise to over 900,000 by 2016 – however, no confirmation result has been released.
In what ways does technology help a lesson? Tablets and other gadgets are making lessons more interactive regardless of the subject, encouraging more pupil participation. It can also improve the retention rate of learners. By catering to different types of learners, pupils are more likely to retain the information over a teacher simply reading from a textbook. Lessons can also be personalised to the learners needs, whether this is teaching through the use of games, music and even e-books. Another benefit is that teachers now have the ability to search for materials they need online, allowing them to access additional resources where required.
Online lessons called ‘webinars’ have also been made possible by technology. Teachers are able to connect with a group of students remotely. This is most prominent in university and colleges, although it can also be used for younger children to teach them a specific subject or module. Exams can also be taken online which has shown a huge shift in the traditional methods.
The digital path for education
Will we see technology move from mere assistance to full control of the lesson? Sir Anthony Seldon from the University of Buckingham claims that within the next 10 years, artificial intelligence (AI) will cause a shift in how we teach students. Although teachers will still have a job in the classroom, they will act as assistants only while letting the AI device teach the lesson. Essentially, teachers will control classroom behaviour rather than actually teach.
Seldon observed “It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington education for all.”
The technology will help students with personalised lessons, adapting to the methods each student learns best by. It will be able to work with the pace of the students, setting tasks accordingly.
It will certainly be exciting to see just how far technology can go to improve the classroom!


AN EDUCATIONAL museum in Lincolnshire showcasing historic memorabilia from both world wars is set to save more than £40,000 over the next 20 years, thanks to specialist renewable energy consultants Greenio.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed on the roof of the ‘We’ll Meet Again’ museum, in Freiston, have future-proofed the registered charity, meaning thousands more schoolchildren will be able to learn about the fight for freedom and sacrifices made during the First and Second World War. The project, which completed following the museum’s first anniversary, will begin to offer savings of more than £2,000 a year.
The museum – which has a 14ft Lancaster bomber, army rationing items and objects from the Home Guard on display – was set up in 2017 by Paul Britchford, who started collecting the items from the age of eight and has since accumulated thousands of artefacts, some of which were used in the upcoming war film Lancaster Skies.
Paul and his wife, Linda, started as a travelling museum visiting schools across Lincolnshire in an army truck. In 2016, the couple secured a £200,000 grant from the LIBOR Fund in recognition of their educational work with children and opened the static museum – which now welcomes at least two schools a week – a year later.
Museum secretary volunteer Peter Pimperton said: “The solar panels have not only allowed us to be greener, but we’ll also start seeing a reduction on our energy bills – which went through the roof last winter. We’re yet to receive a bill, but since having the solar panels installed, we’ve had days when the electricity meter hasn’t moved as we’ve generated enough power ourselves to run the museum, which is just fantastic.
“We’re a registered charity so saving money will allow us to expand and make us feel more comfortable in terms of our finances – essentially future-proofing the museum and giving even more schoolchildren greater knowledge about the two world wars.
“As well as a huge collection of wartime memorabilia, the museum is located adjacent to a series of World War Two coastal defence structures and part of the learning experience includes a tour of the buildings and hearing some of the real-life events that took place on the site during the wars.”
The installation was funded by the British Airways and Pure Leapfrog Carbon Fund grant, which allows the airline’s customers to choose whether to donate in support of low carbon, energy efficiency or renewable energy projects in the UK and Africa in a bid to foster cleaner, greener and stronger communities.
This means the installation was free for the museum, which will not have to pay anything back and will start seeing the benefits instantly as a result of reduced energy bills and feed-in tariff earnings – a government scheme which allows you to claim money back for every KWH generated from the system.

Anna Wooster, managing director of Greenio, which was set up in 2013 and is based in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, said: “It has been great working with Peter and the team at the We’ll Meet Again museum. The new solar panels will help to save the museum money for decades to come, allowing children and the surrounding community to learn more about their local history.
“Everyone who works at the museum is so passionate and dedicated and I’m delighted they will be able to pass on their knowledge about the First and Second World War to future generations, me included, allowing them to be reminded of the fight for freedom and sacrifices made by those before them.
“Solar cells within the panels convert the sun’s radiation into electricity so as long as there is sunshine, solar energy can be developed anywhere and allows homes and businesses to generate their own power. This immediately translates to savings on an energy bill. Essentially, the more energy you produce from the solar panels, the less you will need from your utility supplier, which will increase energy self-reliance.”
Peter added: “Anna at Greenio has been tremendous. She has supported us every step of the way and we’re currently looking into more ways to become even more eco-friendly. At the moment, we’re wanting to expand and build two more buildings so we’re trying to get the funding for that. If we do, we’ll be expanding the solar panels onto the new buildings too.”
The ‘We’ll Meet Again’ museum is located in Shore Road, Freiston, and is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am until 4pm during school holidays and Friday to Sunday 10am until 4pm during term time. Special education and group bookings can be made by calling 01205 761082.
To learn more about this project, or to find out how you can improve your carbon footprint and save money, contact Greenio on 0800 810 0565. Further information can be found at

Cadbury World Provides Introduction to Ancient Mayan Civilisation


Linked to the current KS2 curriculum, Midlands based Cadbury World offers a one hour interactive talk on the Mayan civilisation for school groups of up to 110 students.

