– Young digitals leaders from Ballyclare help launch new cyber safety award scheme  –

An industry backed initiative and the first of its kind in Northern Ireland is set to help schools tackle cyber risks and keep pupils safe online.

Developed by Digital Schools Awards Northern Ireland to provide education professionals with the resources and support needed to help pupils stay safe in the digital world, the new Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety (CR-IS) Badge is backed by technology companies HP, Microsoft and RM Education with the support of C2K and the Department of Education.

Online platforms are becoming increasingly accessible to young people with as many as one in four children aged 8-11 operating their own social media profiles. As the internet becomes further integrated into everyday life, it is vital that schools provide pupils with the knowledge and confidence to operate online.

The stand-alone badge will be available to all schools that demonstrate a strategic approach to cyber resilience and internet safety. The initiative follows the successful integration of the Digital Schools Awards programme in primary and secondary schools throughout Northern Ireland, which encourages a whole-school approach to digital learning.

Ann-Marie Whelan, HP Education Manager said, “Advances in digital technology have brought about huge positive change into almost every aspect of our lives and we want to ensure our young people enjoy a very positive and beneficial experience. However, we also need to better equip and educate young people on the potential dangers and how to stay safe online.”

Digital Schools Awards Validator Dr Victor McNair said, “Schools are ideally placed to provide progressive and relevant activities that help pupils build enduring and adaptable cyber-resilient skills.

“Teachers will instantly recognise the language used in the self-review framework and they will benefit from the local and national resources provided to help them develop classroom activities, partnerships and professional learning opportunities.”

Pete Murphy, RM Education said, “Introducing the new CR-IS badge is a really positive way to encourage both staff and pupils to understand the actions they can take to stay safe online.

“As the UK’s most secure internet safety provider, RM Education is delighted to support NI schools in ensuring young people enjoy a positive experience online.”

Speaking at the launch of the new cyber resilience and internet safety award, Karen Irwin, UICT Co-ordinator at Ballyclare Primary School said, “Pupils are very much at the heart of our internet planning and strategy and we encourage an open dialogue between pupils, teachers and parents. Our Digital Leaders group which meets weekly is represented by pupils from each year group and together we work on creative projects and ideas to help everyone stay one step ahead in an ever-changing cyberworld.”

First launched in Northern Ireland in 2015, the Digital Schools Awards programme is supported by C2K and the Department of Education and since then over 70 nursery, primary and secondary level schools have completed the programme and achieved Digital Schools status.

The programme is open and free to all schools to participate.  Schools can register online for the new Cyber Resilience and Internet Safety Badge at www.digitalschoolsawards.co.uk.