Edinburgh YouTube ban: Call for pupils to be allowed to access video-sharing site again

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Council chiefs have been warned that the ban on YouTube access in Edinburgh schools must not be made permanent because of the damage it would do to pupils’ learning.

Tory councillor Christopher Cowdy said he had been contacted by 50 high school students stressing how vital the video-sharing site is for their studying. And he said he was drawing up a motion for the next full council meeting, demanding a reversal of the ban.

All access to YouTube was blocked by the city council after some pupils were caught viewing "concerning material” on their devices. The council said it was a “temporary” suspension while it reviewed permissions to access online services. Teachers were affected by the ban as well as pupils, though the council said it was working to reinstate teachers’ access.

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Councillor Cowdy said he understood the ban was likely to be lifted for teachers within a couple of days but the ban on pupils’ access was expected to last longer. He said: “They could only do a blanket ban, which excluded teachers as well, and they're working out how to allow them back but retain the ban on pupils. At this stage I have no idea how log that ban on pupils will be. I don’t know what their plan is, but I'm worried they may try to make it permanent and if they do it really is shattering the pupils and teachers ability to teach and learn properly.

“I have two teenage children at high school and I have received 50 emails from pupils at high school, telling me how very important YouTube is as a tool to them. Every day they go without access to it at school is a day too long.”

He said the fact schools had just started their half-term break limited the harm for now. But he said he was preparing a motion for the next full council meeting on October 27. It would recognise what a valuable tool YouTube was, acknowledge that inappropriate material could be accessed on the internet and that responsible steps have to be taken to mitigate that, but point out that YouTube had a good track record and call for the ban to be lifted. He said: "Should the ban still be in place after half-term I will be taking that motion forward.”

Cllr Cowdy said there was already concern about pupils having been held back by Covid and they needed all the help they could get as they pursued their studies. “They are already under a great deal of pressure to keep up with the syllabus and any day they lose they have to try to catch up somewhere else.”

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The council repeated its previous statement that it had temporarily suspended access to YouTube across the education estate and was working to reinstate access for teaching staff so they could continue to use YouTube content as part of the curriculum.