Award winning EdTech provider GCSEPod ran a survey on children’s mental health and attitudes to education

++ Over half of respondents not looking forward to examinations this year ++

++ Almost two thirds of respondents say the chance to take exams is very important to them ++

++ Almost 90 per cent of respondents say mental health is as important as physical health ++

++ Less than half of all respondents say they can talk about their mental health with the adults in their life ++

Award winning EdTech provider, GCSEPod, an Access Group company, ran a survey in January 2022 asking young people aged between 11 and 16 years old about their feelings on returning to education and some broader questions about their mental health. 

To mark Children’s Mental Health Week this week (w/c 7th February), GCSEPod wanted to better understand how young people are feeling about their education and their futures. GCSEPod also met up with Blue Mental Health Education & Training to discuss some of the best ways to tackle the mental health crisis in schools.  They have written a blog for their website on what they learned, which can be accessed here.

Across the survey we found that pupils from younger years were in general more likely to feel comfortable speaking about mental health with an adult.

The majority of students polled in year 7 to 9 felt that they could speak to an adult about their mental health, in year 10 this number dipped to 49%. On average, students across all year groups felt that they knew where they could go to get support, with the highest responders in year 7 and the lowest in year 11. 

In general, students responded that they were positive about the future; 72% of pupils in year 7 responded that they were optimistic about the coming years. Overall, this positivity stayed consistent across all year groups, with 65% of pupils in year 12 saying they were optimistic.

Children’s Mental Health Week runs from the 7th to the 13th of February and this year’s theme is growing together.  Place2Be, the children’s mental health charity, launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week back in 2015 to shine a light on the importance of young people’s mental health.  One in six children and young people have a diagnosable mental health problem and this year children, and adults, are being asked to consider how they have grown and how they can help others to grow.

GCSEPod has several free resources on managing your mental health that can be downloaded for teachers or students.  You can find those resources here.

Emma Slater, Head of Education, GCSEPod an Access company said:

“At GCSEPod we are keen to support children, not just with their studies but with their mental wellbeing.  There’s lots to be done that can improve mental wellbeing and I hope that students and teachers will take a look at some of our free resources.”

Warrington Primary School successfully trials ICU Pro for staff access

By Dr. Andrew O’Brien
ICU Product Manager

St Alban’s Catholic Primary School in Warrington have
successfully trialled our ICU Pro biometric solution,
utilising it to automate staff access.

The system was implemented on a trial basis at the primary school last year in order to make entry to the school building quick, easy and safe for the teaching staff. It’s fantastic to see our facial analysis technology being used to ensure only authorised staff can gain access via a hygienic contactless entry system, keeping both staff and pupils safe in the school setting.

The headteacher valued how the entry system helped towards their COVID risk assessment as staff do not have to touch the keypad to gain access to the school. And teaching staff are finding the system convenient too as there is no need for them to try and locate their staff card especially
when arriving with their hands full! This trial was set up for staff access purposes only, so no images of pupils are saved or stored.

So how does it all work?

ICU developed by Innovative Technology uses facial analysis to control access to buildings. Facial analysis is a non-contact form of biometrics which can be used to identify and allow access for authorised persons. It can be used to replace or enhance the use of RFID cards/keys etc.

The concept is very simple – authorised FaceIDs are first added to a database. A FaceID is a very large number which is used to represent a real face.
A FaceID cannot be converted back into a real face and as such in this sense can be deemed anonymous.
A camera is connected to the ICU, which will acquire an image of the person attempting to gain access. It will convert that image to a FaceID and compare it with the authorised database. If a match occurs, the person is authorised, and the door will automatically open. If there is no match, then the door will not open. All data related to that process is then automatically deleted.

All processing is done on the ICU hardware, therefore no internet connection is required. The only data saved is that
of the authorised FaceIDs, no other personal data or identifying data is stored. No unauthorised images are ever
stored on the device.

