CST responds to the speech from Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools

In her speech to the annual conference of the Confederation of School Trusts, Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools paid tribute to Trusts which she said have taken a wider leadership role through the pandemic, – supporting each other, their communities and the wider sector. But she also cautioned that it is Ofsted’s job to remain agnostic about school structures.


Ms Spielman cited evidence from the inspectorate’s Autumn Interim Visits to Schools, which is summarised by Ofsted in the article entitled, The trust in testing times: the role of multi-academy trusts during the pandemic, published in January 2020.




CST asked Ofsted to delve a bit deeper into the ways in which trusts are supporting their schools through the pandemic. Ofsted opened an additional evidence card during the Autumn interim visits. For the school leaders Ofsted spoke to, the support of their trust was crucial. They told Ofsted about support with safeguarding, interpreting COVID-19 guidelines, developing remote learning and integrating this with the curriculum.



Daniel Muijs (then head of research at Ofsted) and Karl Sampson, the article’s authors, conclude: “One of the aims of bringing schools together in trusts is to provide them with levels of support and collective learning that would not be achievable for any school on its own. These findings show how important this can be to schools’ resilience in the most challenging of circumstances, and how being part of a greater whole builds that resilience.”


This is a significant piece of evidence which supports CST’s position that all schools should be in a strong and sustainable trust. It aligns with the announcement that the Secretary of State for education made at the conference on Wednesday in which he outlined his vision for all schools to be part of a multi-academy trust.


Ms Spielman also confirmed that Ofsted is prioritising monitoring schools rated less than good. She said that if Ofsted finds that school has significantly improved, then Ofsted has the option to carry out a full inspection so that schools will be able to get a new grade, rather than it being another monitoring visit.



She said that Ofsted will be inspecting a small number of good schools that haven’t been inspected for a long time and are outside their inspection window. She stressed that the vast majority of good or better schools will not be getting an inspection this term.



She emphasised that Ofsted will take time before an inspection starts to understand a school’s individual circumstances, and the effect COVID has had on the school and children. And she confirmed that Ofsted will be using external data differently, taking into account how old it is, and will not be taking teacher assessed grades into account.




Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts said:


“We were pleased that Ofsted responded to our request to look more carefully at how schools in trusts have been supported by their trusts during the global pandemic. This evidence is corroborated by research that we have undertaken jointly with the University of Nottingham.


“Amanda Spielman is right that there is a conversation to be had about how we can help persistently weak schools to improve.  It is our belief that strong and effective Trusts do provide resilience against failure, as Amanda Spielman noted. This is because Trusts a collaborative framework that intentionally develops a knowledge-building approach across their schools. As Ms Spielman has said, “strong trusts help schools move up a gear, if you like, and are quick to act if a school goes into reverse.”


“In reflecting on next steps, Ms Spielman said: “inspection isn’t just a ‘thing’. It should evolve – just as the education system evolves.” We agree. And we look forward to constructive discussions with the inspectorate as the system evolves.”


Premier League launches ‘Draw Together Challenge’ to inspire allyship among children

The Premier League has launched the ‘Draw Together Challenge’ aimed at empowering children to help and support others who face discrimination. 


Primary school pupils across England and Wales are encouraged to draw or paint a picture on the theme of allyship, detailing the positive action they will take to help challenge discriminatory behaviour, wherever they see it.


Draw Together is a free downloadable activity created to support the Premier League’s ongoing No Room For Racism initiative. It is available through Premier League Primary Stars, the League’s curriculum-linked education programme, which uses the appeal of professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.


As part of the initiative, Helen Raley-Williams, Headteacher of Holy Trinity Catholic Primary School in Liverpool, invited CBeebies presenter Ben Cajee to talk to a Year 6 class about his personal experiences of racism. 


Helen Raley-Williams said: “All children should be heard and be able to explain how being discriminated makes them feel. Being open and allowing discussions about discrimination supports the children’s mental health and reinforces the fact that it is totally unacceptable to discriminate against another human being.”


Ben Cajee, CBeebies presenter, said: “Having faced discrimination myself when at school, I know first-hand the importance of education on this issue.


“To have videos of Premier League footballers talking about their own experiences of racism and the importance of looking out for each other as part of this challenge, is key in showing children how vital it is for us all to support others. It’s something I would have appreciated at that age.”