Complementing a tour of Cadbury World, the Maya educational talk introduces students to the wonders of this ancient civilisation and its involvement in the early history of cocoa.

Held in one of the venue’s themed education rooms, the dedicated team at Cadbury World introduce pupils to the great city of Chichen Itza as well as ancient Mayan myths and legends on human creation.

Students will have the chance to see a life-size replica of the Mayan Codex which is over six metres long as well as seeing real cocoa pods filled with cocoa beans which were so valuable to the Mayans. Some lucky pupils will even get the chance to dress up as a Mayan.

Diane Mitchell, marketing manager at Cadbury World, said: “The talk brings this ancient civilisation to life for pupils, connecting and contrasting their daily lives to ours today – there is even the suggestion that the Mayans were the first civilisation to play a team sport in the whole of human history.”

More historical talks are available, covering topics such as the Victorians and the Aztecs, and there’s plenty to learn and discover through an informative self-guided tour of the attraction’s chocolatey zones. The talks are tailored to the curriculum and allow teachers to mix and match topics to cover specific points.

Cadbury World has over 27 years’ experience in educational talks and welcomes over 2,000 school groups each year.

Group visits are currently available at £9.80 per child including the talk for a minimum of 25 paying pupils. One free adult will also be admitted for every eight children.
For more information on educational talks, or to book your visit to Cadbury World, visit


In line with the current primary school English curriculum, Birmingham-based attraction, Cadbury World, has announced an all-new poetry workshop.

Titled ‘Can you create your own performance poem?’, the workshop will encourage pupils in years 5 and 6 to work in groups to create a poem about a chocolate machine.

The workshop aims to support the curriculum by developing students’ understanding and enjoyment of stories and poetry. There will also be opportunities to further children’s understanding of the different forms of poetry – specifically the importance of tone, volume and action when reading aloud. Pupils will also be given the chance to write a poem as a group and read it out loud.

To support the launch, Cadbury World will be running a school poetry competition, challenging pupils to submit a poem or story about a cocoa bean. The winner, which will be announced on World Book Day (Thursday 7 March 2019), will win a class trip to Cadbury World, including a talk or workshop of their choice, to be taken in May, June or September 2019.

Diane Mitchell, marketing manager at Cadbury World, said: “Our poetry workshop, held in one of our dedicated education rooms, will not only provide an opportunity to advance children’s understanding of the genre but will also help them to develop their social skills as they participate in a group learning environment.

“Cadbury World has over 27 years’ experience in hosting educational talks and workshops and we are proud to welcome over 2,000 school groups each year.”

Group visits are currently available at £9.80 per child, including the talk, for a minimum of 25 paying pupils. One free adult will also be admitted for every eight children.

For more information on educational talks, or to book your visit to Cadbury World, visit

New Teacher Training Centre unveiled in Guilsborough

A new Teacher Training Centre has been opened by Chris Heaton-Harris MP at Guilsborough Academy which aims to address the national shortage of teachers.
The building, which is located at the front of Guilsborough Academy, was created by converting an old caretaker’s house on the premises. The training centre now houses several training rooms and a kitchen.
The project is the brain child of the Principal, Julie Swales, who was appointed two years ago, and will be supported by the Grand Union Training Partnership (GUTP), which facilitates a Teacher Training Centre at Sponne School in Towcester, and the teacher training partnership at Ashlawn School in Rugby. It will also work closely with local universities including Leicester, Bedford, Northampton and Warwick. Six trainee teachers have already enrolled to start at the centre in September and the team plans to support a further two teachers in its pilot year. If the pilot year goes well, there are plans to extend the centre and provide a training solution for teachers at secondary schools across the county in its second year.
Beth Nunley, Assistant Principal at Guilsborough Academy and Teacher Training Lead, will be running the centre on a day-to-day basis. She said: “We have been aware of a decline in the number of new teachers coming through into the profession in recent years, which is resulting in a national teacher shortage as older teachers reach retirement. Although here at Guilsborough Academy we are fully staffed with an excellent workforce, at a local level we are seeing a shortage of teachers in Maths, Physics and Computer Science in particular and we wanted to do something proactive to address this.
“Our motto at Guilsborough Academy is ‘learning without limits’, this doesn’t just apply to our students it also applies to our staff. We hope the new Teacher Training Centre will put Guilsborough Academy on the map when it comes to producing high quality teachers who want to train and work in a range of secondary subject areas. We also want to develop our training programmes for Newly Qualified Teachers, Recently Qualified Teachers and experienced teachers through a range of courses and continued professional development opportunities, so they can thrive within their profession.”
Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for the Daventry District, officially declared the centre open by cutting a ribbon. He said: “I was delighted to open the new Teacher Training Centre at the Guilsborough Academy. It was a real pleasure to meet staff at the Academy and fantastic to see the new facility. I know the centre will provide high quality training to teachers and will be a real asset to the Academy, offering a huge range of courses and opportunities.”

