I hope this email finds you and your families safe and well.
As you know, the teachers have been keeping in touch with children in various ways depending on the age of your child. We have been using phone calls, email, the website, St John's YouTube channel and Teams.
Teams is an application that allows users to create a "team", in this case, a class, and then share files, links, etc. There is a class page on which teachers post messages and children respond. This has been very successful and we will continue to use this to communicate and share work.
Another feature of Teams, is that children can chat with one another. Unfortunately, the children are very tech-savvy, and have quickly worked out that they can set up their own group chats which teachers are unable to see. Some children have then abused this system by sending unkind messages to one another. This has not been widespread, but as we cannot effectively manage the behaviour of children when they are doing this, I do not feel that it is appropriate to let it continue. I have therefore asked Link2ICT, the company that host our BGFL service, to disable chats. Teachers will still post on the Team page, and children will still be able to communicate with them on the main page and via email. However, children will not be able to chat privately with each other.
Children will still be communicating digitally. As I have said in many emails previously, children are able to chat via any device that can access the internet: they are chatting to one another whilst playing on the X-box, PlayStation, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, TikTok, mobiles, the list is endless. Any device that connects to the internet can allow them to chat with one another. Whilst this is great on some levels- particularly at a time like this when the world is stressful and we are separated from our friends- it does mean that children can make contact with each other at any time of the day or night. Sadly, people are more likely to say horrible things when using a keyboard rather than face to face, and often things that are meant as a joke, don't come across that way when they are written down.
Your children will need your support with this as they grow up. Schools cannot police their behaviour 24 hours a day, but children are vulnerable to being sent unkind messages, or being drawn into unpleasant situations at any time when using an internet-enabled device. As parents, we need to establish some boundaries around digital devices: no access at night and access only in a family room, rather than in a bedroom alone, are two sensible starting points.
There is good news: some of the children have been very sensible and when other children have started to use inappropriate language, they have added a teacher to the group so that they can see what had happened, or they have taken a screenshot and emailed it to staff. I am very proud of them and the way they have conducted themselves. The golden rule for communication online, is that it should be respectful in the same way that it is offline.
Please talk to your children about this issue: not necessarily about chatting on Teams in the last two weeks, but about the wider issue of communicating online. Children are growing up in a different world to the one we grew up in and they need help to manage it. A good starting point is: http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk where you can find lots of advice for parents.