The challenge will run until Friday 11 June 2021 and teachers are able to submit artwork on behalf of their class at Key Stage 1 (5 to 7-year-olds) or as individual submissions for Key Stage 2 pupils (7 to 11-year-olds), via the online teacher form on the Premier League Primary Stars website: plprimarystars.com.


All schools that submit entries ahead of the deadline will be entered into a prize draw for the chance to receive Premier League goodies for their school. One lucky entrant will see their school receive a special visit from the Premier League Trophy.


The artwork and pledges of 20 pupils will also be selected at random to be displayed in a No Room For Racism gallery on the Premier League and Premier League Primary Stars websites, while all primary schools that enter the challenge will receive copies of the official PL Writing Stars poetry book ‘Beautifully Different, Wonderfully the Same’ for their libraries.


Nick Perchard, Premier League Head of Community, said: “The Premier League Draw Together Challenge will enable children and teachers in classrooms up and down the country to have safe and open conversations about racism and the detrimental impact that discrimination has.


“We hope this will encourage children to create artwork and pledges that demonstrate their support for others and will lead to further discussions with family members and friends about the importance of us all playing our part in helping to tackle racism.”


The education of fans, children and young people is just one of the ways in which the Premier League is tackling discrimination as part of its No Room For Racism Action Plan.



You can watch a video of Ben Cajee’s visit to Holy Trinity Primary School here: https://we.tl/t-dZJl18ogE1


How to improve energy efficiency in schools

Energy management can be a primary focus for senior management within schools as they look to make cost savings. Reducing energy consumption is one way that schools can minimise their spend, whilst also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the learning environment.

For school managers looking to improve their school’s energy efficiency, the first port of call is to identify where changes, both in culture and processes, need to be made. Here, we speak to Ceri Williams, a Schools Energy and Finance Officer at Torfaen County Borough Council with over 20 years of experience, about the best ways for schools to tackle their energy usage and carbon footprint.

Where to start when it comes to a school’s energy usage?

Energy spend will of course vary between schools but an easy way to find out your school’s energy spend per pupil is to divide your annual energy bill up by the number of pupils. The higher your cost per pupil, the more adjustments you will need to implement. 

What is the first step to reducing energy consumption?

The best place to start is to identify sources of energy waste, whether that’s from old inefficient technologies, or down to behaviours such as leaving windows open when radiators are in use, or keeping lights on when they are not needed.

Replacing inefficient technologies with more efficient upgrades will not only be more effective performance-wise but will also help to bring down costs significantly. Conducting a site walk in collaboration with the site manager, who will be familiar with any day-to-day issues, can help to establish areas for improvement.

Many issues can be easily addressed by simply speaking with staff and pupils to encourage behavioural changes, or by implementing measures such as lighting sensors, which will ensure lights are only on when needed. Energy consumption can also be reduced by installing new smart energy control systems which allow for more precise control, giving schools the ability to quickly and easily adjust energy usage in real-time to meet their needs.

Should schools get students involved?

Getting students involved in any energy efficiency initiatives you are working on is important as it will not only help to educate them on important environmental issues but inspire them to play an active role in reducing their energy use.

Offering engaging and interactive workshops and presentations on climate change, to enable pupils to learn about energy savings, is a great start. Setting up eco-clubs to boost energy awareness and encourage discussions and learning around the subject is another good option. In particular, I’ve found that involving pupils in competitions, such as mini switch off walk arounds, and rewarding them for their energy saving efforts, is particularly effective.

Allow pupils to present evidence of the savings they have achieved for their school, either as individuals or in groups, during assemblies or lessons. This will keep them engaged in energy saving efforts and encourage them to feel pride in the role they have played. For example, as part of one of my projects with Torfaen County Borough Council, we held a ‘switch off fortnight’ campaign where students were urged to go around switching appliances off to save energy. Changes in usage were monitored through meter readings and pupils received certificates and bronze, silver, gold or platinum eco awards from staff. They loved demonstrating how they made a difference.

Which technologies should schools invest in?

Aside from replacing inefficient resources, investing in additional new energy efficient technologies should be at the forefront of any energy efficiency plans, helping to maximise financial and energy savings.

