Sparklebox Scandal?

If you were to ask Irish teachers what web site their classroom couldn’t survive without, it’s likely you would be given the answer, “Sparklebox”.  Although Sparklebox is a UK web site, it is used by hundreds of teachers everyday to download and print posters, signs and classroom resources.  Sparklebox was a pay-per-download site up until a couple of years ago when mysteriously, it became completely free.  To make things even more convenient, Sparklebox released a toolbar for your web browser to make getting resources even easier.

Mike McSharry from Systems and Education revealed on his blog yesterday that a major security issue with Sparklebox.  According to Kent County Council,

“It is understood that a person who is on the record as an owner and director of Sparklebox Teacher Resources Limited (which appears to claim ownership of the SparkleBox web site and children’s learning materials) is a registered sex offender who has recently admitted a second offence, is on remand in prison and is awaiting sentence in January.”

This is obviously quite worrying if you have downloaded and installed the Sparklebox toolbar. The thing about toolbars is that they could be collecting browsing history or they may be used to initiate an internal attack on school systems immediately, or at some unknown future time.  If Sparklebox’s toolbar is operating illegally, this could be the case. Several UK Local Education Authorities are now blocking access to Sparklebox altogether due to this latest development.  McSharry has posted an article to help teachers remove the Sparklebox toolbar from their web browser as it is not an easy process.

There is no news on the Sparklebox web site itself but their blog seems to have been removed and their Twitter feed hasn’t been updated since November.  As we get further news, I’ll share it on Anseo.net.  I hope this news isn’t true and Sparklebox is such a great resource.  Many thanks to Mike for alerting us to this story that is bound to hit the press in the UK at least.  In the meantime, I’d highly recommend Seomra Ranga as a brilliant (and Irish) alternative to Sparklebox.

0 thoughts on “Sparklebox Scandal?”

  1. Sparklebox created less than 12 weeks after US child protectionists revealed the Brits were secretly plonking dozens of known pedophiles in their schools.

    “To make things even more convenient, Sparklebox released a toolbar for your web browser to make getting resources even easier.”

    Child pornographers tend to be good at download technology.

    Sepian

  2. Sparklebox was linked to a group of pedophiles.

    The following AQ by the SDLP is relevant. Law enforcement in Canada, USA, Australia etc. want the British to develop protocols to prevent pedophilies using the Brit school system as a cash cow.

    The SDLP are also querying Minister Ruane re: Sparklebox. The problem ( in Britain) was allowed to develop over decades.

    Education

    Paedophile Information Exchange

    1. Mr Dallat asked the Minister of Education whether members or former members of the Paedophile Information Exchange are automatically prohibited from working in schools. (AQO 3491/08)

    The Minister of Education (Ms Ruane): Tá cosaint páistí fíor-thábhachtach, agus caithfimid gach a dhéanamh ar féidir linn lena chinntiú go bhfuil gach duine atá ar fostú i scoileanna oiriúnach do bheith ag obair le páistí. .

    The protection of children is paramount, and it is essential that we do everything in our power to ensure that only people who are suitable to work with children are employed in our schools. Employing authorities have a legal duty to ensure that that is so, and that is why the protection of our children has been on the agenda at North/South Ministerial Council and British-Irish Council meetings. If it were known that someone was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, she or he would be considered unsuitable.

    There are currently two lists of people who are disqualified from working with children in the North of Ireland. However, a person need be on only one of those lists in order to be disqualified. A person can be automatically prohibited only if he or she is convicted of an offence listed in the Education (Prohibition from Teaching or Working with Children) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007, is subject to a disqualification order made by the courts, or is on the disqualification from working with children list that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety holds. If any Member has any evidence that someone poses a threat to children, that evidence should be brought to the attention of the police or social services.

    Mr Dallat: Will the Minister advise whether any FBI-identified paedophiles connected to Operation Avalanche in the US or Operation Ore in the UK were found by the PSNI to be working at the Department of Education, or at any Department with which the Minister is familiar?

    The Minister of Education: I do not have that information, but I can check it out, and I will write to the Member.

    Mr Shannon: I thank the Minister for her response. She mentioned that teachers and those who work in the classroom are subject to checks. Are cleaning and grounds-maintenance staff subject to the same checks as teachers, and do those checks take place before employment is taken up?

    The Minister of Education: As I said, the safety of our children is paramount. Before getting a job in a school, everyone must have a history background check completed. That check applies to everyone, whether working in a paid or unpaid capacity. The check must show nothing that raises concerns about their suitability to work with children. Where a concern is raised because of a prior conviction for any type of offence, or because of other information, the employing authority carries out a full risk assessment before a decision is made about employment. That risk assessment involves seeking professional advice from the PSNI, social services and the Probation Board. Having said that, if any Member has any information that could protect children, and thinks that that information should be in the hands of the PSNI, social services or the Probation Board, I urge him or her to contact those organisations.

    Mr Kennedy: I thank the Minister for her reply. Will she confirm what engagement, if any, she has had with the PSNI directly on that issue?

    The Minister of Education: My Department works with the PSNI, probation services and social services when various checks are run on people who work with children and young people.

    McDevitt: don’t use schools website run by sex offender
    SDLP South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt has called on the Minister for Education to act immediately to prevent an educational resource site website run by a convicted child offender from being used by schools in Northern Ireland.
    Thu 28th January

    He said: “Many schools download workpages from the ‘Sparklebox’ teaching resources website. The person who owns this site, Samuel/Daniel/David King/Kinge (he has changed his name by deed-poll) was found guilty and imprisoned last week for making and possessing indecent images of children and babies.

    “This matter was brought to my intention by concerned parents in my constituency. I have checked out the claims made on the website http://www.brendenisteaching.com/sparkle.php and they are true.

    “I am now calling on the Minister to take immediate action to ensure children in this region are not provided with material from this mans website.”

    According to reports the owner and operator of Sparklebox, Samuel Kinge (formerly David Kinge), was found guilty of making and possessing indecent images of children, including ‘abuse of babies’. He is reported to have been discovered with over 400 of these images. Samuel was sentenced on 8th January 2010 to one year in prison, of which he will serve 6 months, and restricted internet use for 15 years. He had previous similar offences. After the previous offence, he faked his own death using a social networking site (posting “Daniel Kinge died on November 18″) in order to change his name and reinvent himself.”

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