Yesterday Liz, Stu and I met with Neil James and Abigail Evans from Caerphilly Education IT, along with Ian from St Gwladys Primary, Bargoed (worth contacting Al - he's a very enthusiastic iPad trainer!) to discuss the Welsh Government's Proposals for an All Wales Internet Filtering Policy. WG have expressed an eagerness for all pupils in Wales to work on a level playing field when using the internet. There's a comprehensive list of categories of sites that were under discussion, with each one being allocated a suggested 'Allow' 'Block' or 'Decide on a Local Level' criteria. I'm sure that Liz and Stu will readily comment below to offer their perspectives but I felt that this was a very encouraging meeting. I think it's fair to say that everybody present agreed that we have duty towards our pupils to develop their digital literacy hand in hand with keeping them safe and that this involves opening up a far wider range of content than previously experienced. Once I get an electronic copy of this list of sites, I will post a copy here - Neil and Abi were genuinely keen to get as broad a response as possible to the proposals.
Access to various elements of online content is to be categorised according to 1. Staff Access, 2. Primary Pupil Access and 3. Secondary Pupil Access. (This is far clearer on the proposal document!). In fairness to Ian, our primary colleagues will certainly have a different perspective when agreeing on filtering sites for pupils aged 4-11 than we might for 11-18.
The challenge ahead.
The main challenge presented by these proposals as far as I can see involves working with SLT's and more specifically head teachers. To be honest there were occasions when I felt mild apprehension at the thought of such open access to a wide variety of online content. Convincing your Heads, who hold the ultimate responsibility for pupil safety will be the main challenge. Sangeet's advice involving making small proposals that are explicitly thought through with sound supporting evidence will be crucial. As we know - for developing digital literacy put the learning ahead of the technology and prepare robust e-safety policies (in tandem with your behaviour policies) and when mistakes are (inevitably) made, look to learn from them without losing heart. By the way, Neil and Abi were more than happy to produce an exemplar acceptable internet use policy for schools to adapt/adopt.
It was also interesting to hear Abi mention a school in the USA which dispensed with any 'E-Policies' altogether, relying instead purely on behaviour policies (e.g. rather than looking at cyber-bullying as a separate entity, deal with it as part of the anti-bullying policy; or treat defacing of Facebook walls in the same way as physical graffiti is handled). Perhaps some of you might be familiar with this approach, if so you might like to elaborate (or correct any of my misapprehensions!).
Chris Williams also popped in to mention his 'Digital Leaders Group' (essentially a show and tell teach meet for all Caerphilly Schools). The first one is Thursday at Ty Penallta from 1.30. On this occasion it will involve brief presentations from several Primary colleagues. Hopefully this will include some Secondary examples in the next session. If you haven't heard about this, don't worry - Neil, Abi and Chris all expressed frustration that emails might not always get to the right person in each school. As a result, I will ensure that they are made aware of the membership of our group so that messages can get to the appropriate person in future.
Reading back over this post, I think I've captured the main gist of the meeting - although I don't think I've quite captured the sense of fun as I can honestly say that this was a very enjoyable two hour meeting. Which is refreshing!