Primary Academy in West Yorkshire receives a National SMSC Quality Mark

Birstall Primary Academy receives Spiritual Moral Social Cultural Development (SMSC) Award

Batley based Birstall Primary Academy has received the Silver SMSC Quality Mark for their work that focuses on recognising and developing its pupils spiritual, moral, social and cultural education.

A national accreditation, the award was given in recognition of the schools quality of relationships, its caring and passionate ethos, as well as its use of alternative sessions such as therapeutic learning which is aimed at encouraging the children to be the best they can be.

SMSC is an important part of the curriculum outlined by Ofsted which is awarded to schools that go above and beyond its requirements, being assessed on its effectiveness of leadership management; the overall teaching, learning and curriculum implemented across the school; the provision for extracurricular activities; and, the whole schools approach.

Other initiatives in place at Birstall Primary Academy include the implementation of Junior Leadership teams and Welcome Monitors in classrooms that give the children the chance to express themselves in various ways and feel part of an inclusive environment.

Principal Nadia Sweryt-Hannam commented: “Birstall is a small school that sits right at the heart of our local community, and we place a huge amount of importance on equipping our learners for the world around them.

“We pride ourselves on our caring ethos and are incredibly proud to have received this award in recognition of our commitment to ensuring our children have a huge offering to suit them as individuals, and to encourage them to develop and grow.”

Christopher Green, a teacher at the school who led on the application for the SMSC Quality Mark, said: “This is the first time we have put the school forward for the award and we originally expected to be awarded the bronze recognition, so this is a real achievement for everyone involved.

“Although the audit was daunting with its 90 pages followed by a verification visit, the pupils, staff and governors were able to showcase the school in all its fullness. We are now working to make sure we can be on track to receive the Gold award in due course.

“The work we have covered is vital for our children and their parents in the coming weeks and months and will continue to ensure our pupils receive this development through the activities we are sharing with parents which are both paper-based and online throughout Covid-19.

“This ensures that all of our families get the support that they need, including those who may not have internet or computer devices.”

Birstall Primary Academy operates as part of Focus Trust – a charitable multi-academy trust which is based in the North West of England with a vision of providing an engaging and challenging learning environment where the children are happy.

Find out more about the National SMSC Quality Mark at

Techs4Education Celebrates Microsoft Gold Cloud Productivity Accreditation

Techs4Education, the specialist provider of IT support services and technology solutions to primary and secondary schools and academies, is pleased to announce it has achieved Microsoft GOLD Cloud Productivity accreditation.  This acknowledges Techs4Education’s expertise in supporting education deployments of Microsoft 365 and its high-level capabilities as a cloud solutions provider.  The Gold Cloud Productivity accreditation sits alongside the company’s Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions award and its Microsoft Gold Partner accreditation.

Graham Ford, Techs4Education Operations Director, commenting on the award, said; “This Gold accreditation demonstrates our deep knowledge of Microsoft and our ability to provide the very highest levels of Cloud service delivery and support to schools.  The Cloud is a great and cost-effective way for schools to manage digital learning.  It gives reliable access to curriculum content and specialist apps that enable teachers to provide greater pupil focused learning.  Right now, the need for the Cloud has never been stronger, with teachers across the country working hard to deliver ‘virtual’ schooling to pupils and students studying from home, during the Coronavirus pandemic.”

Techs4Education’s schools and colleges are set to benefit from its status as Microsoft Gold Cloud Productivity partner.  They will gain further access to the very latest technology that enables greater class and pupil collaboration functionality, through an extended suite of cloud and hybrid solutions, increased flexibility and security that allows remote users to work more effectively.

Gold accreditation is only attained once a company clearly demonstrates its best-in-class capability within Microsoft Cloud technologies.  This includes; IT engineers training to become Microsoft Certified Professionals in Cloud, the showcasing of successfully completed Cloud projects, meeting stringent performance checks across technology, service and sales and evidence of supporting over 4,000 active Cloud users within its customer base.


  • 47% of young people have learned a new skill or rediscovered an old one during lockdown and 44% have become closer to friends and family
  • 71% are concerned about their academic knowledge and skills worsening and 46% worry about their mental health
  • The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award launches #DofEWithADifference to support young people and encourage participants to continue with their DofE safely

Across the globe, people are adjusting to social distancing and lockdown as a result of Covid-19. Young people at school and those in further and higher education are significantly impacted by cancelled exams and closures.

