Bringing the Outside Into School

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shutterstock_270616352 Educational school isolation and bullying concept.


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How often have students brought external factors into your classroom?

Social media has much to answer for poor behaviour in schools, and I’m not just talking about using mobile phone in schools; I am referring to much of what we do in schools to improve behaviour, can be a direct result of outside behaviours being brought into school.

28% of 11 – to 16 year olds have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phone or the internet. (Source)

Advising students on how to avoid the pitfalls associated with cyber-bullying, sexting and security isn’t easy when teachers and parents are too busy to get to grips with the rapidly evolving world of social media. We cannot control this issue alone without intervention and policy from the government and mobile phone providers.

This is a blog about taking more of a stronger stance on external factors influencing behaviour inside school; particularly social media.


I’ve never been a pastoral leader (e.g. head of year), but my life as a form tutor for 15 years exposed me to a wide range of safeguarding issues. However, in 1993 and even up until 2008, there was little or no use of the internet or mobile devices in classrooms or students’ home. Young children were more or less, free to talk, play on the street and watch television for entertainment. News travelled much slower and your friends really were ‘real people!’

But, how things have changed since the invention of, the microchip and 3G and 4G connectivity. Students can connect with each other far more rapidly, and more dangerously than any of us would want, and make friends with people on the other side of the world! We can view pretty much anything on the web. We can buy and sell. We can be radicalised. We can also organise, victimise and isolate.

shutterstock_144042481 Girl Using Mobile Phone Instead Of Studying In Bedroom bully texting

Much of what goes on in a student’s bedroom can be brought back into school for the wrong reasons.

Image: Shutterstock

Too Much Exposure:

Too much exposure as a problem did not exist when I was a child, but there were alternatives. Safeguarding was less robust and we only need to read and watch the news to hear about all of the victims of child (and sex) abuse from 20 or 30 years ago to know that there were different kinds of problems outside of school. This is not to say that this threat has gone away today, we are (hopefully) more astute at protection and intervention than we have ever been!

In the 70s and 80s, I lived in villages, cities and on the coast all over the UK. I was physically bullied at secondary school, despite being one of the largest students in my classes; my lack of confidence was obvious, and this affected my emotions and my social ability to communicate. Attending 7 different schools made friendships all the harder and this was definitely a contributing factor. Outside of school, my personal social circles were very unique. At the weekends I’d spend 24hrs at church, playing in The Salvation Army band and signing in the young people’s choir, but throughout the week, it could never have been so different!

Living in homeless hostels with my parents (as an extension of their work), exposed me to a wide variety of people, circumstances and events. You name it, I saw it or it happened. For example, in one moment I could be playing 8-ball pool with a 50-year-old schizophrenic man, which would be very normal, to then see a drunk, burst through the front doors, paralytic and hurling abuse at everybody and anything they saw. Even a plant pot or a hanging painting! I watched my father get beaten and kicked to the floor; and open dormitory doors to find men dead on their beds! In emergencies, we’d battle through projectile vomit, squirming across the cold, vinyl floors to stop an attempted overdose. On other occasions, we’d have to lock down doors to stop trouble-makers coming indoors to collect debts or end feuds.

On the good days, and there were many, I’d dress up as Father Christmas, handing out presents to others before our own family christmas could start. This was life-changing; as was serving hot soup and bread to people sleeping rough in Cardboard City under Waterloo Bridge.

Cardboard City Waterloo London Tramp

Image: Compo

Seriously, I’ve seen more events than any school child should ever see at that age, but thankfully a secure and loving family at home stopped me from going off the rails.

The Outside Into School:

Although these events did not affect my personality, or my ability at school, moving from school to school did. I could not consolidate my knowledge or my friendships and this affected relationships with my peers and my examination outcomes. However, the events I observed outside of school, did not. I remained balanced, calm and perhaps, mature beyond my years. But this may not be the case for every child …

Throughout the 1970s/80s, external factors could still be brought into school. These were (probably) organised fights, inappropriate images, objects and other paraphernalia. Just take a look at these images taken from an exhibition at The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London.

These are items confiscated from students by teachers in the 80s and 90s. You can click to enlarge.

Images from The Museum of Childhood

Thankfully, I never witnessed these objects in my classrooms as a student. They may have been there, but I was not exposed to them (bar a catapult!) by my teachers or my peers.

Did You Know?

  • 65% of children aged 12 to 15 own a smart phone.
  • 1 in 4 children receive unwanted images on the subject of sex.
  • 21% of reports to CEOP in 2012 were about the sharing of self-created indecent images.
  • 26% of 12-15 year-olds know someone who’s been bullied online.
  • 87% of children go online at home.
  • 57% of children worry about coming across pornographic, violent or other unsuitable content.
  • 43% of teenagers have posted information online they later regretted.
  • 51% of teenagers have revealed information online that could be used to identify them. (Source)

I am yet to research gang culture and organised forums, such as Snapchat and BB (BlackBerry) Messenger services which are used by students for group discussions.

As a new deputy headteacher, my pastoral exposure has reached new realms of disdain; my knowledge has been heightened and I am more and more in fear of the dangers social media and mobile devices pose for our young people. Over the past 12 months, I have seen students bring the outside into school. What I mean by this, is apparent and harmless forums such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat used by students, to share messages, photographs and videos to seek favour, attention or poke ridicule.

Too often, a text message can be taken out of context. A student with little, or no developed emotional intelligence – or no parental guidance at home – can quickly become lost in the moment and sooner rather than later, they have said something or posted something online they later regret. This can turn unsavoury very quickly and soon enough, the issue which started off in their bedrooms, escalates on the school corridors or in the playground away from the eyes of teachers.

This threat posed by social media on our young people needs to stop sooner rather than later. I urge the government to intervene and impose more restrictions on mobile phone providers and mobile-app developers.


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One thought on “Bringing the Outside Into School

  1. It’s not the internet, it’s not technology that’s the issue. These things only connect us as we are. If we use them without compassion we get hurt. Ross; if the internet existed as it does now, when you were moving schools you could have created your own intellectual network and been more than fine in terms of studies. If I’d have known how controversial formal schooling is, when I was a student, I’d have home schooled myself (and my parents would have let me)… I was already taking extra A Levels from a tutor I found online while at school (school didn’t know and I was paying with my £3/hour shop money – was some of the best teaching I’ve experienced via email!), through searching I got involved in an expedition to Peru when I was 15 years old. There are different rooms in the internet; many of them are ‘tell me how stupid and useless I am’ rooms, but it’s not so hard to find the ones were you get real uplifting support and connections that would have seen you fine as a student. More internet, not less. More compassion for ourselves and others.

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