2021: Lockdown and the Return of Homeschool

2021 has greeted us with our third UK Lockdown and we know that many of our community have children now at home and getting to grips with online learning, whether it be through Google Classrooms or Microsoft Teams. All schools are working hard with limited time given to them, creating and sending out high quality teaching resources and we are extremely grateful for everything they do. To extend our support to local families working from home as well as schooling and caring for their children, we have compiled some useful online websites and digital resources you may wish to access to find ideas to keep kids occupied, especially if getting outside becomes tricky with our unpredictable winter weather. We would love for our community to also share useful educational links you have found here and share the knowledge. We are in this together and we are here to help.

The BBC are commencing a weekly timetable of BBC Bitesize resources on CBBC (Primary) and BBC2 (Secondary) beginning Monday 11th January. All shows are available for catch up on iPlayer and further information can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize

CBeebies on BBC also offer a range of educational programmes for Pre-schoolers and are available for catch up on iPlayer.

There are a range of free educational websites to explore:

Sky TV has made available on Sky Kids an educational Learning from Home collection to help families who will be spending more time at home in the coming weeks. This covers Early Years (Under 5s), KS1 (age 5 - 7) and KS2 (age 8 - 11) Curriculum. More details can be found on www.skymedia.co.uk


Christmas 2020 has come to a close and we have entered Lockdown 3.0. It may seem an age ago when we watched our children were excitedly tear off the wrapping paper on Christmas morning but those lucky enough to receive a mobile phone, tablet or games console may well find it coming in useful now we embrace home schooling life once again.

For some children, this device may be the first they’ve owned, or older children may have received new high-tech devices enabling them to connect and explore more of the digital landscape. As excited as they may be to use them, parents and children should be aware that these new devices open up new risks they will need to be aware of and knowledgeable about.

We have some top tips to share from National Safety Online to help families stay savvy and enjoy their new devices while staying safe:

1. Always set a password – if your child’s device has a password protection feature, you should use it as it will help keep their private information safe and deny others access to their device without permission. Make sure your password isn’t too obvious, it should be something memorable to your child but something other people can’t guess. It may also be helpful to write it down as children do have a tendency to forget this kind of thing!

2. Set up ‘parental controls’ – most phones, tablets and consoles will allow you to customise their settings so you can determine which games your child can play, how they can communicate (and who with) and what content they can access. Doing this will give you peace of mind that they can’t inadvertently do something they shouldn’t.

3. Pay attention to age ratings – Kids love to play games and explore apps, especially when they have a new device, but make sure you check age ratings before they download anything or install a new console game. Many popular games and apps have content that isn’t suitable for younger ages no matter how ‘child-friendly’ they appear or how much you child pleads with you. A safe and non-confrontational long-term solution is to adjust the device’s settings so they can only download and use games and apps appropriate for their age.

4. Keep numbers and devices private – take time to make sure your child understands they should never share their phone number with someone they don’t know or accept a friend request from them. It’s also a good idea to get them into a habit of keeping their phone out of sight when out in public and never lend their phone to a stranger or put it down somewhere when there are people who might take it to use without asking or steal it.

5. Have ‘the money conversation’ – before your child starts to use their device, have a frank conversation with them about in-app purchases and other ways money might be spent through their device. Once they’ve understood and taken on board this responsibility, you may want to agree on a spending limit and make sure they are aware you are more than happy for them to come to you if they are ever uncertain or have even made a purchase by accident.

6. Discourage device dependency – it’s a brand-new toy, your child will naturally want to spend as much time as possible on it. Whether they are zapping bad guys, watching videos or connecting with friends, it’s easy for them to get attached very quickly. Gently remind them that family time, going outdoors and exercise are fun too and having a balance is important. Their prized device will still be there when they come back.

7. Explain secure WIFI networks – your home WIFI is protected by a password that only your family knows. Whereas public networks (like those found in coffee shops) can be accessed by anyone. Make sure your child understands the difference, because if they are using a portable device on an unsecured network then a hacker could access their personal information without them even knowing, gaining access to saved passwords, card details or even being susceptible to identity theft.

8. Limit screen time – using a device for too long, particularly just before bed, can interfere with a child’s sleep quality and can affect concentration levels and enthusiasm. Take the time to discuss and explain your concerns and agree on certain times of the day where they do not use their device. Most devices’ settings allow you to specify a screen-time limit, helping your child stay fresh and focused in order to be at their best during the school day.

9. Only pair with known Bluetooth devices – your child may want to connect to another device via Bluetooth, so they can listen to music wirelessly or share pictures and videos with nearby friends. However, if they use Bluetooth to link with a device they don’t know, they may be at risk of a stranger being able to see their personal information (see #7) or at risk of having someone transmit a virus onto their device.

10. Turn location settings off – the safest move is to disable the device’s location settings from the get-go (if it’s a portable device), so your child doesn’t inadvertently make people they don’t know aware of where they are. You can normally access this via the device’s privacy control settings. Turning location settings off also significantly extends battery life.

11. Stay aware of the surroundings – it’s quite common to see adults not looking where they are going while engrossed in their phone. Children are even more easily distracted and their awareness of what’s around them can sometimes not be their top priority even without a device thrown into the mixer! There have been cases of children being hit by cars or cyclists because they were staring at their device and lost track of where they are in relation to the pavement. Remind your youngster that screens and walking don’t mix well. If they need to use their device, they should stop in a safe place first.

12. Be there if they need to talk – even when you’ve done everything you can to make your child’s device as secure as Fort Knox, there is still a possibility of your child seeing something that bothers them, or someone they don’t know attempting to contact them. If this happens, listen to their concerns, empathise and reassure them. Once they’ve explained what’s happened, you can decide if you need to take further action like blocking or reporting another user.

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