As lighting accounts for a significant proportion of electricity expended within schools, upgrading old, inefficient lights to more modern light emitting diode (LED) lighting alternatives is one of the most effective ways to reduce consumption. Installing lighting controls and adding motion sensors further reduces energy usage, while the longer lifespan of LEDs also decreases maintenance requirements and costs. As well as these benefits, new LED lighting can also improve the aesthetics of old buildings and enhance learning and teaching environments.

Elsewhere, simple steps such as adding insulation or heating controls, can substantially reduce energy usage and bills, with the potential for thousands of pounds a year to be saved through such investments.

Lastly, installing Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS), which act as a central point of control for multiple building services, can be really effective. Used to control heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) all in one, BEMS provide a way to monitor and rapidly adjust equipment, improving the reliability and performance of buildings and delivering substantial savings.

What about renewable options?

Renewables such as solar PV and heat pumps are great methods to help future proof buildings. As the cost of Solar PV has fallen, it’s a really good measure for schools looking to lower their carbon footprint and reduce their dependency on grid electricity. Solar PV installations are also a popular way to raise awareness of the sustainability agenda among students and the local community.

How many technologies should schools invest in?

This of course depends on what you are practically able to do but choosing to address energy efficiency holistically – that is, implementing multiple projects at the same time rather than investing in just one type of technology – is the most effective way of maximising energy, carbon and cost savings.


Many schools begin addressing their energy usage by installing LED lighting, however, a school taking a holistic approach would consider whether they could also install lighting sensors, energy management systems, new insulation, low-carbon heating and solar PV within the same project. As well as significantly boosting annual savings, such an approach also helps save money on design, installation and labour costs, while also minimising disruption on site.


How can schools fund energy efficiency projects?

The case for investing in energy efficiency in schools is obvious, but concerns over how to finance such investments may hold many back from doing so. However, funding options are still available to help schools invest in such technologies.

These include interest-free loans from Salix Finance – a government funded organisation which provides 100% interest free finance to the public sector to invest in energy efficient technologies. The loans are paid back over several years from the savings made on energy bills, meaning no capital outlay is needed. Funding is available for both large-scale and small-scale projects, covering over 100 technologies, including LED lighting, building energy management systems and renewables.

Over the last 10 years, funding from Salix has allowed me to implement  a considerable amount of energy efficiency upgrade projects across the public sector, including over 45 projects spanning a range of technologies in schools, so I would encourage any schools to investigate the funding options available.

To find out more about the funding available for schools from Salix, visit www.salixfinance.co.uk or contact the Salix team on info@salixfinance.co.uk


Special no-cost virtual events will explore current topics including inclusive learning, delivering an enriched curriculum and meeting new RSHE requirements. Guests include TV presenter Diane Louise Jordan.


Discovery Education – the leader in curriculum-aligned digital resources, engaging content and professional learning for classrooms worldwide – is launching a series of no-cost virtual events aimed at helping educators across the UK address some of the most important topics in education.


As the new term gets underway, this dynamic new professional learning programme will inspire teachers to re-imagine learning while equipping them to deal with the challenges of today’s classrooms. With over 20 events on offer between April and July, educators can choose from a wide range of sessions which can be joined live or viewed on demand at a time that suits them best.


Exploring important current issues such as building an inclusive culturedelivering an enriched curriculum and meeting new RSHE requirements, the expansive programme covers both leadership and in-classroom teaching. A series of powerful thought leadership interviews, peer 2 peer learning and discussions on classroom practice will give educators the tools and knowledge to navigate the summer term with confidence. 


Free to educators, the Discovery Education programme includes:


Learning for Now Festival – a 3 day twilight event 

o   Building an Inclusive Culture (13th May) – will explore how teachers can root out unconscious bias and ensure that inclusion, equality and diversity are championed in schools.  With special guest TV presenter Diane Louise Jordan.

o   Enriching the Curriculum (20th May) – will show how schools can build a broad and balanced curriculum that delivers real cultural capital and qualities for life. Presented by experienced teacher and author Debra Kidd.

o   Teacher as a Storyteller (27th May) – will equip and inspire teachers to create memorable learning experiences. Presented by author and experienced teacher Hywel Roberts. 


