Sparklebox – My take

Over the past decade or so, mixed reactions have been given with regards to teaching website Sparklebox, with some teachers well and truly against it, and some that offer a more positive view.

For those who are unaware, the owner of Sparklebox, Daniel Kinge (formerly Samuel Kinge but changed his name by deed poll) is a convicted sex offender and former teacher. He was convicted for downloading images of children being abused from the internet.

When the story broke out, several grids across the country blocked the website, including The South West Grid for Learning, amid reports that a blog containing such images was ongoing and some of those pictures appeared on the Sparklebox site and that there was a presence of interactive technology on Sparklebox, which, given the convictions of Mr Kinge, means that he has possible access to contact with children. This is, of course, unacceptable and as pointed out by an e-safety official from the SWGfL, such people should not be allowed to have access to children via the internet.

Mr Kinge had a ban on use of the internet overturned in 2005 on grounds of no internet would prevent him having almost any kind of job (make of that what you wish). However, he was issued with a Sexual Offenders Protection Order spanning 15 years from that point, which means he is not allowed to use any form of computer which is not monitored by the police. It has also been claimed by a spokesman from West Murcia Police that a family member had taken over Sparklebox.

In 2010, Mr Kinge was sent to prison for a year following charges by West Murcia Police. As a result of this, a spokesperson for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceops) said ‘Ceops feels that schools can resume use of this website in line with their normal risk assessment and management processes and in consultation with local authorities’.

Despite this, there is still debate over whether Sparklebox should be used or not. Here is where I stand.

Let’s forget about the owner for a moment, and look at the resources themselves. First thing to think about is that the resources offered on the site are free, and clearly popular as it’s very difficult to go into a classroom and not find something that has had some connection to Sparklebox. Clearly the resources are fantastic otherwise they wouldn’t be used. The fact that these resources are free as well means that all teachers have access to a vast array of useful resources for their classroom. Is this not a good thing?

OK so the resources were made by a convicted sex offender, but bare in mind he was a teacher, so these resources was designed by a teacher, for teachers and parents. The original owner is still under the watchful eye of the police and the site is no longer being run by him, and the blog that was happening at the time has been closed down, so claims I’ve seen dotting around twitter and facebook every time someone suggests using Sparklebox that we’re funding a sex offender to me doesn’t add up.

Would I use Sparklebox? If the resources would benefit the children I teach in some way and they are free, yes I would. I mean come on, the resources are really nice, why deny yourself access to such thing, especially given that similar sites which offer great resources either incur subscription costs or charge for each resource individually. I mean I’m not against paying these costs if it was worth it, in fact i recently spent a fair bit of money on one site which had some amazing resources on it so I’ve got myself a little box of tricks including interactive display games, a visual timetable, some maths and literacy activity cards and some motivational posters, but if there are free and useful resources about, grab them. As a student you always love it when you get free stuff, why not as a teacher?

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21 thoughts on “Sparklebox – My take

  1. Hi, if you look at the companies house info for sparkle box you’ll see that Samuel Kinge is still a director. Also don’t be fooled by the fact that the content is free – given the volume of traffic it receives he will be making quite a bit of money off the site. This is supported by the companies house info which you can see here: http://companycheck.co.uk/company/06164228/SPARKLEBOX-TEACHER-RESOURCES-LIMITED/company-summary

    One other observation – I actually think the quality of the content on sparkle box is poor. the illustrations are very weak and I would recommend Early Learning HQ as a free alternative. twinkle and Teachers Pet are also good but charge a subscription.

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

      I am aware that he is still listed as a director, but just means that he is affiliated with the company, not necessarily running the website on a day to day basis with permanent access to it.

      I have actually used some of Sparklebox’s stuff before, I don’t think all of them are overly outstanding, but as with all sites like these, there are some gems in there and some not so good. I have membership of both Twinkl and Teachers Pet and there are some gems in there as well. Equally there are some stuff on there which to me are quite questionnable. Communication4all is another that I have used stuff from. My box of tricks I bought was made primarily of Teacher’s Pet stuff so obviously it’s worth it. I will check out Early Learning HQ as I haven’t come across that one before, so thanks for bringing it to my attention

      1. Hi Mark, in your post you stated that it doesn’t add up to say that by using sparklebox people are funding a sex offender. Your reasoning was that the site was being run by someone else. I’m not sure how you can say that as a director he wouldn’t be involved in the day to day running. Moreover, it’s almost certain that he will be taking some sort of wage / dividend from the company. He founded the site and as can be seen by the link I posted it is making a lot of money. It’s extremely unlikely that as a director of the company he wouldn’t be taking any money from it. I don’t mean to be argumentative I’m just responding to the point you made about the money side of things. I think if people choose to use that site then they should accept that they are putting money into his pocket, albeit in an indirect way.

