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‘An innovative and engaging way to bring online safety education into your school’

Published: 5th July 2021

Learning how to stay safe online has never been more important.

To support schools in teaching children the importance of online safety, Childnet has devised its innovative Digital Leaders Programme, which empowers pupils to educate their peers about safe internet use.

The programme is benefiting hundreds of schools across the UK and the Digital Leaders 2020 Impact Report showed:

– 100% of teachers said the programme prepares young people to be peer educators
– 95% of teachers said the programme has impacted on a whole-school level
– 86% of teachers would recommend the programme to another school
– 81% of teachers said the programme has helped their school staff fulfil their safeguarding duties

Here, Danielle Antha, Childnet Digital Leaders Programme Manager, outlines how the initiative works and the benefits for pupils, teachers and whole schools…

What benefits can the Digital Leaders Programme bring to your school?

The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme is an innovative and engaging way to bring online safety education to your school or educational setting.

Staff feel empowered to teach relevant online safety issues with the support of our online training platform and receive step-by-step guides and lesson plans from the Childnet Digital Leaders team. The peer leadership element helps to develop online safety education via a whole-school approach.

As part of our international Digital Leaders community, settings can network with other likeminded settings to share good practice, tips and ideas. Schools have also reported:

– A reduction of online safeguarding incidents
– Pupils increasing in wellbeing as a result of taking part
– The ethos of the school has improved to promote kindness and respect both online and offline

Teachers report enjoying participating in the programme and how easily the programme fits in with the timetable. The programme can also help to showcase how your school’s online safety practice is youth-led as evidence for Ofsted reporting.

How will it benefit your pupils?

Pupils benefit from having access to our online training platform, and access learning developed by Childnet’s online safety experts. The expert knowledge they will receive will help them to increase their competencies in approaching online safety risks and enable them to engage in safer online behaviours.

After the core modules are completed, Digital Leaders will take the lead in delivering online safety activities in their school or setting. This helps young people to develop team working skills and helps them to feel empowered and confident.

Online safety is for absolutely everyone, so it’s a great opportunity to give those young people who may not be recognised in other areas, such as academia, sports or the arts, a platform to shine in their school communities.

There are other additional opportunities that might be extended to Digital Leaders as well.

These include regional events for your team to receive exclusive training from the Childnet team and to meet and work with Digital Leaders from other schools, participation in the yearly Safer Internet Day campaign, helping to develop new learning content, participating in consultation surveys (such as the recent Online Harms White Paper consultation) and receiving a visit from the Childnet team to hear about your progress.

How does the programme work?

Schools recruit their team of around 8-12 Digital Leaders and they are uploaded to the online training platform by the Childnet team. There are separate platforms for primary and secondary schools with age-appropriate learning content.

Digital Leaders meet to work though the core modules, each covering a different aspect of online safety. The primary learning modules are designed to be completed with a teacher running the session.

The secondary learning modules are designed to be completed more independently and meet with their teams to discuss what they have learnt and how they will share learning with others. We recommend meeting once a week.

Once the core modules are completed, they officially qualify as ‘Childnet Digital Leaders’ and receive their official certificate and pin badge from Childnet through the post.

They go on to share their learning with other students by leading online safety activities at their setting.
Activities may consist of leading whole-school assemblies, running sessions in other classes, making a poster for display, creating a survey or running a campaign – we encourage settings to be as creative as they like!

There are additional activities on the training platform such as our Community, where Digital Leaders from different schools can discuss online safety issues and support each other, along with our Industry Q&A videos and opportunities to find out about (and maybe apply to) our Digital Champions group.

Is it suitable and relevant to all ages of pupils?

The primary and secondary learning content has been developed with Key Stages 2 and 3 in mind respectively. However, we have Digital Leaders as old as 18 and as young as six!

Digital Leaders just need to have a passion for the subject, although they do need to have a certain level of literacy in order to make their way through the modules.

Try the Digital Leaders Programme for yourself with a free guest login here