Interested to learn more and see how ICU can help with authorised access to your place of work?
Email us at or visit

Brighton Hill Community School supports teaching, learning and innovation with new, high-performance WiFI from Redway Networks

Brighton Hill Community School has future-proofed its network and delivered a secure, mobile learning environment for its students and staff with a new Cisco Meraki WiFi 6 solution from Redway Networks.  With student numbers doubling in the last three years and plans to reach full capacity in 2022, the school’s aging wireless network needed replacing with a robust, secure wireless solution that would deliver speed and efficiency across the school site to support high-quality teaching and learning.

Brighton Hill Community School is a co-educational secondary school located in Basingstoke, Hampshire.  The school has 1100 pupils and 150 staff and prides itself on providing the best teaching and supportive environment where its students can thrive. 

Existing WiFi needs replacing  

Brighton Hill’s existing WiFi was ten years old and needed replacing with a more reliable, next-generation wireless solution that would deliver sophisticated performance and was built for high density student and staff use.

Tony Eden, IT & Network Manager at Brighton Hill Community School says: “We were having coverage issues with our existing WiFi which had basically come to the end of its life.  With our plans to increase student numbers and replace some of our IT computers with laptops and tablets, the first stage of the process was to upgrade the wireless network infrastructure.”

Once the school had determined its requirements, it reached out to Redway Networks as it wanted to use a wireless and networking specialist as opposed to a general IT company.  Tony says: “When I spoke to Redway Networks I was really impressed with their technical product knowledge, the advice I received and their approach.”

Brighton Hill selects Meraki    

Once Redway Networks had been selected, its engineer performed a predictive WiFI survey using a map of the school’s campus (which includes three separate buildings) to determine the new wireless design, which was verified using Ekahau’s heatmapping software.  As Tony is the is the only network manager at the school, Redway Networks knew that having different vendor solutions for WiFi and switching and with no central management would make on-site network management harder, so they recommended a Cisco Meraki cloud-networking solution to deliver a powerful, secure network that could be managed easily from a single cloud dashboard and would deliver reliable connectivity for the school’s ever-growing demand for a more mobile friendly network.  Tony says: “I really liked the Meraki product and as it is ‘under one basket’ so to speak, I knew Meraki would deliver a great insight into our network with scalable cross-platform visibility.”

Redway Networks delivers an exceptional service 

Redway Networks provided a seamless installation of Brighton Hill’s Meraki cloud-networking solution which included high-efficiency WiFi 6 access points, layer 2 PoE switches and end-point systems management with a 10-year software licence, automatic firmware and security updates and professional services and support. 

Tony says: “Meraki has given us a robust, future proofed wireless network that is really simple to use and with the cloud dashboard I can manage the network from anywhere, which gives me more network visibility.  We currently have a bit of a hybrid between student laptops and desktops in the IT suites, but the plan is to bring ICT into the classroom environment with the roll out of more laptops, which I know will be seamless with Meraki.

Tony concludes: “The whole experience with our new WiFi from Redway Networks was professional and the service we received was absolutely brilliant.  The job was completed on time and the aftercare and support has been excellent.”


Teachers are being invited to take part in free online workshops to help them keep pupils safe online being held by award-winning youth engagement agency Beatfreeks.

The ‘Train the Trainer’ webinars, which which will to equip teachers with the skills to support young people aged between 11 and 16 to stay safe online, will begin this week as part of the UK wide Be Internet Citizens campaign – delivered by Birmingham based youth engagement agency Beatfreeks, supported by and Youtube. 

According to research by The Institute of Strategic Dialogue, an estimated 1 in 3 British children aged 12-15 have encountered sexist, racist or discriminatory content online while 38% of young people say that social media has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves.

With education professionals spending a large proportion of the working week with their students, they are often the first port of call for young people making it increasingly important that they are aware of potential issues that their students may be facing as well as having the skills to address them. 

From Thursday 11th February, teachers, safeguarding leads, deputy and head teachers are invited to take part in the free 2 hour and 30 minute sessions, which will tackle issues including fake news and misinformation, unconscious bias, discrimination and the difference between free speech and hate speech. 

The interactive sessions aim to deconstruct misconceptions around the ever changing digital world while building teacher’s confidence in teaching these complex subjects in a way that is both structured and engaging for young people. Accredited by the PHSE Association, the training feeds into key areas of the national curriculum including RSHE, Prevent and SMSC.

