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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

A Digital World

I have been wondering about whether the ADCS blog could become like one of those Christmas rounds robins. Can you imagine it…? ‘Our lead inspector asked to borrow a thesaurus when she ran out of superlatives to describe our adoption service…’ or ‘we were delighted when inspectors decided to pay us a second visit in such a short time - a real tribute to our excellent catering…’ OK, so this may be a parody of many DCS Ofsted conversations but there is a real danger we forget about what really matters to children.

One thing that I am proud of in Gloucestershire is our biennial online pupil survey which we have been doing since 2006 (with a separate survey of Children in Care every other year). In 2014 it was completed by over 23,000 pupils and every school participated – it provides data at county, district and school level. The salutary thing about the survey is that it gives us a balanced view of children and young people. Over the last 10 years our young people have become less likely to use drugs and alcohol, feel safer and report less bullying. Sadly we have now had to introduce questions about their self harming behaviour, their late night social media habits and their mental health needs (4% currently report self harming, 39% report using social media in their bedroom after their bedtime and 17% are so worried they regularly can’t sleep at night). The recent national focus on children’s mental health is certainly justified by these figures.

One issue that particularly concerns us is domestic abuse with 3% of young people telling us they witness it regularly and 3% of young people reporting they have regularly experienced violence from a partner. We are developing a whole programme of work about teenage relationships as a consequence. The other area we are conscious of is the implications of the increased use of the internet with 12% saying they have met someone online, with 28% of these going on their own to meet the stranger – although these are small numbers, parenting is becoming a very different game.

Interestingly children in care actually are sometimes more positive about their lives e.g. 77% report feeling quite happy or happy most of the time, compared to 73% of the county cohort and 71% of children in care say they enjoy school compared to 63% of the county cohort. More evidence that care can really work for children.

All of this confirms how quickly the world is changing and challenges our understanding and management of risk. Perhaps our greatest challenge will be safeguarding in an increasingly digital world.

Anyway to get back to my own round robin… ‘At Christmas we enjoyed playing Pieface, a fantastic game where at the random turn of a handle you might, or might not, get splatted with cream, custard, a wet sponge or whatever delightful substance your friends have arranged. Of course some of us got splatted every time the handle was turned and others managed to escape completely. It was just like waiting for Ofsted…’

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