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All it takes is a conversation

The educational landscape is undoubtedly ever evolving and changing. As the sun sets on one idea, view or approach, so the next day starts with more thoughts opinions or aspects to consider. After working in education for nearly two decades, I have come to see this as an essential part of the Teaching Profession, which allows it to expand the opportunities for young people and push the boundaries of what it means to be a learner in the 21st century.

As a school we aim to have learning as our core purpose; to ensure our children gain a mental or physical grasp of things, make sense of the world around themselves, interpret the events and actions that unfold, whilst also processing the words and actions of others. Learning and teaching come hand in hand and with that comes the relationships that exist between a school and its community. These relationships are the key to ensuring that all children, parents and staff are able to create the right climate for learning to take place and at the heart of this are the conversations that help shape and mould the way in which a community evolves.

Over the past couple of weeks I have had lots of conversations as usual with all sorts of children and adults who are both within and beyond our school community. Many of these conversations arise naturally from planned meetings, routines, visits or opportunities, but what I have found fascinating overtime is the power a conversation has to sow a seed of thought, bring about a different perspective or sometimes hold up a mirror to reflect on the way we do things.

As a school it has been great to start to work as part of Oak Learning Partnership and through the conversations between all three schools, start to see how collaboration across a primary school, secondary school and secondary special is in such a short space of time already starting to have an impact on the offer we want our children to have as learners.

Our newly established parent forum is another example of conversations that we are engaging with as a school to further expand our motto of “Together We Build Understanding”. As part of our forum launch we looked at the remit of the forum and its purpose, which was further enhance by a presentation from Bury2gether, who are going to work with us to establish a forum which allows parents of children with SEND to feel empowered to share their views and opinions. For us as a school we would like it to be owned by our parents and it is a real opportunity for us to work together as a community to continue to enhance the opportunities for learning that all our children have. The conversations within our forum between parents, members of staff and Bury2gether highlighted to me that our school community want to have more conversations and have lots of ideas and suggestions that will continue to help us move forward together.

Sometimes it is those conversations that happen by chance or that occur because of an opportunity which go on to change how things are. A parent once said to me 4 or 5 years ago “I would love to be a fly on the wall and see the things that my child tells me all about when they come home” and from that came our use of Tapestry and Twitter to bring the classroom to peoples finger tips.

We all want to do the best for our children, but at times there can appear to be challenges or systems and structures that seem to get in the way of this or somehow disrupt what we want to do. All it takes sometimes is a conversation to take us back to our shared purpose of ensuring our children get the best deal as learners and the future of society. Unsworth is always a place that is open to a conversation, a conversation that may almost seem insignificant, but a conversation that has the power to be the catalyst for change. The late Rita Pierson was an educator who believed in the power of human connection and always had time to listen to all those conversations that fill our daily lives and the shared spaces in which we exist as a society.  

“How powerful would our world be if we had kids not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think and who had a champion. Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them. Who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” (Rita Pierson)

So as simple as it sounds, all it often takes is a conversation to bring about understanding or bring about change. Our lives are filled with conversations and it is empowering to think that as a teaching profession our Chartered College came from our collective conversations about pedagogy. Our  growing engagement with digital apps such as Twitter shows us that conversations about education and ways to move forward are always possible.

All it takes is a conversation and somebody to start it off.

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Featured Headteacher's Blog Latest News

New Beginnings

Last week saw the start of a new beginning for Unsworth with us officially converting to Academy status alongside our new partners Elms Bank and Broad Oak to form Oak Learning Partnership. For myself and Mrs Reynolds it is also the start of something new as we move forward into our different roles. I started at Unsworth thirteen years ago in 2006 as a class teacher within KS2 and when I look back overtime I can reflect on how the school has changed in that period of time.

I feel incredibly proud of all of the pupils and staff within the school and it really is a privilege to now be the Head teacher as Mrs Reynolds starts her role as Director of School Improvement and Executive Headteacher of the partnership.

