Blog w/c 21/03/22
Well, it has been a very busy couple of weeks and there is a lot to catch up on. As you will know, Covid raised its ugly head once again and significant numbers of students and staff were absent after testing positive. Unfortunately, we had no option but to send a year group home for two days as, even with some additional supply teachers, we simply didn’t have enough staff to cover all lessons.
The staffing situation is improving as those who were absent begin to return to work, and we hope that we will get through to the Easter break without further interruption.
In any other year, our whole school Celebration Evening, which rewards students for their efforts of the previous academic year, happens in October. However, the event had to be postponed twice due to the impact of Covid so, it was our pleasure, finally, to welcome governors, staff, parents, carers and students past and present into the building for the first major face-to face event in two years.
The preparation paid off and it was great to see the Hall full as we joined together to celebrate the achievements of our students. Awards are made in each subject area across Key Stages 3 and 4 for ‘Contribution’ and ‘Attainment.’ There are additional awards for ‘Student of the Year’ in each year group, as well as some special awards at the end of the evening.
The evening started with welcomes from members of the Student Leadership Team, followed by the first of three performance by members of the school choir.
Following the Key Stage 3 Awards, and a stunning cover of Adele’s song ‘Easy on Me’ by Gracie Cooke, accompanied by Owen Jones on the piano, we heard from our guest speaker Andy Brown of Business Reform Ltd. Andy is an ex-student of Blacon High School and he still lives locally. He related his journey from school to running a very successful company and shared some of the lessons he has learned along the way.
After the Key Stage 4 awards, the evening concluded with several special awards:
Contribution to the Wider School – Jay Thelwell
Headteacher‘s Awards - Lewis Ball and Jay Ghomo
Blacon Spirit Award - Antony Birch
The Lilian Young Legacy Award - Layla Rodrigues
I’d just like to add my personal thanks to everyone who was involved in preparing for the event, our guest speaker Andy Brown, parents, carers, governors, staff and, extra special thank goes, as always, to our students who work so hard every day.
Here are some photos of the spaghetti towers Year 7 made for Science Week.
Meanwhile, 10x2 did some stop motion animations to model how d=crude oil is separated using fractional distillation.
World Book Day – Thursday 3rd March
World Book Day guided the opening to all lessons in English today. For example: an introduction to Gothic Literature.
Also, students were invited to have a ‘Blind Date with a Book.’ Students were able to choose a book based on its title and genre but, because all of the books were wrapped, they were forced to follow the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover!’
Please find details below of a new initiative called ‘New Leaf,’ which is designed to support people to break down the many barriers they may be facing to finding employment.
If you require any further details, please contact them directly on the number detailed in the information below.
Internet security and staying safe when online
Please find some information that was shared by Cheshire Constabulary designed to help you, help your child, to stay safe online. There is some practical advice and information on some of the pitfalls to avoid.
Whether it’s playing with the latest robotic toy or talking to a smart speaker, more children are using devices that connect to the internet. This has increased over the past few years, with industry experts predicting that there will be over 20 billion connected devices in our homes worldwide by 2020.
Connected devices and toys can be found in most homes, and have changed how many of us go about our daily lives and how children interact and play.
It’s important for parents to find the balance between providing ways for their children to learn and have fun and minimise the risks associated with the Internet of Things.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things, often referred to as IoT, are everyday objects that connect to the internet.
These connected devices can be activated using voice commands, or controlled by downloading and using an app or via a Bluetooth connection. Examples of the Internet of Things include:
- Smart speakers,
- smart meters (for home electricity and heating),
- and wearables such as fitness trackers.
What is the Internet of Toys?
The Internet of Toys are toys that connect to the internet.
Similar to the Internet of Things, these toys can be controlled using a smartphone app, voice commands or using a Bluetooth connection.
Connected toys are different from other toys because they collect, use, and share data via the internet. Examples of the Internet of Toys include:
- Connected action figures and dolls,
- robotic toys such as drones,
- and learning development toys that aim to teach children a new skill.
What are the risks associated with the Internet of Things?
Although connected devices and toys provide children with opportunities for learning and interactive play, there are risks associated with the Internet of Things. For example:
- Concerns have been raised about whether these devices are collecting too much personal information from children.
- Some children (either accidentally or on purpose) are able to search for and access age-inappropriate material via a connected device such as a smart speaker.
- Children may make ‘in-app purchases’ and spend money, which is often taken from their parents’ bank account without their knowledge or consent.
- Some of these devices may be more vulnerable to hacking and monitoring, as there are currently no security standards in place for connected devices.
Luckily, there are things you can do to minimise these risks.
How can I make my connected home more secure?
There are things you can do to help make your connected home safer for your child:
- Do your research:Research different products online and read reviews. This is a great way to find out more about a product including age restrictions and credibility, as well as hearing directly from other parents.
- Read the manual:Read the manual provided by the manufacturers. Information should be given about the privacy of the device, how it connects to the internet, and information about any app which may need to be downloaded in order to use the device.
- Set up parental controls:Make use of the parental controls available on your home broadband and any internet enabled device in your home. You can find out more about how to use parental controls by visiting your broadband provider’s website, or by reading our Thinkuknow article about parental controls.
