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Online harms

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Today’s Education in the Media blog will cover the Education Secretary’s speech at the NSPCC conference calling on technology companies to take responsibility to ensure children are treated as children online, Minister Gibb’s op-ed on closing the gap in performance between private and state schools and the publication of the final Relationships, Sex and Health Education guidance for schools.

NSPCC speech

Today, Wednesday 26 June, the Education Secretary delivered a wide ranging speech at the NSPCC conference part of which is calling on tech giants to take more responsibility in making sure children are treated as children online and protected until the age of 18.

Ahead of the speech, the Secretary of State made a series of broadcast appearances with Good Morning Britain, BBC 5 Live, BBC Breakfast, Sky News and LBC and this his was also covered by The Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Times and The Mirror.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

Growing up has always been hard, but there are pressures these days on a completely different scale from even on generation ago. And it’s not just about social media pressures. The internet changes just about everything. Though it brings new opportunities, it also brings dangers and risks to young people’s health and well-being.

We need better online protections – including making it more difficult for children to access online harm and improved parental controls – for any service or platform that children are accessing, not just those which are targeted at children.

I have seen some online companies arguing that children should be treated as adults online once they pass the age of 13. To them I say this: children are children – this is as true in the online world as the real one. You have a responsibility to your young users and it is time for you to step up to make sure they are protected from online harms and upsetting content until they reach adulthood.

School standards

Today, Wednesday 26 June, Schools Minister Nick Gibb looks at how standards at state funded schools have risen to the point that they are comparable with private schools.

Writing for the Independent, Minister Gibb talks about a report published by the Sutton Trust this week which showed that 65 per cent of serving judges are privately educated, along with 44 per cent of newspaper columnists. He expresses his concerns that many parents will read this as a reason to start saving up for the fees to pay for private school but believes they should save their money.

He writes, times have changed and read recently about prep schools facing a ‘slow and gentle goodnight’ because state primaries are now so good, with 87 per cent of them rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

Eighty-five per cent of state-funded schools are now rated good or outstanding – compared to 68 per cent in 2010. This has been driven by a range our reforms, focused on strengthening education. Phonics is helping early literacy, more pupils leave primary school meeting the expected standards in maths and English, reformed GCSEs make sure 16-year-olds have the knowledge parents expect.

RSHE guidance

On Tuesday 25 June the department published the final Relationships, Sex and Health Education guidance for schools.

The publication comes ahead of the introduction of compulsory relationships education for primary-age pupils and compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) for secondary-age pupils, and compulsory health education for all pupils in state-funded schools from September 2020.

Making health education universally compulsory and updating relationships and sex education guidance for the first time since 2000 will ensure young people are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of a modern world, both on- and offline.

From September this year, early-adopter schools will begin teaching the new content, to support schools across the country as they do so the Department for Education will shortly publish details of a working group to offer insight into the introduction of the guidance ahead of the nationwide roll-out in 2020.

This story was covered in print by The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Sun, The Times, Birmingham Mail and Jewish Chronicle.

Education Secretary, Damian Hinds said:

At the heart of preparing children for life in modern Britain is making sure that they understand the world they are growing up in. It is a world that is different from 20 years ago, when this guidance was last updated, and this is a significant step that will help young people to look after themselves and each other.

A wide range of views were expressed during the public consultation, and I believe the guidance strikes the right balance. Our new guidance is clear that children should leave school having learnt about LGBT relationships.

Children will of course find out about all sorts of things, including the diversity of our society, anyway – the question is where and how is it best to do so – in class, on the internet, or in the playground. I would strongly encourage schools to discuss with children in class that there are all sorts of different, strong and loving families, including families with same-sex parents, while they are at primary school.

There is no reason why teaching children about the society that we live in and the different types of loving, healthy relationships that exist cannot be done in a way that respects everyone.

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