      2. Maybe he is, but is that really such a major issue, or is it making a mountain of a molehill? Let’s think about it for a moment. The police are claiming that he is being monitored and that the site is run by someone else. The website is part of the whole business, not the whole business itself, so there is nothing to suggest that the website is not being run by someone else now. You’ve mentioned that he is listed as ‘director’, but there are other roles in a business than simply a director.

        I don’t condone what he did in any way shape or form, but why because of that should he not be allowed to be part of, and make money from, what is a largely successful business? We see people from crime represent other professions too. Look at the footballers, Ian Wright spent time in prison and became a professional footballer, it’s the same principle, we gave money to a criminal, yet he was given another chance. Why should this be any different?

        At the end of the day we are all human beings, making mistakes is part of our lives. Maybe I’m more forgiving than some other people, I can see why given the nature of such a mistake that he made that people are not as much, but don’t hate the business because of the person behind it, hate the business for the lack of quality or whatever you think of them.

      3. As a pupil of the class taught by Mr Kinge back in 2005 (when he was arrested for having thousands of photos of abused young children found on his school laptop) I, unsurprisingly, feel strongly against the use of Sparklebox.

        Maybe this is because he came to my house for a home visit before I started reception, maybe because he was in the changing rooms with young boys when we went on our weekly swimming lessons or maybe this is because he not only gets a kick out of knowing the resources he created are used by children but also money.

        I do not understand how in any shape or form you can justify this. I believe in second chances, but not in the form of paeodophiles nor sex offenders. If it’s a second chance you want to give him, maybe you should reconsider after he re-offended.

        My mother is a primary school teacher, so I have seen first-hand how much time resources like these could help her. But she feels the same about it. The police told our school at the time that it was only a matter of time before him looking at pictures turned into something a lot worse. I do not see how you would want to fund someone so disgusting.

      4. The account ‘F Stevenson’ is my child’s and they have informed me of what they have done and they wish to delete a reply they left regarding Mr Kinge but have found out that only the blog owner could do so. If you could please delete the reply I would be most grateful.

        Thank you.

    2. Mike if you look on the shares info on companies house it also he owns 100% if the shares too .
      He’s still VERY involved in this company…..shocking!!

  2. It’s my understanding that the website is the whole business but I could be wrong about this. I really don’t think it’s making a ‘mountain out of a molehill’. I think his crimes were incredibly serious and sickening and I’m not sure it’s the type of thing we can dismiss on the basis that we all make mistakes. I know your not trying to do this but I think even just making that comment in this context is unhelpful.

    Your comment about Ian Wright is an interesting one but I think it’s flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe he was jailed for failing to pay his car insurance or something like that. Hardly comparable with what Mr. Kinge did. Secondly, When Crystal Palace and Arsenal fans turned up to watch Ian Wright and 10 other men play for their team they would largely have been aware of his crime and would have made an informed judgment about whether they wanted to continue supporting the club while he was still playing. By contrast many of the people who go on the sparklebox website are either unaware of his crimes or are under the misguided impression that Mr.Kinge is no longer involved in its running or is not profiting from it. One final observation about your analogy. It would be interesting to see the reaction of football fans if a footballer had committed the same offence as Mr.Kinge. I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a major call for the player to be removed from the team.

    You seem to have changed your reasoning a bit. In your post you said that it doesn’t add up to say that sparklebox is funding a sex offender. Now you seem to accept that he may be getting some money from it but that this shouldn’t matter. I happen to think that it does matter, but I know there are plenty who would agree with you. The point is though that people should not be mislead into thinking that this guy is not making money from this site because he clearly is. If they realize this but decide to continue using the site then that’s their call but I just get annoyed when people imply that he’s no longer involved.

    Sorry if this seems like a bit of a rant, I think it’s a good debate that we’re having and I have nothing against you personally, I just don’t happen to agree with your point of view☺.

  3. …one other point in relation to your statement that ‘there is nothing to suggest that the website is not being run by someone else now”. I would look at it the other way – there’s nothing to suggest that he isn’t running it. The facts are– he started the website, it makes a lot of money, he hasn’t been banned from running it and he’s listed as a director. It seems certain to me that he is involved on some level. You can choose to believe otherwise if you want though.

  4. Hi Mark,
    I needed to comment your blog. First time I’ve ever done so.

    As teachers we should do everything in our power to protect children from paedophiles.

