Safeguarding in Linking
Digital safeguarding of pupils involved in the Schools Linking Programme depends on both linked classes working within their own schools digital or E-Safety policies, properly implemented at all levels of each individual school community: published policies, secure school network design, the effective management of school broadband and filtering systems, parental awareness of the dangers of online use and effective teaching about digital technology use.
Each school should work within their own Digital Safeguarding Policy for GDPR requirements taking account of permissions given by parents to the school. TLN provides a letter template for schools to use to seek specific permission for exchange of information including photographs with the link school but each school may have additional requirements
In a link pair, one of the schools may have policy requirements that the other school does not. In this situation we state that the link pair should operate within the requirements that are more stringent in their interaction and we explain this in our Teacher Guidebook for linking.
EXCHANGE BETWEEN LINKING SCHOOLS
We know that exchanging information digitally works really well. It has been a long-standing essential part of Schools Linking for many years.
Choosing how to exchange is something that needs to be acceptable to both schools and work with both schools’ digital protections.
All information exchanged should be exchanged via the teacher or an adult in school so that the school ensures that everything exchanged is suitable for the other students to receive. In practice this means that teachers read allwork before they exchange it so they are sure their school is happy for it to be read externally and that it will be beneficial to the other students and school.
We recommend that only pupils first names are used on work exchanged or on calls.
If any tasks are set that involve pupils searching the internet schools should ensure pupils work within their own school policy and process.
TLN has created How to Guides for teachers about creating shared pieces of work, sending files, storing files in shared spaces and lots of other ideas and resources. It is for both Linking Teachers and their schools to agree on approaches and resources used and to decide what is right for them. These can be found here: https://thelinkingnetwork.org.uk/schools-linking-2020-2021/digital-support/
ORGANISING A LINKING MEETING BY VIDEO CALL
We know that meeting by video call can work well for linking schools so you may want to plan a meeting with your link class on a digital platform.
Video calls can really help to bring two classes together and for students to have a much clearer sense of the link – and potentially feel like they have truly ‘met’ each other. Managing a video call between two classes requires careful thought and consideration but they can be used successfully in many different ways. We have produced a guidance video to help with the technicality of video calls using different platforms. (platforms to use, audio and video functionality, safeguarding considerations). We also have creative ideas of what do on a video call which includes quizzes, games and shared stories. Being on screen can be quite daunting for students (and adults).
We have put together this advice below which has been checked by educational digital experts.
Step 1: Arrange what video calling platform you will use and organize the IT equipment needed.
Choose a platform that is needs to be acceptable to both schools. Work with your IT colleagues in both schools on this to agree a digital platform.
It can be useful to use a system that one of you is familiar, obviously if it is allowed to be used by the other school as well.
A good camera which has a wide-angle lens fixed on the classroom wall above an interactive white board makes for a better experience. This is because the wide-angle lens at height will mean that that most or all of the classroom can be seen. The high-quality lens will mean that the higher quality picture will mean that the view of the socially distanced children in the link class will not be fuzzy.
There are a wide variety of HD webcams available for less than £30 now. Try to get one that mentions HD 1080p, a wide-angle lens, autofocus, built in audio and a cable long enough to place it it in a high vantage point to fit in all pupils. You can always buy a USB extension cable if this isn’t long enough. You may also consider buying a separate microphone. If the camera is laced higher up for a better view of the class, the sound quality may suffer and this can be addressed with a separate microphone.
Step 2: Hold a test call.
Arrange a meeting in advance with your colleagues to check how the Video Call works.
Check you can see enough of the classroom, practice screen sharing, practice muting and check the sound.
Step 3: Be jointly prepared for the lesson with a shared plan
What we have learnt from trialing video calls is that a plan makes all the difference with both adults in the two classrooms having an agenda and running order and knowing who is leading which section of the video meeting.
Check the IT is working on the day prior to the meeting with the students present. Plan how long the meeting is going to last and what you will do in detail. Students can feel unexpectedly shy, nervous, uncomfortable or left out and its good to be mindful of this.
