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"Words can kill!"

posted 23 Feb 2017, 08:25 by Dave Evans

I have had drawn to my attention, a clip from 'This Morning' showing an interview with two mothers of teenagers who took their own lives following cyber bullying via social media. 

I have asked my Year 5/6 teachers to show this interview to the children in their classes next week and to discuss the devastating impact that social media can have if used inappropriately. I hope that parents and carers, especially of children in Y5/6, will also watch the interview and be prepared to discuss it with the children if they mention it.  

We will be reminding the children that they must accept responsibility for the way they use social media (IF they use it - please see my January blog in which I mentioned the recommended age requirements for social media apps) and asking them to let an adult know, at home or in school, if they are worried about comments being made to them or to others. 

This is the youtube link to the interview: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jX0Y4tEtSlk

Is your child safe online?

posted 5 Jan 2017, 03:08 by Dave Evans

I have been prompted to revisit this theme having heard today that some children have recently been upset to receive unpleasant 'chain letters' or messages on social media. You probably know the sort of thing that I mean - messages that demand you to send it on to 5 or 10 of your contacts otherwise you will have bad luck...or in the case of one of these messages, that you will die. 

These messages might be intended to be harmless, but in fact they can be quite frightening to some people, especially younger or more vulnerable people. 

In school I will be asking all my Y5/6 teachers to discuss these issues with their classes over the next week or so. Children need to know that this sort of message can amount to cyber-bullying and that there are steps they can take if they are worried about it, such as telling an adult, blocking the sender or using online reporting options.

Having said this, I would like to remind parents that they have responsibility for ensuring online safety out of school. Detailed guidance about this was given in the newsletter for May 2016 (still available on this website) and this included guidance about the age requirements for popular social media sites. For example, users must be at least 13 to have an account with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Users for WhatsApp should be at least 16 and for YouTube accounts, at least 18. My strong recommendation is that if you have a primary school age child using any of this social media, the best thing to do is to simply delete the account; if you are allowing your child to use social media, you are allowing them to enter an online environment which is designed for adults and in my experience, primary age children do not have the maturity and understanding to stay safe in that environment. 

Social media issues sit within wider considerations of how to keep the children safe online so that (for example) they are not at risk of being 'groomed' and do not have access to pornographic or violent images. Any child who has unrestricted access to the internet out of school (maybe via a laptop, tablet of smartphone) is certainly at risk. Please ask yourself whether you have applied strong parental controls to devices that your child can use, and/or whether you are supervising your child's internet use effectively. Again, you can find lots of advice about this under the 'Safeguarding' tab on the homepage for this website. 

Finally, a related issue is the access that some children have to computer/video games, or films, which are designed for an older audience. Viewing images which are made for an adult audience, can be very damaging for a child. 

With proper supervision and by observing the recommended age requirements, parents can enable their children to really benefit from the internet and the world of social media, but there are many associated dangers and as a school, we are very keen that parents should understand the risks and take responsibility for protecting their children. 

Anti bullying week

posted 17 Nov 2016, 11:16 by Danny Mizon   [ updated 18 Nov 2016, 03:51 by Dave Evans ]

This is national anti-bullying week, and so earlier this week I led a whole-school assembly in which we explored some key issues. 

I was interested to know if the children understood what is really meant by bullying and was very impressed that so many of them knew that bullying has three elements to it:

• The unwelcome behaviour needs to be intentional;
• It needs to be hurtful; 
• It needs to happen more than once. 

The children also understood that bullying behaviour can come from one person, two people or a group of people, and that the target can also be a group as well as an individual. 

Equally, the children had a very good understanding that bullying can take the shape of physical behaviour (such as hitting, kicking or pushing, for example), unkind words and also looks or even body language (repeatedly turning you back on someone can e hurtful…) The  children are aware of the issue of cyber-bullying – bullying by social media – as well.  