As well as receiving training from a team of expert facilitators, which qualifies as a Continuing Professional Development activity,  attendees will also be provided with a suite of resources to help them deliver lessons to their students, including session plans, supporting handouts and reflective journal templates. 

Founded in 2013 by social entrepreneur Anisa Morridadi, Beatfreeks was established to address the growing divide between young people and the institutions that were meant to support them. The initiative began as an experiment – a Poetry Jam held in Anisa’s home city of Birmingham which offered young people the opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts and feelings, allowing for genuine insight into grass roots youth culture. 

Beatfreeks now works with companies across the UK to offer insight and youth engagement, connecting them with a community of young creatives and offering the opportunity to consult on existing ideas, collaborate on new ones and shape a culture that stays ahead of the curve. 

Founder and CEO Anisa Morridadi said: “Digital consumption has accelerated over the last 18 months with our research showing an estimated 99% of young people actively using social media platforms. Social media is an incredible resource but it’s crucial that young people have the awareness and the skills to stay safe in a digital world and that educators have the right resources to support them to do that.

“With a digital world that is ever changing, it can be tough for teachers to keep up with new developments. These free sessions are a fantastic way for teachers to not only become confident in speaking about current trends but we hope that they will empower them to address what can be difficult subjects, like online harassment, stereotyping and hate speech head on.”

For those unable to attend the session later this month, further sessions will be held on Thursday 10th March, Tuesday 29th March and Thursday 26th May. For more information or to secure your place, visit: 


New data reveals a 71% increase in children “at serious risk” online while using school devices

This Safer Internet Day (8th Feb), UK digital safeguarding specialist, Smoothwall, reveals a significant increase in children “at serious risk” online in 2021, compared to the previous year

The 2022 Safer Internet Day theme focusses on gaming and demonstrating respect and relationships online

Data highlights the top three riskiest gaming platforms used by children on school devices


New data from leading digital safeguarding technology provider, Smoothwall, has seen a 71% increase in 2021* of reports of children being identified as in serious risk online through – as detected by the company’s digital monitoring solution.


The monitoring solution technology, designed to alert safeguarding officers and teachers 24/7, identified a serious risk every five minutes in 2021, with every hour seeing a child facing a “very serious risk to their health or life”.


With this year’s Safer Internet Day (8th Feb), focusing on the importance of children understanding respectful relationships while gaming online, Smoothwall wants to highlight the riskiest gaming platforms used on school devices, along with the threats that come with them, according to their most recent data. 


The three gaming platforms which saw the highest graded (levels 4 and 5)** safety alerts in 2021 were:

  • Omegle – 64.8% of risks
  • Discord – 27.2% of risks
  • Roblox – 8% of risks


The data shows that across these three gaming platforms, sexual content was the top risk identified, with nearly 1 in 2 (48%) of the alerts attributing to this category. This was followed by cyberbullying, which caused 18% of alerts, and online grooming which caused 17%.


Across the three gaming platforms however, Omegle was where the safeguarding technology spotted the largest risk for online grooming. The platform which allows users to jump into video chats and forums with strangers around the world saw 26% of risks in the grooming risk category.


The top three risks for each gaming platform in 2021 were:


Omegle Discord Roblox
Sexual content – 48% Sexual content – 50% Sexual content – 49%
Grooming – 26% Cyberbullying – 37% Cyberbullying – 39%
Offensive user – 9% Offensive user – 8% Offensive user – 10%


Smoothwall’s monitoring solution works alongside schools to help prevent serious harm to children.


Gavin Logan, Smoothwall’s Executive Vice President said: “With last year seeing nearly all children aged 5-15 active online, it’s more important than ever for education organisations to have the benefit of a human moderated, digital monitoring solution to help detect students who may have become vulnerable from online gaming – as well as from other school activities.


“Smoothwall’s service works 24/7, 365 days a year, and is a virtual assistant to a school’s designated safeguarding lead, removing false positives and sharing risks they need to know about immediately. This means early intervention and improved student outcomes. We hope our latest data helps safeguarding officers, teachers and parents understand the true risks to children while gaming online and encourages them to ensure their school is protected effectively.”