Day of Discovery: Impossible Fieldtrips – an afternoon of sessions sharing digital tools and strategies to create amazing lessons for literacy and beyond


Discovery Education NAHT Pathway – a series of events with leading teaching union NAHT, designed to empower teachers and leaders to flourish in their careers 


Tuesday Tutorials – a series of after-school, 30 minute sessions looking at how to use digital media to inspire curiosity, engagement and improve learning outcomes.


Teachers can register to attend all of the sessions for free at https://www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/events


Andrew Hammond, Senior Director of Learning and Community at Discovery Education said,


“It’s never been more important for educators to feel supported, motivated and encouraged in their profession. Our new learning events are designed to help teachers navigate today’s challenges and opportunities while enhancing their professional development, classroom practice and wellbeing. We’re looking forward to connecting with teachers everywhere and hope that as many as possible will join us online this term.” 


Discovery Education’s Professional Learning programme is enjoyed by teachers and school leaders across the UK and around the world.


Speaking after a recent event, Haneen Al Jaaf, a teacher at London’s King Fahad Academy said, “The sessions are brilliant, to the point, easy to follow!”  


Lorraine, a primary school headteacher from Kent said, “The virtual meeting last week was one of the most useful and relevant things I have listened to for a long time!”


Explore Discovery Education’s Professional Learning Events and book online at https://www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/events

Sea-cleaning robot sphere, a hand sanitiser-dispensing phone and an app to tackle period poverty, all in running to win £20,000 prize for young inventors


  • The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, delivered by Nesta Challenges, calls on young people to develop tech-for-good solutions to help solve society’s biggest issues and turn great ideas into reality.
  • The 40 shortlisted teams of 11-16 year-olds will receive expert mentoring from Amazon and other industry experts to create prototypes of their concepts this school term.
  • The winning team will win £20,000 for its school or youth group, with three runner-up teams to be awarded £5,000 each for their school or youth groups.


The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, delivered by Nesta Challenges, has today unveiled a finalist shortlist of 40 inspirational projects from teams of 11-16 year olds in the running to win the £20,000 first prize. The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize pairs STEM knowledge with new entrepreneurial skills and calls on young people to develop innovative ‘tech for good’ solutions to help solve society’s biggest issues. 

Finalists include a sea-cleaning robot sphere that detects and removes microplastics with infrared sensors; a hand sanitiser-dispensing and infrared thermometer phone case that reminds the user to wash their hands and take their temperature regularly, and; an app that tackles period poverty and its link with female participation in sport and exercise by offering free monthly hygiene packs alongside motivation and fitness goals, and mental health tips.

Other game-changing ideas include a device that harvests kinetic energy every time a door is opened and closed to feed into the electricity grid; a carbon footprint-measuring app to help people make sustainable shopping decisions easily, and; a platform that uses AI to teach people sign language.

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize received more than 150 entries this year from over 500 young people across the UK. 40 finalists projects, submitted by teams of 11-16 year-old students, have been selected by a panel of expert judges including Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK, Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge and DeepMind’s Obum Ekeke, Global Lead for University Relations & Education Partnerships. 

The finalist teams will each be connected to an expert mentor from Amazon and other industry-leading organisations. They will mentor teams on topics such as data analytics, software engineering, robotics, and app development, to create prototypes of their concepts to help determine the winner this July. They will all be invited to participate in the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prizes’ Enterprise Academy business day workshops and will also receive one-to-one technology support from FireTech UK – the UK’s leading technology course provider for children aged 8-17.

In July, the winning team will be awarded £20,000 for its school or youth group, with three teams of runners-up to be awarded £5,000 each for their school or youth group. The public will also be given the chance to choose their favourite design in the People’s Choice Award in June, the winner of which will receive £5,000 prize money for its school or youth group.

Maddy Kavanagh, Education and Skills Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges, said:
“It is a privilege to unveil the 40 inspirational teams that have been shortlisted for this year’s Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize. It has been amazing to be inundated with so many innovative entries despite the immense pressures faced by young people, teachers and youth workers alike. Schools are working extraordinarily hard to ensure students excel after lockdown, and youth groups continue to provide vital extra-curricular services and support. We are so pleased that the prize is introducing more young people to the exciting opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths, supporting the growth of entrepreneurial life-skills, and developing their confidence at such a pivotal time. We can’t wait to see our teams develop their ideas into real-world prototypes in the next three months.”