- Use safe search:Enable the ‘SafeSearch’ function on your connected device and web search engines. This will allow you to limit the material your child can see when online. It is important to understand that no parental control or ‘SafeSearch’ function is 100% effective. This cannot be used alone to protect your child from accessing age-inappropriate material.
- Change the default password: When you buy a connected device or toy,change the default password. Use a strong password that cannot easily be guessed and do not share this with others.
- Set your Bluetooth to ‘undiscoverable’:Many connected devices are Bluetooth enabled. This means they are able to connect to nearby devices without having to connect to the internet. If the device has Bluetooth, set this to ‘undiscoverable’ so your child doesn’t share data or pair with an unknown device.
- Review and/or delete audio files: Some connected devices or toys work by listening to your child’s voice commands, so these devices usually record and keep these audio files to work properly. Refer to the manual and find out how to review and/or delete audio files. If there’s a microphone on your child’s connected device, you can turn on the ‘mute’ button. This will stop the device from recording and storing audio files.
- Talk to your child:Include connected devices in your online safety conversations, reinforcing the message that if your child sees or hears anything that makes them feel worried, they can speak to you or another adult they trust. Read further information on starting the conversation about online safety.
- Supervise your child:If your child is primary school aged, supervise them when they are online or using a connected device.You should keep the connected devices your child uses in communal areas of the home such as in the kitchen or living room.
For guidance on setting up parental controls or reviewing the privacy settings of a connected device or toy, you can find further information on the NSPCC's online safety hub.
Gaming is loved and enjoyed by children and adults across the world. It can be a way for children to be social, learn new skills, develop team work and relax. However, gaming also comes with risks for children. It can be difficult to keep up with the latest games and how they work. Here we take a look at key safety concerns and how you can support happier, safer gaming for your child.
Remember – If you are worried that a child is being groomed in a game, or on any other online platform you should seek support. You can contact your local police by calling 101. If you believe a child is in immediate danger call the police on 999.
If you would like to talk to a professional about any other online concerns, you can call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
How can I make gaming safer for my child?
Talk with your child about gaming. Talk with your child to learn the games they like and the content and features of these. This will help you to understand more about how your child plays games and how appropriate different games are. You can use NSPCC's online safety hub to find out more information on safer gaming.
Learn together. You can use our resources to teach your child about safer gaming at all ages. For primary age children you can use our Jessie & Friends (ages 4-7) and Play, Like, Share (ages 8-10) resources. Secondary age children can access advice about gaming through the Thinkuknow website, as well as through on-going conversations with you.
Set boundaries and safety settings. Internet Matters make it easier to put safety settings in place, providing step-by-step guides for each console or device. Spend time setting these up with your child and make sure they know how to block and report on the games they are playing. You should also talk with your child to create an agreement for gaming; think about how much time they can spend, which games they can access, if you will allow in-app purchases and what spaces they can play in. For primary aged children it is advisable to have them play in shared spaces/the same room as you.
How risky is in-game chat?
Gaming is often a social activity for children and talking with friends is part of their enjoyment. However, in-game chat can pose risks such as:
- chatting with people they don’t know.This can include adults that are seeking to make contact with children with the intention of sexual grooming and offences.
● inappropriate or unmoderated chat. Whilst a lot of chat is moderated, chat is live and there is a risk of exposure to sexual language, swearing or bullying.
● requests to make chat private. Once chat is moved off a monitored platform, no one is moderating it. This can be used to pressurise children into sharing personal information, photos, video or chat that they don’t want to.
● offering gifts or trades. This may be used by offenders to build trust and a relationship with a child, as part of grooming.
Learn more about in-game chat and what you can do to make it safer by reading our parents and carers guide to in-game chat.
How do I know what games are age appropriate for my child?
Our article on what’s appropriate for your child will help you to understand more about the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system, which helps parents and carers to make informed decisions around games, giving age ratings and content descriptors.
It is also important to consider your child’s individual needs, emotional maturity and experiences to support the decisions you make around gaming. For example, a game may be rated age appropriate but have content that you know your child will find frightening or won’t understand.
Should I be worried about gifts and trades in gaming?
Items such as game currency, skins, loot boxes, tools and weapons are often used in games to help a player progress through the game or give increased status amongst other gamers. Often these require in-app purchases, which many children won’t have access to, or require your permission for, so accepting trades or gifts may be tempting.
Whilst not always the case, trades or gifts within gaming can be used by child sex offenders to gain contact with a child. They may offer gifts asking nothing in return, this can be part of the grooming process and can help to build a close relationship with a young person. They may also try to use gifts as a way to persuade a child to do something such as going on a webcam, taking photos or videos of themselves, moving conversation to a different online platform or to an offline platform such as messaging over phone.
For our Year 11s, it is so important that they spend some time during the holiday revising. This is the first time that students in the UK will have sat summative exams since 2019, and we are all aware that, because of the impact of Covid, students lost a significant amount of valuable learning time in the classroom. This is the last holiday before the start of their GCSEs and success comes from being prepared. In most subject areas, all of the content has been covered so independent revision is being supported in school. Please encourage your children to devote some time each day to their studies.
It has been a short but eventful half term as we enter the final week before the Easter break and I hope that you are able to enjoy a restful time with your families. And for those chocolate lovers among you, it really is the best time of the year.