If you’d like to find out more about Smoothwall’s multi award-winning Monitor solution please click here to book a free walkthrough and Q&A session with one of the monitoring experts.


Parsons Green Prep announces new head

Parsons Green Prep is delighted to announce that Dr Pamela Edmonds will be joining PGP in September 2022 as the new Head.


Dr Edmonds is an experienced Head with considerable success as a senior leader in prep schools, with wider engagement as a member of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) Educational Advisory Forum and as a team inspector when called to inspect for ISI in the independent sector. She is currently the Head of The Hampshire School Chelsea, where her all-encompassing approach to pupils’ personal development and promotion of the highest standards of teaching and learning, from Early Years through to the transition to senior school, have led to national recognition, including a nomination for ISA Junior School of the Year 2019. Previously, Dr Edmonds was Head of St Cedd’s School, a 3-11 Choir Association school with an outstanding track record of grammar school places and academic, sport and music scholarships to HMC schools.


She gained her undergraduate teaching degree at the University of London Institute of Education reading mathematics and Physical Education and graduated from the University of Bath with an MEd in Educational Management and a Doctorate of Education (EdD).


As Director of Studies and Head of Boarding at Holmwood House Prep School, she was responsible for the welfare of boarders, the academic profile of the school, taught mathematics through to Common Entrance and coached the netball teams to success in IAPS tournaments. Dr Edmonds was Head of Mathematics at Queens Gate School in London in the 1980s and has knowledge of first-class educational practice from around the world, with senior management experience in top 3-18 international schools in Tokyo, Singapore and Bangkok. She is a member of the Independent Schools Association (ISA) and has been a serving member of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) since 2015.


Fundamental to Dr Edmonds’s approach to education is the conviction that all children must be supported with the very best pastoral care system to enable them to flourish personally and excel academically. She encourages children to balance the breadth of their academic studies with passions beyond the classroom. Her commitment to enabling pupils to meet the challenges of life is evident through her promotion of STEAM and passion for a personalised curriculum that provides challenge and fosters articulate, confident, independent-thinking children, equipped with the strength of character and resilience for success.


Alongside her school commitments, Dr Edmonds is a keen bridge player, enjoys reading, loves the theatre in all its forms and, when time allows, can be seen jogging from Kew to Hammersmith. She enjoys a challenge and lists climbing Mount Fuji, competing in the Channel Yacht Race 1985 and, most recently, attempting to learn to play the saxophone as some of her highlights. Dr Edmonds has two daughters who were educated in the independent sector and who now live and work in London.   


On receiving the news of her appointment to the role of Head, Dr Edmonds commented:

‘I am incredibly excited and honoured to be appointed as the next Head of Parsons Green Prep. The warmth of welcome and family ethos, underpinned by a deep-rooted culture of care and drive for academic excellence, resonate with my own values. I look forward to getting to know the children, staff and parents in the months ahead. Parsons Green Prep has an exciting future ahead and I am thrilled to be a part of it.’


Lucinda Waring, the Proprietor, commented: ‘The interview team was immensely impressed by Dr Edmonds’s depth of knowledge and understanding of education and how her values and vision for the future echo those of PGP. This is an exciting time for the school and as we emerge from the pandemic we do so not only as a healthy and strong school but one that is excited to take on the challenges of the future with confidence and passion.’


iQuila’s Virtual Extended Network Buries VPN Misery and Waves Goodbye to Costly MPLS and SD-WAN Tech


Virtual Network innovators revolutionise hybrid user access and offer cure to January’s Cyber Essentials headaches


 Since the UK Government’s Cyber Essentials certification scheme began in 2014, its guidance on managing cyber security threats has given a confidence boost to both businesses and customers alike. Yet many companies keen to maintain accreditation could be found wanting in January 2022, as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) rolls out its biggest update to Cyber Essentials.


Among the changes are new technical controls for remote users and cloud services; affecting organisations where hybrid working, or distance learning has dramatically increased in recent years. For IT managers seeking to avoid a likely raft of administrative headaches, an easy to instal yet astonishingly versatile solution is available from UK-based virtualised network innovators, iQuila.