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge, and Judge for the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, said:

“Supporting young people to discover a passion for – and ultimately consider future careers in – STEM is more vital than ever, and it’s fantastic to see such great engagement in the prize across the country. It’s been a joy to see what the nation’s next generation of inventors and innovators have come up with, especially under such unusual and challenging circumstances this year. 

“The Amazon Longitude Explorer prize is part of Amazon Future Engineer, our comprehensive childhood-to-career programme to inspire, educate and enable children and young adults from lower-income backgrounds to discover computer science and engineering. We’re looking forward to getting started with the mentorship programme and seeing the finalists’ ideas come to life.” 

Jacqueline de Rojas, CBE, President at techUK, and judge for the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, said:

“Whittling down all of the amazing entries was incredibly difficult but we are delighted to be able to share 40 deserving finalists. The submissions have been really innovative in the way they have applied technology and real-world promise and bringing with them potential for huge impact. It will be a privilege to watch these innovative ideas blossom with support from industry experts, alongside the passion, skills and confidence of the talented young people taking part.”

Other shortlisted ideas include an eco-friendly water bottle that encourages the user to drink water more often; a wearable device for PTSD sufferers that uses sensors and GPS tracking to monitor behaviour and notify friends and family of episodes; a LGBTQ+ Youth app and website to connect and support those with similar experiences, through chat rooms, bots, fun enrichment activities and resources, and; a mealworm larvae filled box that breaks down non-recyclable plastic waste, using sensors to monitor for optimal decomposition conditions.

The Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize aims to address the lack of diversity in STEM industries by providing young people from all backgrounds with an introduction to the possibilities of entrepreneurship in STEM and becoming the disruptors of the future.

This year, more than half (58%) of all entrants to the 2021 Longitude Explorer Prize are young women. Following the 2020 prize, 93% of the finalists said they would now like to pursue a career in STEM. 98% of 2020 finalists said they were inspired to pursue entrepreneurialism. 91% of young people taking part in the 2020 prize said they learned new remote working skills as a result. 100% of teachers and youth leaders who entered a team in 2020 said they would enter a team in the future.

To find out more about the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize and all 40 of the finalist teams visit https://longitudeexplorer.challenges.org/

Lycamobile partners with the Welsh Government to deliver data to the nation’s students

The offer is available until July in partnership with the Welsh Government


Lycamobile has announced that it will be partnering with the Welsh Government to support remote learning throughout the spring and summer terms. The Mobile Data Uplift Scheme will be available to digitally excluded learners in Wales as they return to school and for the remainder of this academic year. This will help ensure that children can continue to access online resources and that they do not miss out on critical learning and development at this challenging time.


Eligible parents or carers of a learner will receive 20GB free extra data per month at no extra cost until the end of the school year in July, to mitigate against the ramifications of local outbreaks. This extends to eligible adult learners too, ensuring that all students, regardless of their age, can continue with their education.


Lycamobile’s partnership with the Welsh Government follows a significant milestone for the COVID-19 roadmap to recovery in Wales, with the full re-opening of schools following the Easter break. Whilst the Welsh Government, local authorities and schools continue to monitor the situation carefully, Lycamobile continues to support its customers and their families in any way that it can. Lycamobile has initially allocated 3,000 data uplifts to the scheme in Wales.


All digitally excluded learners and disadvantaged children in local authority-maintained primary and secondary schools are eligible to apply for this offer (subject to some pre-conditions found below). This includes learners who do not have access to fixed broadband at home, an appropriate internet connected devices to engage in online learning activities or cannot afford to buy the additional data allowance required to access education resources. 


Customers that have been with Lycamobile for at least three months can discuss the scheme with their school in the first instance. Further details on the wider scheme itself can be found on the Welsh Government’s Devices and Connectivity pages.


Allirajah Subaskaran, Founder and Chairman of the Lyca Group said:


“I am proud to announce Lycamobile’s support for the Welsh Government’s Data Uplift scheme as students enter the most challenging part of the academic year. By ensuring that children have access to the connectivity and educational resources they need, we hope to play a key role in the continuation of their education and alleviate any anxieties from struggling families should any further outbreaks occur.”


