The last half term has been one of the shortest due to Easter falling early this year. However this has not deterred the girls and staff at Saint Martin’s from fitting in an ever growing number of activities and trips into a four and a half week slot! Over 50 girls from the Senior School enjoyed a weekend at Ingestre Hall in Staffordshire where they rehearsed songs, scenes from musicals, put together dance routines and painted the scenery for our annual charity concert. The theme this year was “Back to the Movies” and involved a record number of staff as well as girls. The concert was a sell out and over £1500 was raised for the Senior School Charity, “Camfed”.
Year 6 have just returned from their annual trip to London during which they enjoyed seeing the sights, shopping and a trip to the theatre to see the musical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Girls in Year 2 also have had a busy half term sampling lessons in the Junior School as part of their transfer programme. Highlights included lessons in Philosophy, Spanish, Football skills and Art, not to mention inviting their parents for lunch. The half term has finished on a high with “Easter Egg Bingo” organized by the Parents’ Association, the Celebration of Sport assembly and the “Saint Martin’s Got Talent” competition.
You may well remember in my Blog last December I wrote about the need for us to teach young people to slow down, pause for thought, switch off electronic devices, reflect and find time for silence in their busy lives. I would like to return to the theme of technology and in particular e-safety and keeping young people safe on line.
I’m sure that as parents you ask yourself the question: At what age should children be given use of mobile devices? I was interested to read a while ago that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has banned his three children, then aged 3, 6 & 11, from having mobile phones and tablets although apparently they could use their parents’ iPads “from time to time”.
I am sure that many parents give thought to this and worry about the age at which it is acceptable to allow their children to have regular use of such technology. I think the answer probably depends on the child and their level of maturity plus their willingness to follow advice and guidance. However, I do believe that it’s probably a good idea to do so at some point before the children start Senior School because it will give parents the opportunity to educate their children in safe use of the device, at an age when most of them are still receptive to parental advice. If parents wait until their children are 13 or 14 there is a risk that the child thinks he or she knows best and will take no notice of guidance from adults.
We all know that safe use of mobile devices and the internet can bring huge advantages, including the support of learning, which is why we have introduced the use of iPads in both Alice House and Junior school, but we are also aware of the risks and dangers. The freedom and openness created by the World Wide Web and flexibility of electronic mailing and communication clearly have downsides, as well as advantages. For our pupils, they are the digital natives and therefore accept all aspects of technology and social media as simply as breathing.
However there are downsides to such freedoms; parents and school need to be vigilant and proactive to the negative aspects of the internet and accompanying technologies.
Not allowing children to use the devices is not the answer; a better approach is to introduce them at an age when the children will learn how to use them safely, under the guidance and control of their parents and teachers, to get the most benefit from them.
On Friday 4 March Saint Martin’s hosted an e-safety talk aimed at parents of girls in Years 3 – 7. The talk was delivered by the NSPCC in conjunction with the telephone company O2. I relished the opportunity to listen to an expert speaker on the tricky issue of ensuring our girls are using technology safely and constructively. Our job as educators is to support and prepare all our students for the world they are moving into, this is undoubtedly a challenge as the pace of change is relentless. Social media itself can be a great enabler, giving a wider audience to new ideas and sharing experiences. The capacity to ‘talk’ and exchange ideas with like minds across the globe is exciting and liberating in equal measure – education after all is about opening the mind. There is a safety warning that accompanies such freedom and it is vital within school and at home that we embrace the opportunities whilst teaching and safeguarding against the negative aspects too.
The speaker from NSPCC provided staff and parents with relevant and useful reference points which can be accessed easily online:
I hope you find the sites useful.
As the Spring Term comes to a close, I wish “bon voyage” to our Geographers who are travelling to Iceland. I hope that you have a wonderful time and return safe and sound. A huge thank you goes to Mrs Fowles, Mrs Parker, Miss Bednall and Mrs Linford for organizing this trip and giving up precious holiday time to accompany the girls. I look forward to hearing your stories and sharing your pictures after the holiday. For those of you who are staying at home during the Easter break – I wish you a restful half term holiday.