In our assembly, I explained that sometimes it is possible to hurt someone physically, or to hurt their feelings, yet for this not to amount to bullying. If we hurt another person by accident that is not bullying; if we lose our temper and say something unkind to a friend, that is not bullying either. It is possible for any of us sometimes to behave in a rude or hurtful way – it is wrong, and in school it may require the adults to step in and correct the behaviour – but it is not yet bullying. 

So for us to see it as bullying, we have to see hurtful behaviour that is happening more than once.  At Ringmer we don’t see very much bullying, but when we do see it, we act robustly to set clear boundaries and to protect other children. Children showing bullying behaviour can often be vulnerable themselves for various reasons, and we will often work with them to help them show more positive behaviour. 

In the assembly we also talked about what our response to bullying should be. I explained that as Headteacher, I DO want to see children stand up for themselves and for one another, but I DON’T want them to respond to something hurtful by retaliating. Two wrongs don’t make a right… the children know that if they think they are being bullied, they are allowed to firmly tell the other child that their behaviour is unwelcome and they should stop. They also need to tell an adult – preferably in school but if not then at home, so that you can be their voice. I also explained that if they retaliate and hurt back, it is not always easy to work out who is at fault! 

One important aspect of this year's anti-bullying week is the 'Power for Good' - in other words that we can make another person happy by a kind word or a good deed. Always a positive message!

You might like to see the anti-bullying week PowerPoint that I used in my assembly – it can be found under the Safeguarding tab on this website. By all means use this to debate the issues around bullying with your children – you might be surprised and pleased to find out how much they know and understand.

The children will also be doing follow up work in class and in fact I will be staying with the anti-bullying theme over the next two weeks as well, exploring ideas of diversity and encouraging the children to value one another as individuals. In our school the behaviour of the children is very good and we do not experience high levels of poor behaviour or bullying: I hope that by doing this sort of work with the children in anti-bullying week, we will give them the strategies to deal with it, if they find themselves at the wrong end of unkind behaviour.

Holocaust Memorial Day

posted 26 Jan 2016, 11:21 by Mr Evans

Tomorrow, 27th January, we will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day with a short, dignified assembly for children in Year 5/6. 

This is the first time since coming to Ringmer that I have had the opportunity to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, but the intention is that it will become a regular event on our school calendar. Wherever possible, memorial events take place on 27th January, because it was on this date in 1945 that the Allies liberated the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Some 25 years ago I visited Auschwitz when I was staying in Poland. To stand at the railway sidings there, see the remains of the gas chambers and visit the exhibition, is a very grim and sobering experience but I am very glad that I did it: it is something that will stay with me for my whole life. It is very important that we don't forget the people who were murdered in such huge numbers at Auschwitz and other camps. Children in Year 5/6 are able to start learning about these shocking events although obviously we approach the subject with care.

In our assembly we will focus on the story of one girl who came to Britain as a refugee just before the Second World War and escaped the Holocaust because she was welcomed and cared for by foster parents. Her parents, sadly, were not so lucky. The theme of this year's memorial is 'Don't Stand By', in other words it celebrates the fact that even in a time of war, there were people who were ready to reach out and help someone who needed a home, and shelter. We will be remembering the people who were lost in the Holocaust and in other genocides, and recognising the positive impact of those who are willing to help. It's a lesson about the past, but which has modern echoes of course. 




New Year Resolutions

posted 7 Jan 2016, 03:07 by Mr Evans

In assembly this week we looked at the idea of New Year resolutions. I asked the children if any of them knew an adult who has spoken about giving up chocolate, has embarked on a diet or has suddenly taken up jogging - plenty of hands went up as you can imagine!

I told them that I was one of these adults, and showed them my 'Fitbit' pedometer which I am using to motivate me to be more active. I asked the children to guess how many steps I had taken during the day and the guesses ranged from 2 (yes, 2!) to 200,000! The real answer was 5,000...