It is true to say that Unsworth in 2019 is a different place to what it was in 2006, but what we have always protected at Unsworth and what we will continue to promote is that all our children are at the centre of what we do. I have always believed that “Together We Build Understanding” captures all that we do as a school and community. Our new partnership will continue to take this forward and our colleagues at Elms Bank and Broad Oak will help us to continue to change and evolve.

Our partnership unites our schools with one vision:

To give our learning community a highly effective education in a truly inclusive environment.

At Unsworth inclusion is something that we have thought a lot about and for us it is as simple as providing all of our children with what they need to be successful. For us as a school, the learning environment and the products of learning are what help our children to flourish. This is achieved through our enquiry curriculum, which has been designed by our staff to map out what we want our children to experience when they come to us at 4 up until they leave us at 11.

It has been lovely this week to hear from lots of our new families who will be starting with us in September and I look forward to welcoming them into Unsworth with the rest of the staff across the summer term.

We see this new beginning as the next chapter in Unsworth’s story; a story that belongs to all of the characters past, present and future who have helped shape it into the place that it is and will be. A place where learning about each other and the world around us is at the heart of what we do.

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Computing and E-Safety eWarrior Blog Featured Latest News

Digital Worries

Our digital leaders have been working hard across the 1st half term, having weekly meetings and completing weekly challenges. All of the digital leaders have created their own introduction videos for their display board to explain who they are and why they wanted to be a digital leader. Their second task was to check that their class had e-safety rules displayed and to also be able to talk about what the rules mean. Task three was to create a digital worry box for their classroom, where children could post any problems or worries they were having with technology. All of the digital leaders brought in their own boxes and worked in pairs to create a box. The were also challenged with introducing the box to their class and had the additional challenge of recording this through a video, pic collage or comic life. After half term they will be sharing their creations, delivering an e-safety session to their class and meeting with our school governors to explaining their work across the school. 

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Featured Latest News

Parent Hub Communication App

We are always looking at ways to develop our communications with parents further and during our recent parent survey most parents felt that the texting service was a valuable way of getting up to date information about what is happening in school. There are some limitations to the service, such as the fact that within the text message we are unable to add direct attachments or images and we are limited to the amount of characters we can add to a text message.

Recently our School Management Information System where we store all our pupil data and contact details has joined with “Parent Hub” which is a communications app for parents. The app hosts a messaging service for schools which allows attachments and pictures to be linked with messages, offers no limit on the length of messages and also links to our school Twitter feed. The benefit of this app is that it is completely free both for parents and for us as a school. The text message service does cost us a large amount as a school and in terms of the admin time it takes to update details each year and as changes are made.

As the app is linked to our Management Information System, the updating of details would happen automatically and as a school we could save a large sum of money whilst also providing a more advanced messaging service, which would allow us to streamline communications between school and home. We would like to trial the “Parent Hub” app and get your feedback about it. Our aim is to get parents to sign up to the app across the summer term so that we can start to send messages through it, with the aim being that across the autumn term all our messaging goes through the app so that we can make a decision at the end of the autumn term about which messaging system is most effective .

It is really simple to set up the app on any kind of phone. If you click here you can  download a poster about how to join the app and once you enter your phone number, it will let us know that you have signed up. The best way to join is by downloading the Parent Hub app (the white app). If you want to know more about the app, do visit the Parent Hub website by clicking here or arrange to speak to Mr Rhodes about it.

We feel that this is a great opportunity for us to develop our communication system further. 

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Blog The Voice of the School Council Blog

Parking Charter

On Friday 17th February our school councillors continued the work of last year’s council on developing awareness of the parking issues that we have around Unsworth. Last year the council developed a set of visual posters, which were put onto the school fence this morning. This year’s councillors worked with members of staff to collect signatures from our school community for our “Parking Charter”, which was developed in the summer term. The idea of the charter is for parents/carers to agree to consider following a set of guidelines when parking their cars. It has been developed to help keep children safe and to think about how we can be as fair as possible to our neighbours who live in close proximity to the school.

