Facebook backs Government’s online safety lessons for school pupils

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Social media giant Facebook has backed the Government’s new online safety lessons to help school pupils recognise online dangers.

The tech firm has endorsed the proposed online lesson curriculum ahead of a meeting with ministers and anti-bullying campaigners on Monday.

The lessons form part of Government plans to make relationships, sex and health education classes compulsory at all schools from September 2020.

The new curriculum has been designed to teach every pupil about how to recognise dangers online, including what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

School standards minister Nick Gibb will meet Facebook alongside online safety charities the Diana Award and Childnet to discuss internet safety.

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The DfE said the meeting supported the Government’s mission to work with tech companies to get them to consider their collective responsibility regarding children and young people’s welfare online.

Mr Gibb said he was pleased Facebook had recognised the importance of these new lessons, which will be delivered through compulsory relationships, sex and health education classes.

He added: “No child should face the fear of bullying. The internet, whilst usually a force for good, brings with it new dangers – that’s why our new online safety lessons will teach pupils about how to use the internet respectfully and sensibly.

“We all have a collective responsibility to protect children from this kind of harm, whether as parents, ministers, business leaders or school teachers, and can all play a role in shaping the kind of society we want for our future generations, preparing them for life in modern Britain.”

Under the plans, all pupils will be taught relationships education in primary school and relationships and sex education in secondary school, while all pupils will be taught health education in state-funded schools.

Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s head of UK policy, welcomed the addition of online safety lessons to the school curriculum.

She said: “The safety of young people online is our absolute priority and, like the Department for Education, we are committed to giving schools the right support so young people have safe and positive experiences online.

“We’ll be working with our safety partners including the Diana Award and Childnet and the Government to make progress in this area.”

The Diana Award is trying to encourage 9,000 schools to appoint an ambassador as part of DfE-funded projects to work with schools to do more to stamp out prejudice and discrimination.

More than £1 million is being shared among three anti-bullying charities – the Diana Award, Anne Frank Trust and the Anti-Bullying Alliance – to reach more than 260,000 pupils with projects designed to prevent bullying in the classroom and online.

Representatives from the Diana Award and Childnet will join the meeting to set out their partnership with Facebook to encourage schools to appoint pupil ambassadors to help tackle bullying and promote safe and responsible use of technology.

Alex Holmes, deputy chief executive of the Diana Award, said: “Thanks to the support from the Department for Education and Facebook, we are able to offer schools our flagship anti-bullying and online safety programme free of charge – and we are proud to support this Government’s approach to bullying prevention and internet safety.”

Will Gardner, chief executive of Childnet, said: “It is vital that we are working with children and young people, and empowering them to be part of the solution in the fast-moving environment of the online world.”

Chris Price
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