School’s pioneering IT shield

Britannia Bridge Primary School Ince - Head teacher Damon Donaldson
Britannia Bridge Primary School Ince - Head teacher Damon Donaldson

A WIGAN primary school believes it is providing a revolutionary way to keep under-11s safe from the dark side of social media.

Britannia Bridge at Ince has joined forces with other junior schools across the borough to engineer a safe online world for young pupils that will be protected from misuse by adults.

The Bridge, as the site is called, offers a “new and effective” approach to teaching children how to be safe while online.

It pledges to be a secure school online environment that is “completely closed off to strangers,” so only children and school staff can have access to the online content.

A team of teachers are responsible for project and have been working closely with schools across the borough to help more children benefit from a “pioneering approach” to tackling the global issue of child grooming and abuse by sexual predators.

The site is sufficiently ground-breaking, believe The Bridge, that it is likely to form the basis of similar ones created by other local education authorities around the country.

Headteacher Damon Donaldson – a leading member of The Bridge team – said that through the project and associated teaching materials, children learn the essential skills and knowledge to become safe online communicators.

Using this new approach, schools can now provide their children with real life opportunities to apply them in a safe school online environment.

The new National Curriculum for 2014 for primary schools, he pointed out, reflected the need to educate children to become “digital citizens” and would become a compulsory part of all schools’ teaching and learning programme.

Mr Donaldson said: “The Bridge is a place where a mistake is a genuine learning opportunity, rather than a risk to personal safety and well-being.

“We believe our success so far is because the Bridge doesn’t just teach children the vital skills of staying safe online and being safe online communicators. It also extends the classroom walls; extends learning beyond the school gates.

“Computing is here to stay and social media is here to stay. Online communication plays a massive part in children and young peoples’ lives, so we need to give them the skills they need.”

IT teacher Maria Temel said that there have been “lots of negative issues” in schools arising from children’s misuse of social media.

And as teaching staff, they were really tired of not being able to get to the root of the problem.

She said: “We decided to meet this challenge head on and teach children how to be safe and responsible users of social media.

“The problem was that when we looked into it there was nothing out there to help us, so we decided to build our own school safe social networking site and The Bridge was born.”