Health & Safety Matters - the minefield of technology
We all know that modern technology enables us to do things that we couldn't even dream about a few years ago but we're equally aware that it can be a curse, not least when the school network crashes when you're about to be observed. Then there's the enthusiastic geek in the staff room who thinks that because they know how to use the latest gadget in class everybody should be doing it. Technology should make life easier, but it doesn't work out like that much of the time.
The use of IT, both socially and professionally, has become a real minefield. Stories about someone posting something online that they shouldn't are a regular feature in the press but you don't have to be the one at fault to get into trouble. In one school KS2 pupils used a photo of a teacher to set up a fake Facebook account and invited other teachers to "friend" them so that they could get personal information. You may be careful about who you link with on social media, but are your friends? Who's looking at their account? This is particularly important to consider if you friend parents of students or ex students who still have younger siblings at school.
In the case of Smart Phones, Big Brother really is watching you. Are you aware that they track where you've been? A teacher somewhere was given a school phone to use while he was on a school trip. Unfortunately, when he returned the phone to school an eagle-eyed member of SLT noticed that a number of calls had been made from a pub.
Sometimes it's possible to tell where messages on services like Facebook have been sent from as well. They might even show it on a map.
In addition to all of the above, online bullying of school staff by both parents and students is an ongoing problem. Every school should have an ESafety Policy and an Acceptable Use Policy that sets out their expectations of both staff and students. This should include the measures that will be taken to protect staff and students from E-Bullying. To protect yourself from the pitfalls of technology, it's worth considering the following:
• Make sure your security settings for social media accounts are secure if you are posting personal information or opinions there.
• Don't let friends tag you in photographs or posts that you might not want others to see.
• Make sure that all your devices are protected with good passwords and don't leave them logged on when you're not present.
• NEVER leave a school computer logged on to the network when you go out of the room.
• NEVER tell ANYONE else your school passwords.
• NEVER use your private email account or phone - mobile or landline - to contact students or parents.
• Insist that the school provides a mobile phone for use when on a school trip.
• Don't bring personal IT equipment into school.
• If you take a school laptop home NEVER use it for personal reasons and don't let other members of your household do so.
Schools should give all members of their staff training in e-safety and provide regular updates. Students should have lessons that include information and discussions about e-safety. New websites and software appear with frightening regularity so you should never assume that you're up to date with the most recent developments.
Training and Courses
There will be two opportunities for new school NUT H&S Reps to attend the accredited H&S training course this year. The first opportunity is in two parts (four days) in Birmingham on the 1st and 2nd March followed by 19th and 20th May. The same course is run as a five day residential course at Stoke Rochford between the 4th and 8th July. You can apply via the NUT website or contact the office. The Midlands H&S Conference that is open to H&S Reps as well as other officers of the union will take place at the Birmingham office on Thursday 23rd June.