Protecting and safeguarding your school from Extremism

Extremism has suddenly arisen within the compounds of schools across the UK, and pupils are in danger if schools do not provide a channel to report such behaviour or activities.

E-safety grooming extreemismSafeguarding and protecting pupils should be a schools number one priority according to 86% of parents asked in a recent questionnaire. John Hayes, Security Minister and the Department for Education has recently outlined that all schools and staff have a duty to report incidents of extremism, radicalisation and safeguarding.

Yet what measures are schools putting in place to protect pupils and staff against the latest safeguarding threat. Ofsted are focussing heavily on a schools ability to recognise, understand and report incidents of extremism and radicalisation. However services that support the school network are failing to provide adequate answers, resources and training to help schools deal with this new and ever growing threat. SLT teams are being expected to quickly become experts on this new safeguarding issue, yet without a guided support network, how can any school or member of staff be expected to provide the evidence and information required if they don’t know what this is.

Pupils of the 21st Century are at much greater risk than they have ever been. The introduction of technology and social media, and the interaction between cultures has brought pupils closer together than ever before. In order for a school to protect their students is to engage and educate their students around the signs and dangers of radicalisation and extremism particularly when using technology and social media.

One recent method that schools have been adopting to help protect their school pupils is to provide a communication channel to allow pupils to report any incidents of extremism that they themselves may be susceptible to. However a number of schools that have used a communication method have found that it has been most powerful allowing pupils to report and raise concerns for their friends or family members directly to their school. Proactive schools have found that tackling these new issues head on by engaging the wider community to educate have also proven to be an excellent starting point.

This new safeguarding issue within schools is unfortunately one that is going to increase if schools do not put the relevant communication, reporting and action policies in place.

Michael is the founder of Tootoot, the safeguarding application which allows pupils to report incidents such as extremism as well as bullying, racism etc. Find out more.

Written by Michael Brennan on August 06, 2015 08:52

Stranger Danger

If I was to say that I am a 17 year old member of an up-and-coming boy-band who will be possibly performing on ‘X Factor’ next month and that I have trendy blonde hair and like fashionable clothes and music, you would be forgiven for being ever so slightly suspicious that I may not be telling the truth. That is because, being adults, we have learned to question things that we are told by strangers and treat them with a healthy degree of suspicion and scepticism. It is a defence mechanism that we learn in order to reduce gullibility and maintain self-preservation of ourselves and our possessions.

Children and young people, however, have yet to gain these abilities are naturally very trusting and possess a naivety that, unless they have had personal experiences to the contrary, allows them to automatically think the best of people and implicitly believe no harm will come to them at the hands of grown-ups. This innocence is the reason why parents and other responsible adults are constantly warning youngsters of the dangers of talking to strangers.

In the pre-internet age, it used to be easy for adults to protect children against the potential of predatory strangers. As a young child, I lost count how many times my father or mother reiterated to me that I should “never talk to strangers”. As I progressed into my teenage years, however, the temptation to talk to ‘cool-looking’ people increased, coupled with my thought processes along the lines of “…what did my parents know anyway? They were old and definitely not-cool!”

These days, where kids have access to a variety of connected digital devices, it has become more difficult for parents and teachers to monitor young people and ensure that they are not talking to, or befriending inappropriate adults on the internet. This is especially problematic when you take into consideration some of the risky practices that young people engage in on social media such as ‘friend collecting’ - the practice of asking anyone and everyone to become ‘friends’ on ‘Facebook’ etc., in an effort to appear popular.

This can be addressed by educating them about how easy it is for a predatory adult to assume a false identity online in an attempt to become their ‘friend’ and therefore trustworthy. Unfortunately, however, even students who have received lessons on internet safety can still be drawn in by strangers who cleverly use ‘textspeak’ and the ‘slang’ language adopted by young people to ensnare trusting teenagers. Recently, the TES newspaper reported on a study of 785 secondary students that demonstrated that young people regularly make assumptions about the gender of online strangers based on the language they use and the subject matter discussed. The report highlighted that conversations about shopping or boyfriends are often enough for teens to quickly conclude that the online stranger they are conversing with is female, whereas discussions about football, where perhaps swear words are used, usually is enough to prove the online acquaintance is male.

Only last week, there was a heart-breaking report in the media that, only too well, highlights why young people should never go and meet a stranger that they have met online, in person. Breck Bednar was an intelligent, thoughtful and clever 14 year old, who went to meet a man that he had become friends with whilst playing online games. He tricked his parents into believing that he was going for a sleep-over at a friend’s house nearby but, instead, he travelled by train to the home of 19 year old Lewis Daynes. He was later found stabbed to death in Daynes’ flat.

It is worth pointing out that his vigilant mother was aware of and realised that Daynes was trying to control Breck via the internet and highlighted the obvious lies and deceptions to her son, however, he elected to overlook them and go and secretly meet Daynes with tragic consequences.

It is now no longer a reasonable excuse for parents to claim that due to their own technology short-comings, they haven’t got a clue what their child is up to online and who they are talking to. We need to constantly educate, not only children about internet safety, but those responsible for kids, whether they be parents, guardians or teachers about how to monitor young people’s online behaviour. What are the signs of secrecy to look out for, talk to them about internet safety and the reasons for responsible online activity. Parents should pay attention to who their children’s friends are and show interest in any new friends they may talk about and despite the inevitable protestations, be aware of who they are ‘friends’ with on social media and gaming chatrooms and, most importantly, ensure they have set up all of the correct privacy settings on their different online accounts.

If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, please use the comments section below.

Written by Steve Gresty on December 04, 2014 09:58

What do children really know about grooming?

Former Labour Attorney General Lord Morris of Aberavon announced that 27 police forces are currently investigating 54 alleged gangs involved in child grooming, in England and Wales - the crackdown on grooming follows the recent convictions of the sex abuse ring in the Oxford area.

Former deputy high court judge and independent crossbencher Lord Elystan-Morgan suggested that law enforcement agencies should be ‘prepared to adopt more robust tactics, including infiltration and surveillance’. Lord Taylor reassuringly stated that ‘the government is determined the system should work, the system needs to work, to protect these vulnerable children.’

Issues of grooming, especially over the internet, are becoming increasingly more of an issue. In 2012 1,145 online abuse cases were reported to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Online sexual abuse is often conducted through instant messenger applications, social networking sites and webcams. In some cases reported, offenders hacked into victims’ accounts and refused to give their accounts back unless the child did what the abuser told them to do; demands then became more frequent, making the child feel trapped in a cycle. The offender may then ask to meet the victims in person, and the cycle will continue to spiral out of control.

Law enforcement authorities have said they rely upon victims reporting these issues, but many children, without being educated on what grooming is, may not realise what is happening at first, they may then feel stuck, helpless and not understand what actions to take.

As more and more children are gaining unsupervised access to the internet (through the assortment of devices which now offer web access), the issue of grooming could potentially escalate, and with no one there to safeguard them, they need to be taught how to safeguard themselves.

Here at E-safety Support we recognise the seriousness of the issue and how important it is that all children who use the internet understand that grooming happens so frequently. The ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude is also an issue to address as well as the worrying reality that grooming is not restricted to strangers, but can also be from someone in a position of trust. Children need to be educated, in school and at home, on what grooming is, how to avoid falling victim to it (both online and offline), and what to do if they ever encounter grooming attempts. Teaching children this information will reinforce understanding and awareness of grooming and inappropriate contact and help them to avoid dangerous situations.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on June 18, 2013 13:55

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