The Areté Learning Trust is delighted to be part of an international group who have been awarded funding from ERASMUS, the European programme for education, for a two-year social media education project. Philippa Lark, English Teacher at Richmond School and Sixth Form College, has successfully achieved a place as the UK’s project leader on the project team, which involves five countries, with the aim of focusing on the benefits and dangers of social media.

The Areté Learning Trust has been selected as the UK representative for the project which will offer students across Northallerton, Richmond and Stokesley Schools and Sixth Form Colleges the opportunity to collaborate with education professionals and students from Greece, Lithuania, Italy and Spain to develop a curriculum to ensure young people are fully informed of the risks and opportunities of social media.

The target age group for the project is the secondary sector, where there is usually an ICT curriculum which covers the technical and practical uses of ICT, but there is a shortfall in the coverage of social media. This is now a fundamental aspect of the lives of almost all teenagers, however, there is a lack of education on the use of social media, which this project aims to address. There are undoubted benefits to using social media but there is also more and more evidence that misuse of social media can lead to mental health problems. The Chief Executive of NHS England recently warned of an epidemic of mental ill-health in young people fuelled by social media. The World Health Organisation estimates that 50% of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, and 75% begins by the age of 24, and quotes several factors accounting for this phenomenon including increased access to and use of technology: “the expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bringing many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, as connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows.”

Catherine Brooker, CEO of the Areté Learning Trust, said; “The Trust was invited to apply as the UK’s member of this international group and was successful in acquiring funding for this very important and prestigious project. Philippa has exceptional credentials and will, I’m sure, contribute an enormous amount as the project leader. She will work closely with staff across our three schools, as this is very much a team effort and everyone involved will have a part to play and be instrumental in the success of the project. I have no doubt that this experience will be of immense value to our students and staff.”

Students will be involved in the research element of the project, to ascertain their use, attitude and understanding of social media as well as the curriculum design so their views and perspective will be key to the results and outcomes of the initiative.

Philippa Lark, English Teacher, said: “I am very excited about this fascinating project. My background is in educational research, previously running several large research projects during my time in West Yorkshire schools. Additionally, I worked in marketing for a decade, before becoming a teacher, so I have always been interested in communication and particularly about the effect of social media. I think it is something of vital importance for students to understand how it works and how to use it beneficially. Alongside the research element the project involves designing a social media curriculum to educate students of the benefits and dangers.”

The finished curriculum and associated training resources will be available for all schools across Europe to access so the work will be of great benefit and support hundreds of thousands of students and staff.

Vicki Rahn, Headteacher at Northallerton School and Sixth Form College, concluded:  “I am incredibly excited about the opportunities that the ERASMUS project will undoubtedly bring for our staff and students as they work together with other schools and colleges worldwide on this most important of agendas.”

For further information on the Erasmus +, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe visit https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/about_en