Sunday, January 29, 2017
In an increasingly dangerous world for children.....
In an increasingly dangerous world for children, greater awareness and education must be the order of the day
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of some of the most progressive and humane laws in UK history: the NHS Family Planning Act, the Abortion Act, and the Sexual Offences Act. Evidence, information, freedom, and choice were their defining motivations, and they’ve helped create a better society for us all.
Part of that better society in recent years has been a much greater focus on the wellbeing of children and their right to grow up freely and safely and be prepared for life. We care more now than ever before about child abuse and child exploitation.
Sexual harassment and violence in schools have become issues of public concern, and homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying in schools is now properly seen as a problem to be solved. But it is not just our values that have changed - the world our children grow up in has changed - and we are all increasingly aware that we need to explain a lot of tricky ideas to them before those introductions are made prematurely by the media and internet.
Given the nature of these challenges, it is not surprising that calls for personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE), including its component sex and relationships education (SRE), to be given statutory status are now never far from the news. Most recently, these calls have been seen in the passage of the Children and Social Work Bill on which the growing consensus (the BHA included) has pinned their hopes of finally seeing the subject made compulsory in schools.
Unfortunately, that consensus is yet to include the Government, whose excuses for ignoring both the evidence and the expertise are becoming increasingly flimsy. The latest and most popular such excuse is that statutory status is unnecessary because Ofsted is effectively ensuring that schools teach the subject through its inspections anyway. Just this week Education Minister Caroline Dinenage sought to deflect cross-party pleas during a debate on SRE by pointing members to the role played by the inspectorate.
This may sound plausible, but it simply isn’t true - and now we can prove it.
The report we published this week, Healthy, Happy, Safe?, details the findings of a review of all of Ofsted’s inspection reports for the 2015/2016 academic year, ever since a new inspection framework was introduced (ostensibly placing greater emphasis on PSHE and SRE, according to Ofsted). Of the more than 2000 inspection reports we reviewed, fewer than one percent explicitly mentioned SRE, and only 14 percent mentioned PSHE. To put these figures in context, almost every other subject received far greater attention, including history, which was mentioned in 36 percent of reports, geography (26 percent), art (21 percent), music (31 percent), and sport (59 percent).
Sexting: How to protect yourself and children online | By Dr Laura Toogood
Anti Virus Software
Make sure you have up to date antivirus software and a firewall installed on your computer such as Windows Security Essentials. Encryption software such as Symantec Drive Encryption or Windows bitlocker also adds an extra level of security.
Don't click on suspicious links
Viruses can be spread via links in emails. Do not open any messages from unknown or unexpected addresses.
Make children aware
Highlight the risks of interacting and making friends with people who they don’t know online. Guide young children through the internet journey – you wouldn’t let them walk alone in a vast city , so don’t let them go unguided here.
Implement family settings
Apply any settings that automatically block inappropriate content. However, be aware they are not always foolproof and need regular checks.
Make sure you use strong passwords that include a combination of numbers, upper and lower case characters and symbols. Avoid using the same passwords for multiple accounts. You may want to consider using a password manager like LastPass to help you manage this.
Social engineering is popular with hackers - this means they collect data about you to help them bypass passwords. This can include guessing security questions, such as your birthplace, which maybe available on your Facebook profile. Where possible always set your own security question - one that's not answerable with publicly available information. Where security answers must be chosen from a pre-set list, consider using information that is incorrect but that you will still remember, for example instead of using your real birthplace, perhaps pick your favourite city.
Read about the privacy settings
Make sure you read advice about social media privacy settings so that your accounts have the appropriate level of protection.
Test your social media accounts
Log out of all accounts and see what you are able to access as an anonymous user. Using Google Incognito is a good way of conducting searches that are unaffected by your search history.
Avoid joining any public networks that are not password protected.
Make sure you log out of all personal accounts if you are using a public computer.
Think before you post
Make a decision as to whether you mind certain information, or images being posted online. How you would feel if they were shared by a third party?
Wipe old devices
If you sell your mobile phone or iPad, make sure all data has been wiped from the device before it changes hands.
Perhaps more worrying, however, is how infrequently inspectors commented on school performance in areas that we know need greater attention. The terms sexual harassment and sexual violence were not mentioned in a single report, for instance, despite Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee finding that such incidences were happening on a ‘shocking scale’ in schools. Similarly, homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic (HBT) bullying was mentioned in just 14% of reports. A 2016 Stonewall survey found that 86 percent of secondary teachers had identified HBT bullying in their schools.
The conclusions are clear. Schools are being held in no way accountable for the provision of an education that actively promotes the safety and wellbeing of their pupils. And Government, desperate to excuse the inexcusable, is neglecting its duty of care to children in the vain hope that someone else will fulfil their responsibilities for them. This isn’t good enough, and if that wasn’t clear before, it is now.
Ask anyone involved in education to identify the problems afflicting PSHE in schools and they will run through the same list. Insufficient curriculum time, a lack of rigorous assessment, a shortage of specialist or trained teachers. We can now add an insufficient inspection regime too.
50 years ago local health authorities were empowered to give birth control advice regardless of marital status, women were given access to legal abortions, and homosexuality was finally decriminalised. There is no room for excuses from today’s politicians as to why they cannot take steps for our safety, health, and freedom that are just as necessary. Amongst the first of these steps should be PSHE for all.
Andrew Copson (Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association)