The point of all this was to show that our New Year resolutions are typically quite superficial, even if it is important that we feel a bit healthier and fitter. We then spoke about the possibility of resolving to give up grudges or bad feelings for others. We explored the idea of treating others as you would want to be treated yourself, using the Bible story of the unforgiving servant. You can find this in Matthew, Chapter 18 verses 23-34 if you want to explore it further. The story concerns a servant who owes the king lots of money, and the king forgives the debt. In turn, the servant is also owed a very small sum of money by another servant, but he refuses to forgive that debt, forgetting to be as kind as the king had been to him. The king, by the way, was not impressed!

The children were taken with this story and when given the opportunity, many of them wanted to come to the front of the assembly and to symbolically exchange a bad feeling they might have had for another person, for a pebble. We then threw the pebbles away! Whilst it's not always easy to show forgiveness and to 'move on', the children could clearly see the power of forgiveness. 

I will be following up on this theme in assemblies in the next week or two, so it may be something you'd like to explore with your children at home, too. 

Whatever your resolutions might be, good luck with them and Happy New Year!


Zip it! Block it! Flag it! e-safety explained...

posted 23 Nov 2015, 13:30 by Mr Evans

This Monday in assembly I talked to the children about e-safety, using the catchphrase 'Zip it! Block it! Flag it!'

'Zip it!'means keeping your personal information (name, address, phone numbers, photos...) safe and confidential. 

'Block it!' means using internet security tools to protect children from harmful/inappropriate/adult content and also to block communications from online bullies. 

'Flag it!' means a child should tell a trusted adult when someone is trying to bully them or a stranger tries to arrange to meet them. If you need persuading how dangerous it can be for a child to meet an online 'friend', look up the tragic case of Breck Bednar which has been back in the news just this week. 

If you look under the 'Safeguarding & e-safety' tab at the top of the page, you can see the e-safety PowerPoint that I used in the assembly. I have suggested to the children that they discuss this with parents at home so that our families can all be aware of e-safety. I strongly recommend that you spend some time looking at http://thinkuknow.co.uk/ which has lots more information and guidance: there are sections for children of all ages, and separate sections for parents and for teachers. I can't recommend it strongly enough. 

I have also been asked by one or two parents if the school can facilitate some training for parents on the subject of e-safety and we are indeed working on this too.

Events in Paris

posted 16 Nov 2015, 09:54 by Mr Evans

Like everyone else I was shocked and appalled by the atrocities in Paris on Friday. Being a Headteacher, I was soon reflecting on whether this might have an impact on the children and how we should approach it in school. I wanted you as parents to know about our response.

I acknowledged the massacre in my assembly this morning, which was for all children other than those in Reception. I think this was appropriate since it was a day of mourning across Europe and there was a minute’s siIence, which we observed in school. In the assembly I referred to the tragedy in Paris, but didn’t give any details: this way, if you have shielded the children from the detail, I won’t have undermined you. 

Is there anything else we could be doing? Here’s a start - to show our understanding that Islam is fundamentally a peaceful religion.  In Islam it is a sin to hurt or kill innocent people, whether or not they are Muslims. The massive majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the World observe this principle, even though there are evidently some who have radical ideas about how they should defend their faith. I wish I could explain the violence in Syria, Paris and elsewhere to myself, let alone to a child.  I can’t, but I do know that greater understanding can only help, so with this in mind please consider helping your child to find out a little more about Islam, possibly by looking at a child-friendly website such as this one:  http://www.islamkids.org/#  

Schools these days have a duty to promote traditional British values such as tolerance of others' faiths and beliefs, so even if there are people out there who don't show tolerance or understanding of others, I would like to think we can encourage our own children, or those in our care, to have those strong values. 

Thank you.

To pray or not to pray?

posted 27 Oct 2015, 10:06 by Mr Evans

A few parents have commented on the fact that we have introduced a prayer at the end of the Funky Friday assembly, and are aware from discussions with their children at home, that we often say prayers in other assemblies too. Some parents have strong views about this and would prefer it if assemblies did not have a religious element...or if they are going to be religious in nature, that religions other than Christianity should be given equal prominence. It's an interesting debate and I thought I would write this blog to throw a little light on the subject. 