However, a new survey of 9,913 Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) participants aged 14-25 reveals that, despite the restrictions in place, many young people across the UK are using the time productively to create positive change. The majority (57%) of respondents report to be coping fine or quite well with the loss of their usual routine, with almost half (48%) spending more time than usual being active, 47% using the time to learn a new skill or rediscover an old one, and 44% have become closer to friends and family.

In addition, 25% have felt inspired during lockdown, with many spending the time sharing positive wishes with friends, family and their community. 43% of respondents have sent an encouraging message to someone, almost a quarter (23%) have made a video to make someone smile and a further 25% are more open to speaking with their neighbours.

Ruth Marvel, CEO of the DofE, said: “It’s difficult not to worry about exams and the future, but it’s great to see that young people are using this time to support their community and nurture new or existing skills. We are living through challenging times but it’s inspiring to see young people’s resilience and character shine through.”

The results also show, while 83% are spending more time in front of a screen since lockdown, 34% say social media has a positive impact on their mental health and 44% find the impact neutral.

Despite restrictions in place, additional flexibility added to DofE programmes has seen young people start or continue activities whilst adhering to Government guidelines, during the lockdown. One example of a DofE participant going above and beyond is Philip, aged 22, from Preston, Lancashire. As part of his Gold DofE, Philip volunteers with St John Ambulance, where he has learnt lifesaving first aid and is part of a vital support team at events. He is now using these skills to join the frontline, and has done extra training to be able to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Philip commented, “The intent is for us to be able to take easier tasks off the hands of the doctors and nurses, so their skills can be used where they are needed more. I started volunteering for St John Ambulance so that I had the skills to help people in their time of need, and volunteering for the NHS at this time is the best way for me to do that. Even if I only manage to help one person, then it will have been worth the effort.”

The DofE’s research also highlights the struggles some young people are facing. 46% of respondents are concerned about how lockdown and social distancing may impact their mental health, 53% worry about the effect on their physical health and fitness, and 71% are concerned it will impact their academic knowledge and skills. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a further 89% report feeling bored.

Since lockdown, the DofE has enhanced its existing flexibility of programmes to ensure the 490,000+ young people actively doing their DofE can safely continue to do so. #DofEWithADifference has been launched to help young people adjust their programmes, provide inspiration for alternative activities, and offer practical advice for participants to continue with, and celebrate, their achievements. The DofE is also working in collaboration with other youth organisations under the #iwill umbrella on a campaign designed to harness young people’s energy, talent and ideas to make a positive difference during this crisis.

Ruth commented:

“At a time when the familiar routines of school and day to day life have been stripped away, the DofE has a crucial role to play in providing young people with continued structure, positive focus and, ways of connecting with their peers and wider communities.

“But it’s increasingly clear that the impact of this crisis on young people is going to last long beyond the immediate lockdown. The DofE will continue to champion young people all across the UK, supporting them to develop the adaptability, resilience and human skills they will need to thrive in the uncertain world that waits for us beyond Covid-19. We will also continue to collaborate with other youth organisations to advocate for the needs of young people and to celebrate the energy, positivity and skills that they have to offer.”

How to ensure children are safe when using online video conferencing platforms

The current COVID-19 crisis has seen a rise in video conferencing platforms. Sites like Zoom are now common place for children to stay in touch with friends as well as to help continue their education remotely. This means that the importance of online safety has never been as prevalent.

However, whilst video conferencing is proving a positive way to remain connected, there are safeguarding considerations that must be set in place.

To provide guidance, Adele Abbiss, online safety expert at Smoothwall, digital safeguarding technology provider, explains the measures that teachers and parents can take to protect their Zoom space.

The danger of Zoombombing

Children are increasingly at risk of being exposed to harmful online content. One of the biggest security issues facing Zoom until very recently was the surge of ‘Zoombombing’ – when uninvited attendees join your conference call. 

As such it is the responsibility of schools and parents to ensure those using conferencing platforms such as Zoom, are implementing the appropriate guidance to ensure harmful online behaviour is removed.

How to use Zoom safely

Zoom has now forced its users to password protect meeting rooms. This is an important first step, however there are other actions that can be taken to protect your Zoom space. These include:

  • A new meeting room should be used each time they create a call on Zoom. This means that you should not use a personal meeting ID
  • Ensure that students do not join the call before the host if being used for remote learning
  • All attendees should be muted when joining the call
  • Screen sharing should be turned off throughout the duration of the call
  • Set up a ‘waiting room’ for student members to join
  • Lock your meeting room after you have started the conference so that people cannot join uninvited
  • Don’t publicise your meeting link on social media or any other public domain, such as your website
  • Don’t share a screenshot of the Zoom call publicly – especially when it shows the meeting ID or images of children
  • For each call, identify an adult that can ‘manage the room’ and ensure that they have cross-checked the above steps
  • Notify attendees of a Plan B should a call have to be aborted at short notice

In addition, it is important to remind children to avoid sharing any personal information on Zoom calls, and that video and microphone functions are turned off unless required.