This is the latest initiative Lycamobile has joined to provide ongoing support to those impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Lycamobile has worked closely with several government departments to provide support to members of the community that need it most across the country, as well as NHS staff.


For more information as well as terms and conditions, please see the Lycamobile UK website: www.lycamobile.co.uk/covidsupport



Planet Possible Storytelling Will Inform and Encourage Consumers to Build on the Scientific and Environmental Gains of the Past Year Through Content, Products and Experiences Aimed at Enabling People to Discover What They Can Do to Help Preserve Our Home


Earth Day Is Being Celebrated on Multiple Platforms, Including an Earth Day 2021 Virtual Celebration With a Star-Studded Lineup of Environmentally Conscious Musical Artists and the Earth Day Premiere of the Disney+ Original Series ‘Secrets of the Whales’


As a global event each year, Earth Day unites more than 1 billion people to take part in what is the largest civic-focused action day in the world. This year, as the world begins to gradually re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, National Geographic is launching Planet Possible, a new multiplatform, multiyear initiative aimed at helping consumers build on the scientific and environmental gains of the past year and empower them to live more lightly on the planet.


“This past year has transformed our preexisting notions of what is possible, as we have seen a new vaccine for a previously unknown disease developed and rolled out to the public with unprecedented speed, CO2 emissions plummet and vulnerable wildlife populations show promising signs of recovery. As people around the world have navigated the challenges of the pandemic, millions have sought refuge in the outdoors and reconnected with nature,” said Gary Knell, chairman, National Geographic Partners. “We are excited for Planet Possible to build on this momentum, by inviting consumers to understand the threats to our planet and imagine new possibilities.  National Geographic’s unrivalled portfolio of content, products and experiences, as well as the impact work being led by the nonprofit National Geographic Society, sets the stage for this new initiative that will help people explore our world, share its beauty with others, and discover what they can do to help preserve our home.”


Through Planet Possible, National Geographic aims to offer something for every environmentally conscious consumer everywhere, reflecting the brand’s commitment to excite and motivate consumers on Earth Day and beyond.   


Coinciding with the Earth Day launch of Planet Possible, the Disney+ original series from National Geographic, Secrets of the Whales,” premieres on Disney+ on April 22. From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer at Large James Cameron and featuring the expertise and skill of National Geographic Explorer and photographer Brian Skerry, the series takes viewers deep within the epicentre of whale culture to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of whales. The four-part series is narrated by award-winning actress and conservationist Sigourney Weaver.


Planet Possible will encompass an array of National Geographic content:


  • A Planet Possible hub (nationalgeographic.co.uk/planet-possible) that serves as an evergreen home for National Geographic content, including stories that highlight environmental solutions, showcase the work of changemakers across the globe, and empower consumers to lead more sustainable lives.


  • National Geographic Originals: A key part of the Planet Possible initiative will be to showcase National Geographic content, such as the brand’s landmark natural history programming, to engender a deeper love of the Earth that enables fans to see the world like they never have before.


  • Magazine content: National Geographic’s May issue, The Ocean Issue, is a special single-topic issue showcasing the world’s oceans, with the cover featuring National Geographic Explorer and photographer Brian Skerry’s bold Secrets of the Whales project. For the first time, the magazine includes applicable tips alongside each feature to empower readers to make small changes in their daily lives and learn how those changes can impact preservation of the planet.


  • National Geographic Books: Secrets of the Whales, a magnificent book pf photography from award-winning National Geographic Explorer and photographer Brian Skerry, with a foreword by James Cameron, offers groundbreaking new insight into the lives of the world’s largest mammals, along with their complex societies, and is on sale now.


  • National Geographic Kids Magazine: The May 2021 issue of Nat Geo Kids magazine is a special oceans-themed issue that shares tips with young readers about how to protect our planet. 



  • Podcasts: The sixth season of National Geographic’s acclaimed podcast, “Overheard at National Geographic,” has released a bonus episode in celebration of Earth Day. Listeners will hear National Geographic Explorer and photographer Brian Skerry dive with killer whales and discover that they have unique cultures that aren’t that different from our own. The episode, “The Secret Culture of Killer Whales,” is available now on National GeographicSpotify, Apple PodcastsStitcher, iHeart RadioGoogle Podcasts and Castbox.