In many ways, iQuila’s transformative and truly disruptive software-defined networking (SDN) platform is the killer app that makes a multitude of device configuration tasks redundant and brings with it a host of access and security benefits.


The company’s Virtual Extended Network (VEN) is the world’s first SDN to deliver a reliable and seamless ‘full’ Layer 2 networking experience for remote users. In short, it’s like they never left the office or classroom, as iQuila’s lightweight app enables transparent access to all the services and protections of the organisation’s LAN, wherever they happen to be, and on any device.


iQuila’s VEN technology, eliminates the Layer 3 internet remote access networking shortcomings that hybrid users face, and IT personnel have to manage. No more unstable legacy tech VPNs, and gone are all the performance, configuration and access nightmares that go with them. Simplifying all manner of connectivity complications and vulnerabilities, iQuila remote users experience the same security controls used on the office LAN, from access restrictions to endpoint threat detections.


If you’re looking to meet the new Cyber Essentials compliance conditions, and more besides, then iQuila is the magic bullet that minimises administrative labours while enhancing the user experience.


Technically, iQuila utilises a custom AI module to manage transport segmentation (the slicing and dicing of data streams) and applies its proprietary VEN protocol between end points. The entire Layer 2 segment is encrypted using the company’s own security protocols. The AI functions have a self-learning capability; prioritising traffic and eliminating duplicate data that tends to proliferate among lower cost devices used in home environments.


As David Sweet iQuila CEO explains: “The AI looks at the remote connection traffic activity on the network and learns to allow only data that is required to pass through it. Within a few hours it builds up a picture of how users operate within the network and constantly fine tunes its behaviour to give you the best possible connection. And, of course, you can implement security measures to direct users to specific areas and deny access to other locations. Security can be further refined to restrict what type of data can be accessed and the priority it is given.”


With two main offerings, iQuila Cloud and iQuila Enterprise, businesses and organisations of any size can reap the benefits of using iQuila’s Virtual Extended Network, furthering the reach of their secure LAN resources to any remote user.


iQuila Cloud is a cost-effective solution for smaller businesses. Operated by iQuila, it presents IT administrators with a flexible feature set to manage multiple remote users and devices on the network.


By contrast, iQuila Enterprise offers full control of the network and can be installed in minutes alongside existing infrastructure. Instances can also be clustered to accommodate expanding user demand. With only 500kB of RAM required per active user and, hardware permitting, up to 10,000 users on a single instance, a mere 5GB of RAM is all that would be consumed at full capacity.


When medical equipment manufacturer Penlon was called upon by the UK government to ramp up production of ventilators, in response to the pandemic, it sought out an additional site to meet the demand. Penlon’s top priority was to establish robust network connectivity with its main site. 


“Having a second site, which needed to work seamlessly with our main site, was a new challenge,” recalls Tony Serratore, head of IT and digital technology at Penlon. “David and the team at iQuila were extremely responsive and quick to action. In just one afternoon, we had the connection, and the two sites were running as one. Everyone in the business had instant access to everything they needed wherever they were, there were no disruptions in connection or productivity, and we could maintain the highest level of control to ensure security and compliance.”


iQuila’s Virtual Extended Network is capable of encapsulating an organisation’s hosting environment(s) to make it accessible in any remote location. It goes beyond replacing legacy VPN connectivity for remote users and demonstrates extraordinary benefits in disaster recovery (DR).


When applied to a disaster recovery scenario, scripted or manual IP reassignments required for virtual machine allocations are no longer necessary. Even costly MPLS line and SD-WAN alternatives can be replaced by iQuila’s VEN technology. But why wait months for a dedicated MPLS connection when iQuila’s inexpensive SDN can facilitate instant failover safeguards from day one?


With industrial, educational and local authority clients, iQuila’s technology has an expanding user base who praise its simplicity, transparency and robustness. Whether you’re looking for a shortcut to Cyber Essentials compliance for hybrid users; sharing resources with remote learners, or have no time to waste for expansion, iQuila’s Enterprise and Cloud SDN solutions maximise the benefits of network virtualisation. 