Keeping children safe online

During this period, children and young people are more at risk of online dangers than ever. With schools closed and many parents working from home, we’re witnessing a significant rise in the number of children not only using the internet but doing so unfiltered and without supervision. And it’s a situation that’s not gone unnoticed by cybercriminals.

The NSPCC has explained that abusers are exploiting the current shortage of moderators as children spend more time online. In fact, Andy Burrows, the NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy, has described it as the “perfect storm for offenders to abuse children”.

There are a number of measures to help keep children safe when using online devices and apps. Those with children in their care should ensure they:

  • Have open and honest conversations around online safety
  • Regularly check who children are communicating with online and that requests from strangers are always declined
  • Warn children of online dangers, and to be cautious about trusting online users, even if they think that they are talking to somebody they know in the real world
  • Ensure children are using ‘lock’ features and relevant privacy settings on devices and applications
  • Parents should speak to their children about what constitutes ‘personal information’ to ensure they do not disclose anything to anyone during a live stream
  • Be present – if a child is going to conduct a live stream, parents should ask them if they could be present for it, to help them understand how their child is using the app

To access resources on how to support parents in protecting young people from online dangers when at home, visit Smoothwall’s Here for You webpage, where teachers can download a free digital safety pack.

BenQ launches EZWrite Live a free software solution to support distance learning

Global display manufacturer, BenQ has launched its latest interactive whiteboard solution, EZWrite Live, a free web-based platform. In light of the global shift to working and learning from home, EZWrite Live allows collaboration between multiple users from a web browser anywhere in the world, facilitating distance learning. 

Fully accessible from any device with access to a web browser, BenQ is enabling more people than ever before to engage with its cutting-edge whiteboarding solution built for education. EZWrite Live allows users to create, share and begin collaborating on a virtual whiteboard within seconds, all via the cloud.

With two modes: broadcast and co-create, teachers can switch between visual lectures or interactive lessons which encourage students to use the annotation and use sticky note features on the content in real time. Built-in VC enhances one-to-one sessions, with live discussion alongside the collaborative canvas.

Additional tools such as lesson record and file share allow teachers to save the lesson for future reference, or incorporate different assets and imagery into the lesson. It also encourages students to bring in documents, imagery or ideas for participants to discuss and annotate. Built-in templates give teachers easy access to different scenarios and ways to use the board, or upload their own templates, keeping things lively.

Being web-based, EZWrite Live allows teachers to host and record lessons as if they were in the classroom, with students participating from anywhere in the world. By scanning a QR code or clicking the link, students can fully engage and participate in lessons safely from wherever they are.

Try the whiteboard here: or visit the website for more information:

Fastest growing UK education business sets sights on expansion plans

Oxford, 1st May 2020:  Oxford Summer Courses, the fastest growing privately owned education company in the UK, will be brought under a wider, newly created Bridgemark Education brand to reflect the business’s ambitious plans to grow beyond the summer school market.

The Oxford based firm, which started out offering holiday-time courses for nine to 24-year-olds in the colleges of the best universities in the UK, will now offer online training and shorter courses for UK and international students.

Harry Hortyn, co-founder of Bridgemark Education, said: “Our focus has always been on delivering the authentic Oxbridge learning experience that inspires our students to develop a true love of their subject. We will continue to do that here in Oxford, Cambridge and at great universities around the world, but we also want to offer that experience to students who are unable to travel for a residential course.

“Our mission is to open up access to exceptional education. We believe that transformative learning experiences should not be the preserve of a lucky few.”

Melio Education is the company’s new online offering, which offers a wide range of subjects, including law, medicine, business and entrepreneurship to name but a few, and gives students across the globe access to some of Oxbridge’s most talented tutors online.

Melio Education offers students:

  • Melio One-on-One – individual tutoring with expert tutors from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Melio Academic Programmes – an immersive programme of online courses with a combination of group seminars led by an expert tutor, engaging content and independent study.
  • Melio Guidance – (launching soon) will give students one-to-one access to expert guidance online to help them make successful applications to UK universities and build the skills they need when they arrive.

