Editorial 08/07/2022

Dear Parents and Carers,

I write to you this week in regard to two very important matters: digital learning and mobile phones.

  1. Digital Learning

As you are aware, the pandemic thrust Hasmonean along with many other schools into the brave new digital world. On our return to school we appointed digital leads at SLT and department level to ensure we built on what we had achieved during lockdown and made the most of online learning. This video highlights some of the impact it has had on pedagogy within the school:

While we are strongly in favour of harnessing all that the digital world has to offer to further our students’ academic learning, we are also keenly aware that the internet can pose serious risks. To ensure students’ internet use is safe, focused on learning, free of distractions and in line with the school ethos we have set up a Chromebook Working Party composed of SLT members including Menahel Rabbi Golker, governors, parents and IT experts.

So far we have taken action to:

  • Block proxy websites using non-conventional domain names to prevent students from undertaking unrestricted internet searches
  • Turned off YouTube access for Year 7 students both by user and by Chromebook (with the exception of sites approved by teachers)
  • Restricted VPN access (so students cannot undertake private searches)
  • Reminded all staff of their duty to monitor the usage of Chromebooks in lessons
  • Prevented students from sharing files externally and receiving files from outside of school

Our next steps will be to:

  • Ensure YouTube access for Year 8 and 9 students is entirely inaccessible – it has already been blocked by user but there is further work to do to block it by Chromebook (with the exception of sites approved by teachers)
  • Investigate and remove any large MP4, MPEG and MOV files on student drives including any which are unlicensed/ illegal or not of educational use
  • Improve tracking and monitoring of students’ digital footprints (and strengthen the sanctions for inappropriate usage)
  • Trial ‘Family Link’ which will enable parents to co-manage devices and have access to /control over screen time
  • Improve online monitoring of students use of Chromebooks in the classroom
  • Review the effectiveness of current filtering and security platforms to ensure we use the best available.

We are also in contact with other schools to investigate transitioning from filtering internet searches to only allowing students to access an approved ‘white list’ of websites. While this will take time, we believe that it will make our digital learning and safe and secure as possible, ensuring that students are only able to access educational material.

We will continue to keep you updated on our progress in this important area.

We would also like to remind you of the importance of monitoring your children’s use of the Internet at home including ensuring that:

  • All of the devices they have access to are filtered
  • The hours of use are appropriate
  • You are happy with the content of their Google drive and apps.

If you wish to report any issues related to digital learning and the use of Chromebooks, or if you are aware of any pitfalls that we have not mentioned or have any questions about our progress on this area, please be in contact with our SLT Digital Lead, Mrs Langdon: m.langdon@hasmonean.co.uk

This link to the NSPCC’s provides further advice about online safety: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

  1. Mobile Phones – Relevant for Parents of Year 7-11 Students

Unfiltered and unregulated, the internet and social media are having a seriously detrimental impact on children’s lives.

Currently, all Year 7-11 students’ phones must be switched off during school hours and placed in the lockers provided for them. In effect, they are banned from use on the school premises.  Anyone caught using them has their phone confiscated for a week in the first instance with sanctions escalating as far as exclusions for further offences.

However, the vast majority of phone-related incidents happen outside of school time and it is of great concern to us that many students are spending so much time on the internet and social media outside of school hours. It is well known that it quickly becomes very hard to separate children from their devices unless routines are established early on. That is why we think it is important for parents to limit internet/ social media usage at the evenings and weekends to enable them to take a break to recalibrate and interact with the real world around them.

We are also asking all parents and carers to ensure that they have filtering for their children’s devices on their home network and that their children’s phones are filtered so that children are protected outside of school hours. This is in line with government guidance which requires schools to protect children “against pornography, fake news, racism, misogyny, self-harm, suicide, anti-Semitism, radicalisation and extremism’’ and our responsibility to work with parents to do so.

We appreciate that many parents have already installed filtering devices on their children’s phones but want to give the rest of our parents the opportunity to do so as well, given the government guidance outlined above.

To that end we will be asking TAG to come into school to filter students’ phones this Sunday 10th July and next Sunday 17th July between 9:30am and 1:00pm at the Boys’ School. Parents of boys should attend between 9.30am and midday, parents of girls between 12 and 1pm. You will be able to choose the level of filtering you require. Please indicate here if you would like to TAG to filter your child’s phone and what level of filtering you require:

Level of Filtering Required Form

Alternatively, you can visit TAG at their offices:

Golders Green Office
2 Garrick Avenue
London NW11 9AS
(020) 7112 4848

Edgware Office
58 Edgware Way
Mowbray Parade
London HA8 8DJ
(020) 8952 5666

We are now asking all parents to inform us which parental control software/applications are being used to monitor each of your child’s mobile devices via this online form and will keep it open until after TAG have come into school before collating the results:

Mobile Phone Parental Control/Filtering Form

Why are we making these requests? For the very good reason that if parents do not play their part in protecting their children against the dangers of an unrestricted internet and social media, the restrictions which the school imposes during the school day will do little to protect students.

We will be running internet safety training session for children, parents and teachers again over the course of the next academic year.

A link to the NSPCC’s online support with regard to internet safety can be found here:  https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

If you have any questions or concerns in regard to safeguarding, please contact our Designated Safeguarding Leads:

Mrs Laura Waugh (Girls) l.waugh@hasmonean.co.uk ext 316
Ms Rivka Benarroch (Boys) r.benarroch@hasmonean.co.uk ext 263

With kind regards,

Andrew McClusky
CEO, Hasmonean MAT