As iQuila director Bill McCormick observes: “The cyber security industry is worth about £800bn and that’s because of the insecurity outside of the LAN. Once you move outside your LAN protection you are fair game to hackers. We can extend the LAN anywhere in the world. iQuila’s VEN is a one-stop shop replacing legacy VPNs and costly MPLS and SD-WAN communications – it’ll do everything.”


The iQuila client app is compatible with macOS, Windows, multiple flavours of Linux, iOS and Android, embedded options are also available.

Visit iQuila  for more information.

Post-pandemic, English Heritage relaunches its education programme to address plummeting school trips to heritage sites

– In 20/21, educational visits were at 1% of their normal annual level –

– As we mark Children’s Mental Health Week, English Heritage is renewing its commitment to educational visits –


8 February 2022 – English Heritage has today relaunched its education programme for 2022, in a bid to encourage more schools to take advantage of the benefits of school trips to children’s wellbeing and cross-curricular learning. The programme incorporates both free school trips and expert-led paid-for Discovery Visits at the hundreds of historic sites in the charity’s care.


Despite being one of the UK’s largest providers of school trips, English Heritage welcomed a mere fraction of its average annual educational visitors last year. In 20/21, just over 4,000 students visited its heritage sites, down almost 99% on its normal annual figures of 340,000. With studies consistently showing that children’s mental health, and in particular that of children from low-income homes or with special educational needs, has worsened during the pandemic*, the charity believes that school trips are more important than ever before.


Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said, “We are extremely hopeful that by encouraging more schools to return to educational visits, we can play our part in the process of levelling up and improving the wellbeing of children from every community. As we mark Children’s Mental Health Week, it seems particularly important to renew our commitment to education, by relaunching our programme of school trips.


“I am personally inviting teachers up and down the country to bring their pupils to one of our historic sites and to see for themselves the huge benefits the experience can bring, not just to children’s learning, but also their health and happiness. Connecting with a building that has stood for many centuries is a deeply grounding and rewarding experience, bringing history and past generations to life.”


English Heritage has continued to invest in and improve its educational programme. For 2022, the charity has appointed 38 new volunteers, created multiple new free Teacher’s Kits and downloadable teaching resources, and introduced six new expert-led Discovery Visits, with a further 22 having been revised during the pandemic. These include a wider number of SEN appropriate trips such as meeting the working donkeys at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight and sensory activities at Portchester Castle in Hampshire.


The charity has committed to high quality education provision across its sites. In 2021, seven of our sites were awarded Sandford Heritage Education Awards and new specialist facilities have recently been developed at sites including Gainsborough Old Hall in Lincolnshire, Boscobel House in Shropshire and Walmer Castle in Kent, with a refreshed education centre at Osborne on the Isle of Wight coming later in 2022. The charity also engages local schools and learners to help create new visitor experiences, such as the new interpretation at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens in Northumberland.


English Heritage offers free self-led trips to more than 400+ historic sites, and Discovery Visits to 27 sites, for all pre-booked learning groups. Any school can visit an English Heritage site for free on a self-guided visit. Discovery Visits cost £100 for an immersive hour-long session with an expert, offering memorable, hands-on experiences. Visits must be booked online at least 14 days in advance. For more information on the charity’s programme of school trips, to download teaching resources or to book, visit


What is the outlook for food in 2022?

Oliver Hall, Managing Director at food procurement specialist allmanhall, looks at the outlook for the food industry for 2022, and concludes that there are still challenges to be faced




As the annual pace of consumer price growth in the OECD group of developed nations hit 5.8% in November, which was the highest rate since May 1996, we have seen a significant level of food inflation in the second half of 2021. This is set to continue for 2022, with some suggesting that it could further accelerate.


“Prices are expected to stay at high levels throughout 2022,” says Stephan Hubertus Gay, senior agricultural policy analyst at the OECD. Clive Black, Director and head of research at Shore Capital observed food chain price rises on core commodities of 35% – 45% over a 12-month period.


Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “the acute labour shortages across supply chains, amongst other factors, led to the year ending with a notable increase; for example, fresh food saw the largest rate of inflation in almost a decade.”


