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September 4, 2023

Schools warned of cyberattack threat as new year begins

  • The National Cyber Security Centre has warned school leaders that “appropriate security measures” should be put in place to defend against threats and prevent disruption as the new academic year begins. 
  • There is no indication of an increased threat, however the start of a new term means that the impact of attacks may feel more overwhelming than at other times.  
  • Vice president of the counter-threat unit at cybersecurity firm Secureworks, Don Smith, has said that creating accounts for new pupils and staff and a school’s stance on portable devices like laptops and tablets, could create vulnerabilities.  
  • Last September six schools in the same academy trust in England had their internal systems attacked.  
  • Whilst schools are not usually hit by concentrated attacks, they are seen as opportunistic targets as their defences tend to be less robust than other institutions. 
  • Mr Smith advised the need for “basic digital hygiene” to protect important data, for regular reminders to both staff and students on how to stay safe online. 
  • For more, please visit the Sky News website.  

More school children to arrive in school with ‘dirty clothes and unbrushed teeth’ amid increase in hygiene poverty

  • A survey conducted on school staff in the UK for The Hygiene Bank and cleaning brand ‘smol’ has found that nearly three in four children (72%) school staff believe there has been an increase in “hygiene poverty” issues in their school in the last year.  
  • The survey findings suggest that of those who were aware of pupils experiencing hygiene poverty, 71% expect the levels to have increased by the start of the school year.  
  • 72% of school staff said they had seen pupils affected by hygiene experience low self-esteem. 
  • Dirty uniforms and PE kits, unwashed hair and unbrushed teeth were the most cited indicators of hygiene poverty by the staff questioned in June.  
  • Some school staff reported personally washing clothing for children at home and handing out laundry detergent for struggling families.  
  • For more, please visit the Independent’s website.  

Consultation on Relationships and Sexuality Education launched

  • Legislation passed by the Secretary of State requires that NI schools teach age-appropriate and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, covering early pregnancy and access to abortion at KS3 and KS4. 
  • The legislation also brings forward regulations regarding parental right to have their child excused from receiving this teaching. 
  • The option to have a child excused from these specific classes does not apply to any other areas of Relationships and Sexuality Education.  
  • The consultation will run from the 1st September to the 24th November 2023 (12 weeks). The document can be found here. 
  • The department will publish its overall response to the consultation and develop guidance on arrangements to have a child excused by 1st January 2024. 
  • For more, please visit the Department of Education website. 

Parents’ fears over Belfast sex offender who ‘prowls’ wrestling events

  • Parents have voiced their fears about a convicted sex offender using wrestling and online gaming to lure children.
  • The offender has a number of convictions for abusing young boys and is currently living near a number of schools.
  • One mum spoke of how he “befriends young boys who are into wrestling and worms his way in with the families”.
  • It has been reported that he gains access to his victims through using social media, online gaming and his Playstation with lots of different pseudonyms.
  • The offender has a significant number of convictions for sexual offences against children and has a track record for breaching his sexual offences prevention order.
  • For more, please visit the Belfast Telegraph website.

NI parents ‘at breaking point’ over exorbitant childcare costs, says new survey

  • A survey of nearly 3,000 parents by Melted Parents NI (MPNI) found that the average cost of having two children in full-time childcare was nearly £25,000. 
  • This figure is only £260 less than the average NI salary. 
  • MPNI survey results reported over 80% of parents said childcare costs were more expensive than their mortgage. 
  • One mother reported the wider impact these expenses are having on her family: “We are now in £19,000 [of] debt and our marriage is at its end, with arguments due to money stress. We feel we’re the only people struggling so much,” 
  • Over 80% reported the cost of childcare was affecting their mental health and 70% admitting to it impacting relationships. 
  • Concerningly, nearly 70% of parents reported that they may need to leave work in order to bring down childcare bills. 
  • Rebecca Harper of MPNI criticised the proposed development of the childcare strategy, as nothing has been delivered. 
  • She continued: “This isn’t good enough and we demand action”. 
  • For more, please visit the Belfast Telegraph website. 

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