Start on time and finish on time – leave the students wanting to meet again. Have a plan for what you will do, while you wait for the other class to arrive especially.
Microphones make a huge difference to the effectiveness of the session. A lead adult speaking into a tie or a headphone microphone means they can be heard over clasroom noise in either classroom.
Think about ‘protocols’
- Do you want to both be on mute until you are both ready to connect?
- What will the students do whilst they are waiting if there are any hitches? (Maybe have an alternative desk based activity for the session)
- How will we take it in turns to speak?
- How will students let you know that they have something to say?
- What will you do if you think someone is behaving/speaking inappropriately?
- Who is ‘leading ‘ the call? It is useful to have a lead adult. It might be an external facilitator or the two teachers each lead a pre arranged section
Schedule a meeting for a certain time using your chosen platform and ensuring the correct safety safeguarding options have been used. Send these details to the link class. PLEASE NOTE DOWN THE DATE, THE NAMES OF ADULTS ON THE CALL AND NAMES OF THE TWO CLASSES.
Step 4: Be safe during the call
Video calls provides an opportunity to teach pupils best practice in keeping themselves safe online. This includes, for example, not oversharing, choosing what they want to share, recognizing that once something has been shared it is available to a wide audience and being respectful, honest and appropriate at all times in what they say, write or share.
On a video call, you are entering into another school’s classroom and they are entering yours and you are enabling students from different schools to meet each other. Each of you must protect the children in your care and make sure you protect the other children too. If something unacceptable or difficult is happening in either of the classrooms, you must keep your children safe, challenge the behaviour, close the call and report the incident.
- Always have a member of staff from both schools in the call at all times.
- Don’t record the meeting unless this has been previously agreed and appropriate consent has been given.
- We recommend you only use students’s first names on calls.
- We don’t recommend that you try to include students who are learning at home in live video calls with your link class. It adds another level of safeguarding complexity.
- Stand at the side of the whiteboard facing your own class, with your laptop screen facing you. Your class will be able to see the link class on the whiteboard and you will be able to see them on the laptop.
- It is very useful to be able to ‘phone’ or message the other teacher while you are on the call.
- Chat can be very useful but should be always set to everyone and private 1-1 chat disabled with all information in the chat always seen by teachers (not just moderated by teachers). The principle we are working with is that teachers are the intermediates for all exchange in order to safeguard all pupils. We don’t recommend private chat between students in any circumstances.
- During your link meetings, if you have an activity that will involve breaking out into a smaller group, there must always be an adult from both schools so that every pupil has an adult from their school present for safeguarding purposes. If for any reason this doesn’t happen the adult from the other room should close the breakout room. We would only envisage this feature being used by secondary schools.
A simple structure lasting 15-20 minutes might be:
- Alternative Activity Have something available for children to do already in their places so that is the IT breaks down they have an activity to hand. It might be an art activity or their reading book.
- Gathering: as cstudents arrive, ask them about something. In the invitation both classes could share some news or a picture (GDPR permitting).
- Welcoming: briefly go through the rules; think of a circle type of game so that everyone gets a chance to speak and be on camera.
- Show me: think of a game that allows everyone to take part but without the sound.
- Tell me: something like a quiz where different students can give answers or speak up. Having coloured cards to indicate an opinion can work well.
- Challenge: something for everyone to do at the same time in their own space.
- Share: each class shares something, or both classes learn sign language, or one teacher reads a story.
- Play: Charades, quizzes, Bingo, Emoji Quiz, Pictionary, Games where you agree with statements, Draw Me (draw your favourite food, favourite place, favourite weather on white boards)
- Farewell: make the ending meaningful not drifting – take it in turns to say goodbye or say one word (that sort of thing).
Creative ideas for use on a video call and support can be found here:
The Scouts Association have some excellent guidance about different digital platforms on their website.
In collaboration with the Curriculum Innovation Service in Bradford, we have produced a video guide for using different video calling platforms. This can be viewed here.
Further support and resources can be found on the digital support section of our website.