London Borough of Islington, UK

Common Sense (UK) has been working with the London Borough of Islington. Located in the UK city of London, it has a population of over 200,000, making it one of the smallest districts in England -- but notably it has the highest population density of local authorities in England and Wales. Islington is home to Arsenal Football Club and the Emirates Stadium, with a large part of the borough falling within central London. The borough currently maintains 47 primary schools and 10 secondary schools. The following outlines how Common Sense's Digital Citizenship Program has been implemented into Islington schools.


  • Number of primary schools: 47
  • Number of secondary schools: 10
  • Economically disadvantaged students: 30%
  • Ethnicity of student body:
    • African Other 9%
    • Asian Other & Chinese 2%
    • Bangladeshi 5%
    • Black Other 2%
    • Caribbean 4%
    • Kurdish 1%
    • Mixed Other 14%
    • Mixed White Black Caribbean 4%
    • Other Ethnic Group 6%
    • Refused/Unknown 1%
    • Somali 7%
    • Turkish/T. Cyp. 5%
    • White Other 13%
    • White UK 29%


Assess needs

Led by Katy Potts, Computing Lead for Islington, the borough was motivated to implement digital citizenship because digital literacy is one of three core strands of the computing curriculum.

Families were concerned about risks online (from privacy to online bullying); Teachers wanted to find a comprehensive scheme of work that draws together the key resources.

The existing scheme of work for teaching online safety had little uptake and interest, being too wordy, with no video content and considered outdated, which is a common problem given the fast moving nature of the computing curriculum.

Common Sense (UK) collaborated with Islington Digital Leaders to map a Digital Citizenship Year 1-13 Progression, connected to the Education for a Connected World framework, which guided their digital citizenship implementation.

Get buy-in from stakeholders

From the beginning, Islington engaged its individual school and teacher leaders to be involved in the planning and implementation of the digital citizenship scheme of work. Teachers from select schools tried out teaching Common Sense's Digital Citizenship Lessons. Both teacher and student feedback on the lessons, where they fit, and how they could be integrated longer term were given to Katy. Islington lead schools used digital citizenship lessons and integrated them with complimentary UK resources.

The appeal of the Common Sense scheme of work was that the resources are all accessible online for teachers, easy to digest, with simple slides and easy to follow lesson plans, and are up to date, touching on all current concerns facing schools and families.

Katy worked with a highly-motivated team of Computing Lead teachers (teachers who have demonstrated particular interest and aptitude for computing; Computing Lead status is normally given to teachers based on their motivation).

Any teacher will teach computing, but it tends to be the Computing Leads that will deliver the Digital Citizenship training at Islington schools.

Primary school teachers only receive one day of online safety training throughout their training, and are therefore often "high will, low skill", and indeed can be put off by too much technical language, or, by having to learn new concepts before teaching them.

Working with the highly-motivated team of Computing Lead teachers was a very effective approach, and Katy was able to quickly gather feedback and best practices. This ensured that schools have ownership and buy-in to the goals of digital citizenship education.


Teach students

Digital citizenship is taught as part of the computing curriculum and is typically prioritised at the start of each term. Computing is a core curriculum subject, and teaching online safety is part of the digital literacy strand of computing.

At Islington schools, teachers are provided with precise instructions regarding what computing lessons to teach each term. For online safety and digital citizenship, Islington uses Education for a Connected World as their framework, and mandates that schools deliver two lessons from the Common Sense UK Digital Citizenship scheme of work, each term for every year group. Teachers are recommended to prioritise the digital citizenship lessons for the beginning of term, as children will have often clocked up a lot of screen time during the break.

Train teachers

One of the challenges that Islington faced was a lack of confidence among some teachers when it came to the subject matter of digital citizenship. Online safety issues are constantly changing and fast-moving and so it was daunting for some. To address this, lead teachers mapped UK and Common Sense Education resources to create an enhanced Digital Literacy Framework before demonstrating lessons across clusters of schools through teacher engagement sessions with Computing Lead teachers.

Engage families

Islington schools work with parents and carers throughout the year, sharing education resources through workshops, parent coffee mornings, newsletters, school websites, pupil led assemblies and school celebrations. For example, one of the successful parent engagement events was the "Coffee and Computing" sessions for parents, held early morning, in which digital citizenship was discussed. Schools distribute a parent newsletter that contains details of the Common Sense Education scheme of work and other useful information, such as the NSPCC/Childline hotline. Islington schools have used Common Sense's resources with parents for many years, so they were already familiar with the organisation providing free, high-quality resources for parents and families.


Define and measure impact

Assessment is very challenging, as learners do not have to be assessed as part of the computing curriculum, as well as being difficult to quantify success. Islington measures success by reviewing work, discussing ideas, seeking qualitative feedback from teachers and through teacher testimonials.

The Common Sense UK Digital Citizenship scheme of work has been successfully implemented into plans given to schools and, as it is a mandatory subject, there is confidence that it will continue to be so.

Celebrate achievements

The outcome of learning and activity was shared extensively by schools and local authority via social media, school and council websites