The company also launched its new O-Labs education programme of one to five-day STEM courses earlier this year. The courses are designed to develop a young person’s joy of discovery when learning about science, technology, engineering and maths.

The O-Labs Education programme will see experts from the world of industry and inspiring teachers take students through hands-on project work like designing and testing a model car or coding artificial intelligence. Students take the project from the brainstorming process and pitching the initial idea, through to delivering the final result for evaluation.

“We want to light the fire of learning with these courses, something that both Harry and I experienced during our time at Oxford University and something we think everyone deserves,” explains Bridgemark co-founder, Rob Phipps.

The Oxford Summer Courses brand will continue offering courses under the wider Bridgemark Education group and has extended its course offering to include winter and spring courses.  Oxford Summer Courses is one of 220 organisations nationally who were recognised with a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise on 21st April 2020.

Bridgemark’s two co-founders also run Universify Education, a charity which aims to increase the numbers of students from more diverse backgrounds attending highly selective universities.

More information about the O-Labs and Melio courses can be found at

Real time hiring data – Education sector leads nationwide jobs growth

Latest data from the world’s largest network of job boards, Broadbean Technology, has revealed a 45% week-on-week increase in education and training vacancies for the week ending 26th April as educational establishments seek to replace critical staff on sick leave and ensure facilities remain open for children of key workers. Job postings numbered 8,723 as of 19th April and by 26th April had risen to 12,650.

This is in keeping with education unions’ warnings that up to a fifth of teaching professionals were already self-isolating in the days before school closures were announced, and up to a third were off sick, suggesting that ongoing shortages of talent continue to impact the sector.

Broadbean Technology’s data also indicates that while a large proportion of hiring in the education is being driven by current short term teacher shortages, the ‘recruitment process is still very much happening’ for other roles to ensure talent is in place for the new academic year in September.

Beyond educational establishments, the growth in demand for training professionals could, in part, be attributed to the increasing number of businesses investing in staff development – particularly for those who have been furloughed. And the recent announcement that the Department for Education has launched a collection of online courses will likely lead to an on-going uptick in demand over the coming weeks.

Alex Fourlis, Managing Director at Broadbean Technology, commented on the results:

“This leap in vacancies for education and training experts not only indicates a short supply of teachers currently, but also that despite the uncertain times we are operating in, talent pipelining and future planning is continuing to ensure that establishments have the talent they require for the new academic year.  And as training for furloughed staff becomes widely championed by not only employers themselves, but also the Government, we expect to see a steady stream of opportunities in this sector over the coming weeks.”

“While the future still looks uncertain for the employment market as a whole, our data suggests that for the moment at least the education and training arenas are showing promising signs. However, with shortages within the teaching profession widely reported even before COVID-19, engaging with talent and pipelining will remain important for establishments as they navigate the current climate and beyond.”


  • Brand new e-learning alcohol awareness programme ‘Smashed Online’ launches 
  • Over 1 million students across 5,500 secondary schools in GB will have access  
  • The programme will be completely free of charge for teachers and students  

4th MAY 2020: Today, a brand-new e-learning alcohol awareness programme ‘Smashed Online’ has launched for the first time, free of charge, allowing students to continue their home PSHE education. The programme is delivered by Collingwood Learning and sponsored by Diageo. 

Key stage 3 students aged 11 to 14 in 5,500 schools across Great Britain will watch a series of filmed, theatre-based episodes about a group of friends who find themselves in trouble as a result of their misuse of alcohol. The series is accompanied by interactive activities, a certificate on completion and is fully linked to the PSHE Association’s Programme of Study.  

The e-learning is an online version of ‘The Smashed Project’, an alcohol education and awareness theatre programme which has reached 415,000 students in 2,115 schools across the UK since it began in 2005 and is now delivered in every continent.  

Chris Simes from Collingwood Learning said: “We’re excited to be using storytelling and theatre in a brand-new way as we launch online. This will help teachers deliver Personal, Social and Health Education and offer students an engaging programme which makes the risks of underage drinking impossible to forget. We’re thrilled to be supported by Diageo as we launch our first ever e-learning!” 

In March, ‘The Smashed Project’ was awarded the Education Exporter of the Year Trophy at the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) Education Resources Awards 2020.  

Developed in consultation with young people, ‘The Smashed Project’ combines drama with interactive workshops to help young people understand the facts, causes, and consequences of alcohol misuse and the risks of underage drinking. 