In addition to the launch of Planet Possible, National Geographic is commemorating Earth Day with a star-studded Earth Day Eve virtual celebration, hosted by travel expert Jessica Nabongo and featuring performances from Angélique Kidjo, AURORA, José González, Maggie Rogers, Rostam, Valerie June, Willie Nelson, Yo-Yo Ma and Ziggy Marley, as well as a world premiere new music video from My Morning Jacket. The event will be available to watch on Earth Day at nationalgeographic.co.uk/planet-possible. Filmed largely in nature, the virtual concert will use music to celebrate our Earth and inspire people to preserve our planet.


The brand is also inviting social media users to participate in an uplifting social media campaign, Share Your Spot which unifies National Geographic’s global community around a shared love of the Earth. The campaign, kicking off on Earth Day, encourages users to share the places that bring them happiness, hope and optimism by submitting pictures using the #ShareYourSpot hashtag and joining them in a global expression of love for the planet.


For over 133 years, National Geographic’s core mission has been to ignite the explorer in everyone through thought-provoking, fact-based storytelling from scientists, explorers, photographers and filmmakers. By helping people better understand the world and their role in it, National Geographic aims to inspire consumers to take the collective action needed to help preserve our planet.


Leading education organisation highlights positive impact of farm visits on young people’s mental and physical wellbeing

LEAF Education is calling on primary and secondary school teachers to consider the benefits of farm visits when booking Covid-secure outdoor learning experiences. The leading education organisation, which provides experiential, curriculum-linked on-farm activities and resources for all Key Stages (EYFS – 5), has highlighted the positive impact farm visits can have on the mental and physical wellbeing of young people. Last year, 100% of teachers who ran LEAF Education farm visits said they would recommend them to another teacher, whilst a further 80% said they would rate LEAF Education’s work as ‘very good’ or ‘outstanding’.


Carl Edwards, Director of Education and Public Engagement at LEAF Education, explains: “Farm visits can be transformative experiences for many young people. Not only do they bring them closer to how their food is produced, raise their awareness of the role of farming in meeting climate change, but they also provide inspiring, educational and sensory-rich environments for learning outside the classroom. Studies[i] also show that regular, direct access to nature can also help increase self-esteem; improve concentration, learning, creativity, cognitive development, cooperation, flexibility and self-awareness and support healthier food choices. With restrictions slowly easing, there has never been a better time for young people to get out on a farm and build deeper connections with the outside world.”


All LEAF Education farm visits are led and delivered by qualified Regional Educational Consultants (RECs) and are tailored to suit the needs of each school and their students. 


LEAF Education also offers farm visit training, with teachers being offered educational handbooks that contain all the essential aspects of organising school farm visits: from what to include in a risk assessment, to linking visits to the curriculum. Information is also provided on the types of farms offering visits, as well as what teachers should look for on a pre-visit. An online workshop is also available for trainee teachers organising farm visits.


LEAF Education works across the education, farming and food sectors to inspire and engage teachers and young people about food production, farming and the environment. It manages a number of leading industry and educational initiatives, including Farmer Time (live, on-farm virtual education sessions), CEVAS for outdoor learning providers and Countryside Classroom (online information portal for teachers). LEAF Education also provides teachers with curriculum and exam specifications, as well as focused training, tools and resources to help them deliver high-quality learning experiences about food production, farming and the environment.


To book a farm visit, teachers should contact education@leafuk.org or, to find out more about the wider the LEAF Education offering, then visit https://leafuk.org/education/for-teachers



Main research paper from UCL here – can cite this one, as its UCL and Wildlife Trust. But plenty of others that link natural and benefits more widely


Mind (mental health charity) also talks about it its importance:


Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise revolutionises remote learning with the launch of Rainbow Classroom

New solution seamlessly creates an unparalleled virtual learning environment

 Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, a leading provider of communications, networking and cloud solutions tailored to customers’ industries, today announced the launch of Rainbow™ Classroom – a unique cloud-based virtual classroom engine enriched with real-time collaboration and communication tools.