All maintained schools (broadly, this means state-funded schools such as Ringmer Primary School) must include Religious Education as part of the curriculum. The Education Act 1996 states that the school syllabus must reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian, while taking account of the teachings and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain. To this end, in our school the children are taught about Christianity in all year groups but will also learn about other major religions including Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism. In all cases the teaching is aimed at making the children aware of the beliefs and traditions associated with different religions: the children find out about different religions but are never taught that one is 'right' and another is 'wrong'. 

In other countries, the approach taken to RE varies widely. In France (which is a secular state of course), RE is generally not taught at all. In Poland, parents can opt for the children to attend RE classes, or Ethics classes...or neither of these. In Greece, children generally learn about the Greek Orthodox Church but parents can opt out if their children don't belong to that Church. There seem to be as many different models as there are countries!

In addition to the general legal requirement that we have to teach RE, schools must provide a daily act of worship which (Education Act 1993) should be 'wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character'. Like most non-Faith schools, we interpret this broadly: our assemblies usually have a strong moral element, linked to one or more of the school's key values of honesty, respect, commitment, kindness and achievement. Where appropriate we sometimes illustrate our 'point' with a Bible story such as the Good Samaritan, or sometimes we will find a suitable story from another religion or culture. We always try to end our assemblies with a short prayer or period of reflection, so that the children can think how the story might relate to their own lives. 

There is a parental right to withdraw children from RE or 'acts of worship', but I would urge anyone thinking of exercising this to make an appointment to discuss the issues with me before reaching a decision. As you can see, we do have to operate in accordance with statutory requirements, but we understand very well the need for sensitivity and in the end, I see RE and assemblies in school not as a means of 'pushing' religion, but rather as a means of encouraging the children to think about important moral, spiritual and philosophical questions, and to have an understanding of different beliefs and cultures. I think this is as important in this day and age as it has ever been, as sadly there is still so much intolerance and hatred in the world. 

Back to that Funky Friday prayer. You might recall that we have always ended Funky Friday with a reflection on the idea of trying to be the best that we can be. Our simple prayer builds on this theme. Here it is, for the benefit of those who haven't been to  Funky Friday assembly recently:

Dear God,

Thank you for our school and for all the opportunities we have to shine.

Thank you for our teachers and for all the grown-ups who encourage us in our learning.

Thank you for our families who give us love and care for us.

Thank you for these awards, and for giving us the chance to be the best that we can be!

Amen

I hope this blog will have clarified some of the issues but please do come and meet me if you would like to know more. 



Christmas Card competition through our new Member of Parliament

posted 15 Oct 2015, 08:16 by Mr Evans

Our new MP, Maria Caulfield, has written to invite all our children to enter a Christmas Card competition. Any children wanting to enter, should design a picture on the theme 'Christmas in Westminster' and make sure I have this by Thursday 5th November at the latest. Designs should be on A4 paper and can be portrait or landscape. Children could Google (other search engines are available!) 'Westminster' or 'Parliament' and this might give them some ideas. 

I will give a smelly sticker to the first child who tells me why 5th November is a special day for the Houses of Parliament, by the way!

Back to the competition...I will send all the entries to Mrs Caulfield and she will judge them alongside entries from other local schools. The winning design will be turned into her personal Christmas Card this year and will be sent to hundreds of important people, including the Prime Minister! 

I hope many children will have a go...it is a nice half term activity!

I am also arranging for a visit to the Houses of Parliament for the six Y6 children who put themselves up for the School Council election. It looks as if this visit will take place early in the New Year. School Council candidates...I will let you know very soon!

Be a book reviewer for the Guardian!

posted 15 Oct 2015, 05:21 by Mr Evans

If you love books, you might love the opportunity to write book reviews for others!

The Guardian is on the lookout for young reviewers (age 7-18) or book reviewing families (for children under 7). If you'd like to know more, paste this link into your browser and have a read!

http://www.theguardian.com/books/childrens-books/2011/mar/02/how-do-i-get-involved-guardian-childrens-books

It looks fun! PLEASE let me know if you decide to do it as I'd love to know how you get on!

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