Our councillors did a fantastic job, collecting 61 signatures in 10 minutes and we would like to thank all those members of our school community who signed up. To read our charter click here and feel free to download a copy, sign it and send it in if you would like to. Our councillors are going to add their thoughts below, so why not read what they have to say!

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Computing and E-Safety Featured Latest News

E-safety Mark Achievement

An Assessor from the South West Grid for Learning recently visited Unsworth to review the school’s e-safety provision. The Assessor met school staff, parents and carers, Governors and pupils  and was pleased to find that the school provides a high level of protection for users of the new technologies. The South West Grid for Learning Trust provides the internet connection and a range of other services to schools across the SW region and is in the forefront of national developments in e-safety.  To enhance these services, they have developed a tool to help schools address e-safety issues, not least the changes to Ofsted inspections, which include a stronger focus on safeguarding. The online tool allows schools to evaluate their e-safety policy and practice and then suggests how the school might do more to protect young people and staff.

To apply for the 360 degree safe E-Safety Mark, schools have to reach a series of benchmark levels when they complete the online self review. The evidence is then verified by a visit from experienced Assessors. The prime benefit of using the review and applying for the E-Safety Mark is that it does not focus on the individual aspects of e-safety such as technological solutions, but instead it integrates e-safety into school policy and the curriculum, challenging teachers and managers in the school to think about their provision and its continual evolution.

Schools are expected to show that they have provided a high standard of e-safety education and awareness for all staff, pupils and also for parents and carers, to ensure that these users of the new technologies can be safe online – whether they are in school, in their homes or out and about using mobile phones or other handheld devices. Following their visit the Assessor reported that the main areas of strength were: 

  • strong leadership and commitment shown by the e-safety officer
  • planned programme of e-safety training for staff and pupils
  • a consistent whole school approach to, and awareness of, e-safety
  • parental engagement through the school’s website
  • the logging, monitoring and dealing with reported incidents

Ron Richards, Lead Assessor for the 360 degree safe E-Safety Mark congratulated the school on its success and commented that it was re-assuring to know that the school had put a lot of thought and effort into improving the on-line  safety of the staff and young people, by addressing these important safeguarding issues.

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App of the moment blog Featured Latest News

Maths Splat App

This is a great app for children to go over and reinforce basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  The children can work at different levels and select which of the 4 areas they want to practise.  As they get things correct  higher levels to move into are unlocked.  Maths Splat pushes into three-digit numbers at the higher levels, so it is good up to Year 6.  The lower levels for multiplication include 2, 3, 4 and 5 times tables. It costs 99p. Have a go and let us know what you think!

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Computing and E-Safety Featured Latest News

A Parent Guide to WhatsApp

Below is a WhatsApp guide developed by CEOP and shared through Parent Info. It gives an overview of key aspects for parents to consider. One major concern with WhatsApp is that the recommended age is 13, but many children as young as 6 or 7 are using the service. The maturity of users is a real concern when using the App because once videos, images and voice messages are shared, the users receiving them can then do what they want with them. This has implications for the future and most children do not have the maturity levels to fully understand what this means for them as they grow into young adults. The information below gives a really good outline about what should be considered.  

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a mobile messaging app which allows users to exchange messages using existing phone contacts without having to pay text message fees. WhatsApp Messenger is available on most mobile devices including iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. WhatsApp users can create groups and send each other unlimited images, video and audio messages.

How much does it cost?

For all phone types, WhatsApp is free to download. WhatsApp used to charge a 69p per year subscription fee, but this has since been removed. (Jan 2016). 

WhatsApp uses an Internet connection using 4G or Wi-Fi to send and receive messages to your contacts. As long as the user hasn’t exceeded the data limit or is connected to a free Wi-Fi network, messaging over WhatsApp should not cost extra.

Does WhatsApp have any age restrictions?

