‘The programme I’ve been waiting for’
Melissa Scott, Assistant Headteacher at The Galaxy Trust, talks about what sets Be Internet Legends apart from other online safety programmes.
When it comes to delivering online safety education, sometimes the trickiest people to convince are your staff.
And to be honest, I don’t blame them. There’s a general consensus that safeguarding is important – and the team all know what to do when something gets raised. But teaching it is something else entirely, especially if you lack confidence in (or enthusiasm for) digital tech – and feel like the pupils might know more than you. For many class teachers, online safety is just another daunting bullet point on a to-do list that already extends out of the door.
What else is out there?
I’ve been managing online safety education in schools for over five years, and I have a genuine passion for it – so I was determined to do it well at The Galaxy Trust. I spent the summer of 2019 researching the various programmes and schemes out there.
The three schools under The Galaxy Trust’s umbrella – Temple Hill, West Hill and Oakfield primaries – all quite different in terms of expertise, hardware and pupil numbers. Sometimes, getting everyone on devices is enough of a logistical challenge in itself. So I needed something comprehensive, but flexible – and crucially, engaging for the children themselves.
I was left disappointed. I couldn’t find a single provider that went into enough depth, or struck the right tone. So much of them sounded suspicious of digital tech, or focused only on the dangers. There’s no way that would engage a young audience of regular gamers and TikTok users.
Nothing felt current, either. Old-fashioned advice like “don’t talk to strangers” doesn’t work in a world where so many of us have to regularly interact with new people online. We need to prepare our children for digital life as it is.
Finding Be Internet Legends...
So I set about writing my own curriculum – and unsurprisingly, it took ages. It was only when I’d finished the entire thing and showed it to the rest of the SLT that I stumbled across a programme that did everything I wanted to do, but better: Be Internet Legends.
I can’t remember where, but I heard someone explaining Be Internet Legends on the radio. And it excited me so much, I immediately signed up for it when I got home. The five pillars (Sharp, Alert, Secure, Kind, Brave) were so spookily close to my own proposed structure, I wasn’t sure whether to feel annoyed or pleased.
I could tell that Google and Parent Zone had put this programme together for schools. The activities were laid out with time-poor teachers in mind, differentiating between accessible and challenging approaches so that they didn’t have to – and providing all the necessary handouts.
Of course, with less time spent slogging away on the planning, staff can think more about their pupils’ needs, adapt the lessons accordingly and respond to any questions. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but Be Internet Legends looked like the programme I’d been waiting for throughout my career.
This was my impression of it, anyway. I needed to see if teams agreed – and I wanted to make sure Be Internet Legends was something we could all get behind. So on Safer Internet Day, I forced all three Galaxy Trust schools to put away their timetables and throw themselves into some online safety education.
I made sure to set some time aside for the Be Internet Kind pillar, because we’d received some reports of mean comments online and even cyberbullying. But the atmosphere on the day was electric – and the interactive activities put everyone in such a positive mood.
Rather than hearing yet another adult tell them what they shouldn’t be doing, children felt like they could talk about real challenges – like trolling and identity theft – and share good experiences too. I walked into so many lessons where pupils were rambling to their teachers about their favourite apps and the friends they’d made online.
The next step, of course, is keeping this momentum going across all three schools – and turning online safety into a habit. Be Internet Legends may be designed for Key Stage 2, but it’s easily adaptable for Key Stage 1 – and even younger pupils can absorb some of the key messages through picture books. I’ve broken down the learning according to what each year group needs, so we’re all in this together. We’ll introduce a different pillar at the beginning of each half term – and then it’s up to teachers when they do it.
But it’s not just about the lessons. I’m encouraging teachers to check in on the key points every time their class uses tech. I’m sharing relevant news stories on a regular basis. And I’m introducing my own staff pillar – Be Internet Curious – which will (hopefully) motivate colleagues to ask questions and show interest in the digital world. Even if our pupils know more about the internet than some of us, we’re still savvier when it comes to safety. If we’re expecting them to get clued up on the latter, why shouldn’t we meet them in the middle?
Find out more about the Be Internet Legends curriculum.