Effective remote learning requires an intuitive, integrated and secure platform which can be tailored to educators’ specific needs. Rainbow Classroom enables teachers to empower their teaching styles, to meet their students’ needs, through the creation of an all-encompassing virtual learning environment. Teachers are able to encourage students’ academic and social engagement with a host of real-time and secure collaboration tools; such as monitored study groups, whiteboarding, audio, video, instant messaging (IM) functionality as well as file and screen sharing.

Rainbow Classroom also enables the curation of all classroom activities, through its ability to retain all documents, conversations and posts until the end of the term. Rainbow Classroom seamlessly integrates with existing Learning Management Systems (LMS), to enable a familiar virtual learning environment and toolset. Rainbow Classroom is also fully compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and approved by The Open Web Application Security Project® (OWASP). Because it is hosted on Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s infrastructure, it enjoys the robust level of security applied to all Rainbow products; all communications are encrypted in transit and at rest. With Rainbow Classroom, educators have an innovative solution to enable them to meet the ever-shifting needs of students – and empower their success.

“Home learning is a trend that is here to stay,” comments Moussa Zaghdoud, EVP, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Cloud Communication Business Division. “However, this change requires flexibility among learning establishments; we created Rainbow Classroom to meet that exact need. Rainbow Classroom can be tailored by a school or university to optimize the remote learning experience, while ensuring data security and ease of use for teachers and students alike.

 Rainbow classroom’s inherent versatility enables it to be leveraged in any learning environment. By using Rainbow Classroom, a business, school or university can turn a simple web browser into a sophisticated and powerful learning tool. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is here to support both educators and students in the evolution to a hybrid digital learning environment”.


About Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise delivers the customised technology experiences enterprises need to make everything connect.

ALE provides digital-age networking, communications and cloud solutions tailored to ensure customers’ success, with flexible business models in the cloud, on premises, and hybrid. All solutions have built-in security and limited environmental impact.

Over 100 years of innovation have made Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise a trusted advisor to more than 830,000 customers in 100 countries around the world.

The privately-owned company with headquarters in France has over 2900 direct business partners worldwide, achieving an effective global reach with a local focus.

For more information: www.al-enterprise.com

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Synoptic make their Covid management software, ‘Reactivate’, available free of charge to schools

Following two successful pilots at schools in Cambridgeshire and Hampshire, Synoptic, a UK based tech company, is making its Covid management software, ‘Reactivate’, available free of charge to schools in England.


Reactivate software helps manage Covid risk in workplaces through an app which allows users to report daily symptom screening and test, vaccine and isolation status; and a management dashboard which provides managers a complete overview of reports and allows them to make informed decisions on absence scheduling, screening, testing and isolating.


School leaders in the pilot study said that Reactivate helped them with daily reporting required by the Department for Education, and helped them identify and isolate asymptomatic cases, keeping staff and students safe, helping to manage staff absences, and hugely alleviating the burden of paperwork.


Reactivate allows users to connect with each other as well as connect to their external households and wider social circles. It means that staff and pupils associated with a positive case can be immediately and automatically notified via the app or a text message and tests sent to their entire household – without compromising data privacy and security.


Synoptic is today making the system available to schools in England free of charge, meaning a saving of around £24,000 for the average secondary school over a six month period compared to business users.


Commenting on this launch, Graeme Scott CEO of Synoptic said:

At Synoptic we are driven by our mission to protect lives and help businesses get through the pandemic safely. Having worked with schools to develop a system that makes it easy for them to manage and isolate covid cases while meeting all their reporting requirements, we wanted to make this service available free of charge.


“This technology is made in Britain and is sold to businesses around the world to help them manage covid risk. We want to support the next stage of reopening by making it available free to schools, to help make schools as safe as possible so we can all do our part to help the UK reopen”


Richard White of Princes Mead School said:

“We started using Reactivate in Dec 2020 and began by testing it out with our staff. Once we were satisfied the technology was beneficial, we rolled it out to one parent per pupil and all of the pupils. The app itself is very user friendly and the dashboard is wonderfully simple; providing the information we need on one screen, and saving endless uploading, reporting and searching on excel.”


School leaders interested in using the Reactivate app in their schools should contact Alexandra D’Arcy Clark, Chief Business Development Officer at Synoptic at alexandra.darcyclark@synoptic.software