Food commodity prices are “now supported by inflation in the general economy”, according to Rabobank, and reinforced by “astronomical” shipping container costs, rising energy and fertiliser prices, and labour shortages in ports and factories.


Forecasting is notoriously difficult, with many input factors impacting the level of inflation. However, for budgeting purposes we suggest allowing for between 7.5-10% food inflation over the course of 2022.


Work force shortages


The labour shortages in the UK have been well documented through the loosening of the 2021 lock down. Like food inflation, these challenges are set to continue.  Now with Omicron an additional factor adding to the already acute situation. 


On 14 December, during a governmental Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Meeting on ‘Labour Shortages in the Food and Farming Sector’ the challenges with take up and processing of the Skilled Worker Visa, originally set up in December 2020, were debated. Chair of the committee, Neil Parish said: ‘Employers need workers and cannot get them in time. Pigs are being culled and wasted because there are not enough butchers in the abattoirs. Fruit is rotting on trees and crops are not being planted.’


Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said separately that: “The government needs a coherent food policy to maintain UK production, including a clear strategy for solving labour shortages throughout the supply chain.”


However, recent reports suggest that the government funded HGV training scheme has been widely welcomed by the haulage industry, with significant increased interest and uptake. Currently this is only due to run until the end of November, and calls are being made to develop it into a longer-term initiative.


Imposition of UK Border Checks


The 1st of January saw the commencement of UK border checks on imports from the EU.  Whilst border checks have been in place for exports into the EU since the end of the transition, they were delayed for imports into the UK to mitigate custom related delays. The first phase, which has now gone live, is the requirement to make customs declarations, give advance notification of imports of food and to pay tariffs. Physical checks on animal and meat products will be phased in from 01 July. 


Trade Deals – in the longer term


With the trade deal with Australia now signed, a precedent has been set for future negotiations.   According to NFU president Minette Batters, the “one-sided” deal, ratified on 17 December, gave Australia’s agriculture sector “all it asked for” with little in return for British farmers, who she said were already “facing extraordinary inflationary pressure and sustained labour shortages”.


“It’s also difficult to discern anything in this deal that will allow us to control imports of food produced below the standards legally required of British farmers, for instance on land deforested for cattle production or systems that rely on the transport of live animals in a way that would be illegal here,” Batters added.


With the specifics of this deal agreed, it is difficult to see how any future deals with other nations could be struck that have improved terms for the UK food and farming sectors. Other nations will surely not accept anything less.


Farming Subsidies – From CAP to ELM


Instead of paying farm subsidies based on the area farmed under CAP, the Environmental Land Management or ELM scheme will pay British farmers to use their land in what the government deems a more environmentally friendly way, including by re-wilding or planting trees as part of the government’s drive to reach ‘net zero’ by mid-century.


The House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee has said the government’s new Environmental Land Management scheme lacks detail and is based on “blind optimism”.


Defra had given “no detail about how either the necessary productivity increases or environmental benefits [demanded by the new scheme] will be brought about”


“We have known we were replacing the CAP since 2016 and still we see no clear plans, objectives or communications with those at the sharp end – farmers – in this multi-billion pound, radical overhaul of the way land is used and, more crucially, food is produced in this country,” said committee chair and veteran Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown.  


A longer-term outcome to the change of farm payment may actually result in a reduction of the amount of food produced in the UK leading to lower levels of food self-sufficiency, and potential security.


National Food Strategy


The National Food Strategy, led by Henry Dimbleby, was published in July 2021. It aims to address the key challenges in the UKs food system, from food poverty to its environmental impact. It calls for serious action to be taken to escape the ‘junk food cycle’, including sugar and salt taxes on manufacturers. It also highlights the need for a 33% reduction of red meat consumption per capita by 2030 for sustainability reasons.


The Government is due to officially respond this month, and although unlikely, if it were to endorse and action the National Food Strategy recommendations in full, it would have a transformative impact on the food industry.


Calorie Labelling


Following on from the implementation in October 2021 of Natasha’s Law, requiring pre-packed food for direct sale to clearly label allergens, from 01 April, English hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, pubs, and takeaways, will be required to display the calorie content of the food being sold on their menus and labels.  Initially the law will apply to English businesses with more that 250 employees preparing food and drink for immediate consumption.  