As part of its Terms of Service, WhatsApp’s minimum age of use is 13 years old.  By using WhatsApp, a user agrees to provide certain personal information such as their mobile phone number, billing and mobile device information. If WhatsApp learns that identifiable information of a child under 16 has been collected on the WhatsApp  Site or WhatsApp Service, then WhatsApp may deactivate the account.
Should I be concerned about WhatsApp as a parent/carer?

WhatsApp is a great way for young people to socialise with their friends. Children can only talk to existing contacts on their phone, although this may feel safer, it’s still important to remember that some content shared may not be appropriate for children, or they have contacts (strangers) in their phone who they have never met face to face.

Likewise, as with all social media, caution is advised over your child’s digital footprint, particularly the content (photos, videos and messages) they choose to share via WhatsApp. Once shared, it can be copied, re shared and posted anywhere online.

Group chats on WhatsApp

WhatsApp also contains a group chat function. The feature lets users chat with up to 100 people in one conversation stream. Each group is set up by one contact who becomes the group admin – they’re the only user who can add or remove participants and change/add new group admins.

Group conversations usually take place between friends. But sometimes, users can be added to a group where they don’t know everyone else. Even if fellow users in the group aren’t contacts, they will still be able to see messages your child posts in the group, and your child will be able to see theirs. Likewise, if they’re added to a group with someone they’ve blocked, the blocked person will be able to contact them there.

Therefore, it’s possible they could see or be contacted by someone they don’t know and could be vulnerable to content posted by this person.

Group chats – advice

Although a user cannot control who adds them to a group chat, they can always control their own participation within it – they can leave whenever they want to. 

It’s a good idea to advise your child that if they are in a group chat with someone they don’t know and are uncomfortable with, they should exit the group and speak to you about it.
How do privacy settings work on WhatsApp?

WhatsApp’s default privacy setting allows any other WhatsApp user to view your profile photo, status (link is external) and when you were last using (link is external) the app. You can specify that your child’s Whatsapp account (when they were last online, profile photo, status) can be seen by:

  • Everyone – all WhatsApp users.
  • My Contacts – the contacts from their address book only. This is the recommended option for most users.
  • Nobody

Talk to your child about their privacy settings and ask them to adjust to ‘my contacts’ if they have them set to ‘everyone’ by following the steps below:

Privacy settings are accessed here:

WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Privacy
How do I report a user to WhatsApp?

There is no direct way to report a user, or specific abuse, other than to block them from sending you further messages. To do this, tap:

Settings > Account > Privacy > Blocked Contacts

WhatsApp messages sent by a blocked contact will not show up on your child’s phone and will never be delivered to them. The ‘last seen’ status information and profile picture will no longer be visible to blocked contacts.

To permanently delete a contact in WhatsApp, you will need to delete them from your phone’s list of contacts.

If you have any concerns about grooming, sexual abuse or exploitation on Whatsapp or on any online app or site, Report to CEOP (the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) at www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre (link is external).
How do I disable a WhatsApp account?

Go to:

Settings > Account > Delete My Account

This will remove all account information from the service including deleting all message history, and removing the user from all WhatsApp group

 
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Computing and E-Safety eWarrior Blog Featured Latest News

E-Warrior Emoji Challenge

Over the last two weeks our E-Warrior team have been preparing in their classes for the emoji challenge ready for Safer Internet Day 2017. The E-Warriors were challenged to ask their class to prepare emoji messages for emoji charades to share with the rest of the school in assembly. They were given their brief and then they had to introduce it to their class teacher and decide what to do. Find out in their comments below what they did within their class and check out our Twitter feed to see some of their work!

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App of the moment blog Featured Latest News

Google Expeditions App

This is a fantastic app that takes children or adults on journeys. Google Expeditions is a virtual-reality teaching tool that allows you to lead or join immersive virtual trips all over the world – get up close to historical landmarks, dive underwater with sharks and even visit outer space! It has been specifically built for the classroom and small group use, whilst, allowing a teacher acting as a “guide” to lead classroom-sized groups of “explorers” through collections of 360° and 3D images while pointing out interesting sights along the way.

Click here to find out more.