Dayalan Nayager, Managing Director Great Britain, Ireland, France from Diageo said: “We’re really proud to have supported Smashed for the last 15 years and the online launch is fantastic. Smashed is a key part of our commitment to alcohol in society and this e-learning will help us to support schools, teachers and students on a critical topic.” 

Digital courses and initiatives are a lifeline for teachers, students and parents in lockdown

Simon Carter, Marketing and Propositions Director, RM Education explains why it’s important to ‘maintain momentum’ when it comes to education during lockdown.

“As schools continue to face extraordinary challenges as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the launch of a “virtual cybersecurity school” for teenagers is testament to the successes of newly established home-schools across the country. Schools are doing all they can to ensure learning resources are available online but, in order to maintain that momentum, summer schools and holiday clubs must do the same by offering digital alternatives during lockdown.

“It’s only through access to the technology many of us take for granted day-to-day that pupils and their parents and carers have been able to adapt to home learning in such a short time. It’s not only highlighted the importance of an effective digital strategy for schools, but also the importance of digital skills for young people. Digital literacy has become vital to our economy and – as has been demonstrated in recent works – underpins our ability to stay organized, educated and in touch with our loved ones wherever we are.

“Online initiatives are a lifeline for teachers and parents at a time like this, and one of the few ways to keep pupils engaged indoors while social distancing restrictions are still in place. By providing courses such as this one for teenagers, it helps to improve young people’s employability, the standard of their education during lockdown and – more importantly – their confidence and mental health while they’re at home. Institutions that do so for free will be remembered fondly by parents and schools long after restrictions have been lifted and rightly so.”

Back to school – How could fever screening protect teachers and pupils against coronavirus post lockdown?

As we approach phase two of the UK’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, attention is turning to solutions that will allow schools to reopen and safely resume teaching as soon as possible. Unique Fire and Security, based in the South of England, believes that fever screening technology will be a vital piece of the armour to help schools move towards a new normality.

Unique is already working with several educations providers across the UK to install fever screening technology at their premises. The cameras will help to detect carriers of coronavirus who are presenting with high temperatures, before they potentially infect pupils or teachers. The company believes that this technology has the potential become as widespread as CCTV cameras as the country emerges from lockdown and will be a crucial element of the solution that allows businesses to reopen and pupils to return to school.

Fever screening cameras provide a safe and fast way to detect those with a temperature entering a building. The system can detect elevated skin-surface temperatures in moving crowds such as passengers, commuters and shoppers, with accuracy up to ± 0.3° C. The technology can simultaneously read the skin-surface temperature of the heads of multiple people within one second, accurately targeting potential risk in a non-contact environment.

Bradley Williams, Director of Unique Group explains: “Fever screening is a new technology being brought to the market as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, offering schools a solution to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus amongst teaching staff and pupils.

“We are already in contact with a number of organisations across a range of sectors including care homes, schools and transport providers who are keen to install systems to limit the spread of the virus, ultimately ensuring limited staff sickness and isolation, increased confidence and a speedy adaptation to ‘the new normal’.

“Being able to quickly and safely spot someone with a fever entering the premises allows schools to offer an enhanced level of personal security which extends beyond social distancing measures, so it isn’t a surprise that our customers have already taken a keen interest in this technology. We are expecting to see a substantial increase in sales and installations of this technology over the coming weeks and months as the current lockdown restrictions are relaxed, and we expect fever screening technology to play an important part in allowing businesses to reopen, schools to return and getting the economy back on its feet.”

Fever screening technology is already being used extensively by businesses in Ireland and was embraced across China and Korea earlier this year. Currently around 100 fever screening units have been installed in various locations in the UK, including bus depots and healthcare environments, and are expected to be installed in airports, hospitals, schools, restaurants and retail outlets as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Bradley believes that without widespread use of fever technology as evidenced in other countries, the UK is at risk of suffering from a longer lockdown transition than necessary. He added: “There has already been discussion in the media on how the UK has been slower to respond to the coronavirus crisis than many other countries, which has sadly resulted in the UK suffering from one of the highest death tolls across the globe.

“How to get people back to work and businesses back in operation, without fear of a second wave of infection, is a question on everyone’s lips. Fever screening technology helps answer that question – and it’s vital for our economy that as a nation, we don’t find ourselves at a further disadvantage by failing to use the technology that’s already available to us.”

At present, only direct VASP Partners of the manufacturers such as Unique Fire and Security can supply and support the units. Unique Fire and Security is accredited by the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) to install fever screening technology in premises across the UK.

Please visit for further information on fever screening technology.