This legislation, currently focused on the larger foodservice operations, again shows the direction of travel of providing information for the consumer at the point of purchase.


It appears that the challenges we saw in 2021 will continue into 2022, with further factors to be considered, too.


Safer Internet Day: How to spot the signs of cyberbullying

Ahead of Safer Internet Day 2022 (8 February), online safeguarding experts are urging parents and carers to continue to keep a close watch on their child’s online activities and to be aware of the signs of cyberbullying.


More than 1.7million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, colleges and local authorities as part of the Government’s Get Help with Technology programme to help children and young people during the pandemic.  And with so many more connected devices in children’s hands, the Safer Schools Initiative, led by safeguarding experts Ineqe Safeguarding Group in partnership with specialist schools insurer, Zurich Municipal says it has never been more important for parents and carers to be aware of the dangers posed to young people online – and specifically cyberbullying.


To mark Safer Internet Day, the Safer Schools Initiative has released tips and guidance for parents and carers on spotting the signs of cyberbullying and how to support someone who is being bullied.


Tilden Watson, Head of Education, at Zurich Municipal says: “Nearly two years have passed since the UK’s schools were forced to close their doors and switch to remote learning. The Get Help with Technology programme has helped millions of disadvantaged children and young people to continue their studies, but by increasing access to connected devices, potentially unsupervised at times, the risk of online harm is greater. Cyberbullying in particular is a growing problem, affecting around a fifth of 10-15 year olds.). Unfortunately, with the ongoing rise of smart phones and tablets cyberbullying isn’t going away anytime soon, so spotting the signs and knowing how to react is vital for parents and schools.”

Jim Gamble, online safeguarding expert and the force behind the Safer Schools app said, “Online bullying remains a monumental challenge for parents, carers, teachers and safeguarding professionals. The best way we can help young people stay safe online is by empowering them through education and teaching them how to protect themselves from harm. However, should you find out a young person is being bullied online it’s important to know how best to respond.”

How to spot if someone is being bullied online

Often signs a child is being bullied, even in the online environment, will manifest in the classroom, corridors and playgrounds of the school and at home.  Keep an eye out for changes to behaviour.  This could include:

  1. a change in sleeping patterns and frequent nightmares,
  2. not wanting to attend school,
  3. a noticeable decline in standards of schoolwork,
  4. a nervous reluctance to use their mobile phones/internet 
  5. showing unusual aggression, being disruptive or unreasonable.

So, what should you do if someone is being bullied online?

Young people may not describe what is happening to them as bullying, so it is important to listen if they mention things that are upsetting them or worrying them online. If a child describes an experience which sounds like, or is online bullying, Jim Gamble’s advice is to:

  • Take time to listen to them and try not to interrupt. Try not to get angry or upset at the situation.
  • Don’t stop them from accessing social media platforms or online games. It may feel like punishment and stop them from telling you in the future
  • Reassure the child that things will change, and they have done the right thing by telling you. This can help reduce their anxiety.
  • Make sure the child knows it’s not their fault and they have done nothing wrong
  • As a parent or carer, it is important not to get involved or retaliate in cases of online bullying. This will likely make the situation worse for the child
  • Talk to the child about what they would like to see happen. Involving them in how the bullying is resolved will help them feel in control of the situation



To support parents and schools this Safer Internet Day, Ineqe’s online safeguarding experts have curated a set of resources available to download or view on the safer schools website. These cover a range of topics designed to help children and young people develop and maintain safer, healthier relationships with others online.

The Safer Schools App was launched by Zurich Municipal and online safeguarding experts, Ineqe Safeguarding Group in 2018. Since then, it has been rolled out across thousands of state schools in the UK. The App combines the expertise of a range of safeguarding professionals to provide staff, parents and carers with greater understanding of the digital space, trends and emerging risks as well as education about frequently used online language, social media buzzwords and credible video contact.

Available free for schools insured with Zurich Municipal, the award-winning Safer Schools App, resources and training offer critical advice regarding image sharing, online bullying safer gamin and much more. For more information and resources visit: