Lifesaving tech: helping students share concerns online

Michael Brennan, CEO and co-founder of award-winning anti-bullying app tootoot, discusses how tech in schools can improve education and save lives

Technology in schools has brought a multitude of benefits to the education sector. From enabling the next generation of coders to ebooks, technology has made education more accessible, efficient and relevant. Of equal importance to these educational benefits, new technology is also helping to tackle a pervasive problem across all UK schools: bullying and cyberbullying.

The terrible impact bullying can have on school-goers cannot be overstated – statistics show that at least half of suicides amongst young people relate to bullying. It is also a large causal factor in school absences and lack of concentration during lessons, leaving children struggling to keep up with their learning. Undeniably, wellbeing and academic attainment go hand in hand. There is no longer a choice for education professionals to focus on either wellbeing or attainment – schools must have exceptional welfare practices to enable their pupils to achieve strong academic results.

Michael Brennan

For me, this issue is personal, as I was at the receiving end of bullying – in particular, cyberbullying – at school. I didn’t feel like I could talk to the adults around me about my experiences and it seems that I wasn’t alone. Over the past couple of years, speaking with pupils and teachers across the country has shown me that a large number of students do not feel comfortable to share their concerns through traditional or formal welfare channels; for example, tutors and school councillors.

These experiences motivated me and our team of safeguarding experts to create tootoot, an anti-bullying and reporting app that allows students to have anonymous and confidential conversations with staff. Tootoot is a safe place for students to raise issues and concerns, and its most important feature is that it is trusted by students. By creating a safe, anonymous and confidential way for students to report issues, it enables effective early intervention.

Recently, a Year 6 pupil in a Manchester-based primary school used the app to get in touch with a member of staff to seek support as she had been having suicidal thoughts. It helped the school to react quickly, arranging daily meetings with the pupil, bringing in her parents and organising play therapy. The school have since seen a massive improvement in the pupil’s emotional wellbeing, and her mother particularly expressed her thanks to the school for having the reporting system in place.

By giving students a safe place to raise issues and concerns schools, can ensure they effectively intervene in the most serious of cases.