The Teacher Training Centre and Guilsborough Academy are situated in the village of Guilsborough, Northants which falls under the Daventry district and is just over six miles from Junction 18 of the M1 between Northampton, Rugby and Leicester.

For more information on the Teacher Training Centre at Guilsborough Academy, contact Beth Nunley on

Why schools need to wake up to smarter alarm management

Despite guidance first issued in 2015 by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NatCTSO) on the development of dynamic lockdown procedures, and increasing calls from teaching unions and security experts for an official position on the same, there remains no formal policy around incident and alarm management. The result? Individual schools remain responsible for the way in which they might identify and handle so-called ‘fast-moving’ incidents, which in turn means that the safety and security of staff and students is ultimately down to key decision makers’ agendas, budget and awareness of the available solutions.
Moreover, while the NatCTSO guidance defines dynamic lockdown as “the ability to quickly restrict access and egress to a site or building (or part of) through physical measures in response to a threat, either external or internal,” Klaus Allion, MD at ANT Telecom, argues that the first step in the process – that of identifying, confirming and communicating risk – remains a critical missing factor.
Alarm Triggers
Security and safety in schools is a key subject for parents, staff and governing bodies alike, with school officials having a duty of care and legal responsibility to provide a safe environment. And, with the UK’s threat level remaining severe, coupled with the variety of risks that schools face year-round – from an aggrieved parent or student, to an intruder or an incident in the immediate vicinity of the school – it is absolutely essential that careful thought and planning has gone into the security measures in use within the educational establishment.
However, before a dynamic lockdown procedure can be put into action, the risk needs to be both identified, verified and communicated – ideally without causing further escalation. Unfortunately, for many schools, with no official governmental guidance or policy and the prevailing focus on the physical aspects of a lockdown procedure, this first step in the process remains inadequately considered.
Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that the identification of a potential incident and the subsequent call to action, i.e. the triggering of an incident alarm, is largely left up to the action of a single individual. Typically, the first member of staff to spot a potential risk will either attempt to directly confirm whether it is valid, putting themselves in harm’s way in the process. Or, they may go to get support from a colleague, which means leaving the intruder unmonitored and free to continue to roam.
Some schools have brought fire and lockdown procedures into a single, critical incident plan – but again this only starts from the point at which an alarm is triggered. It also immediately makes the intruder aware that an alarm has been activated. So how can schools improve the process by which a critical incident is identified and response time improved, while preventing unnecessary escalation?
One Size Does Not Fit All
There is increasing recognition that what is needed is a multi-stage lockdown process, ranging from an initial, silent ‘level 1’ alarm that makes certain members of staff aware of a potential intruder or incident, through to a full scale alert that sees the emergency services called in and the premises in complete lockdown.
The fact is that current approaches are typically hostage to fortune; if an intruder is spotted, who reacts? And if they do, can they communicate the potential severity without causing panic? Maybe. Maybe not. The fact is that most organisations simply don’t know.
Thankfully, technology can provide an effective and affordable solution. With a combination of pragmatic processes and simple, familiar tools – little more than a simple key-fob or lone-worker device – a line of communication can be opened up by the first member of staff to spot potential risk by hitting a panic button. This process generates a call through their mobile phone or sim-card based device to a manned reception who can listen in to the conversation whilst being immediately poised to call in help and / or initiate the next stage, if needed. Crucially, the time-lapse between a critical incident being identified and action initiated is minimised, while the risk of unnecessary escalation caused by the intruder panicking is also significantly reduced.
In-Classroom Protection
In fact, the technology is so straightforward and cost-effective, that it can readily be given to all members of staff to provide additional levels of in-school protection.
There have been unfortunate incidents where teachers have come under threat, been exposed to violence and even death, as a result of classroom-based incidents. Likewise, violence between students, in the classroom or in the school vicinity, can be raised as a critical incident using these devices, which can trigger additional safeguarding procedures to minimise harm to pupils and staff alike.
There is little doubt that there is a need for improved critical incident processes in many of the UK’s schools. And, despite unofficial guidance on dynamic lockdown procedures, there remains a disconnect between the physical activity of shutting down a school and the initial means of identifying and communicating risk. The good news is that the solution is neither complicated, nor costly – and is available today to provide that ‘level 1’ protection.