    It is dangerous for people to think that acts by paedophiles should be forgiven. They are not ‘mistakes’ they are deliberate. It worries me that you seem to feel it’s ok to let things be for the sake of materials that can be found elsewhere or made.

    We should not forget what they’ve done. I was abused by a neighbour as a child and you don’t forget that.

    1. Cheryl

      At no point am I condoning what he’s done, in fact I like many despise the man for what he’s done. But what I’m saying is he is not in the classroom anymore, he is still imprisoned with his activity being very closely monitored. The resources are there to be used, and people still use them as is evidenced by the fact that it is still running in the first place so it must be making the money.

      The man has messed up, and he’s facing the consequences which is imprisonment, not strip him of his livelihood completely. He is entitled to make a living the same as everyone else. The simple fact is, he runs a very successful business in a field which he is qualified to operate in.

      As for background, I faced 17 years of abuse from the people who brought me into this world before I walked out on them and have had nothing to do with them since. I’m no stranger to abuse either.

      1. I must say your comment of not stripping him of his lively hood, astonishes me…..how about not stripping children of their childhood! I think this man should be imprisoned for life and have every penny removed from his bank account and given to a children’s charity that help children to deal with the mess created by people like him. He didn’t make a mistake…a mistake is forgetting to take your lunch to work – and from that mistake, we learn to not make it again and take our lunch the following day…..he had thousands of images – that’s thousands of ‘mistakes’.

        I also feel that changing his name is a way of tricking the public into believing that he doesn’t profit from the company, we may argue that it is his way of trying to change his life after conviction – but i wonder whether a simple name change would suffice to children whom have suffered from abuse – if they change their names from Bob to Bill, do we now think they will be ok?

        I think his involvement in anything child related is absurd, i make a lot of resources, yes in part to earn from, but mainly to help children learn because i care about them….you can’t care about them and be happy to see them being abused – those things cannot not work in parallel.

  5. ‘bare in mind’ – really? – BARE in mind? I think that about sets the level of intelligence in this article. Oh yeah, so what eh? Nice colouring pages! So glad you aren’t anywhere near my kids. He’s ‘messed up’ ?? Are you insane? IT ISN’T OK to abuse kids. It wasn’t ok that it was done to you; it isn’t ok that this guy was involved with it either. IT IS NOT OK.

  6. How about we look at another footballer instead. Let’s take, oh, I don’t know, maybe…Chad Evans? Is he having much luck since being released? Why should a convicted child abuser? More to the point, why should he be making money off people who are in a position of care over the people whom he victimised?! I think it is slightly sick that teachers are financially supporting a convicted child abuser, willingly. Not only are they supporting him, but by sticking sparklebox branded stuff up all over their classrooms, they are actively advertising him. There are other places to find resources online, I can think of no reason other than sheer moral laziness that would allow a teacher to justify using sparklebox when they are aware this convicted child abuser is still profiting from this website.

  7. I understand your view and recently more and more people are using sparkle stuff so clearly your views are shared. For me the problem is every time I see the logo it makes me think of the real actual children who were hurt by his actions and I don’t want that in my classroom. So If I inherit a classroom with sparkle stuff I toss it out and I would rather use anything else than sparkle to teach my class. This story on his visits to African orphanages being a case in point.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/8477591.stm

  8. I couldn’t agree more with comments by others like Ali, Rosemary, Joolz and many others above.
    Unfortunately there are many teachers taking Mr Melaney’s very glib view about Mr Kinge and his actions.
    I cannot even look at the Sparklebox logo without feeling regret at having used his materials in the past. It all went in the bin when I found out about him years ago.
    We educate children and should endeavour to protect them at all costs.
    Teachers, please use other resources on the Internet. If you are too lazy to produce your own, go to Twinkl. Their materials are actually much nicer than Sparklebox ever was!

  9. I’m not sure who you are trying to convince Mark. I don’t mean to be rude and
    I haven’t read your other post and I understand you are a teacher…..but can I ask if you are a parent? Your attitude astounds me. I am a teacher and I am a mother and it makes me sick to my stomach that anyone would think this is okay. I know you are not alone in your thinking. I see how tempting it is to use his things… But you can dress it up and put a pretty bow on it, the fact remains he is a twice convicted Pedophile and he profits from this website. He changed his name, pretended to be dead and posed as his ‘bother’ to make this website after he got out of jail. He concealed his identity because even he knew on some level what he was doing was wrong. His dad assumed the directorship when he went to prison the second time and signed it back over to him when he got out. He is still the director and owner and sole profiteer of this venture. He sought to infiltrate classrooms and homes with his blog, he went to Africa on little trips to orphanages, He had thousands of photos and videos of children being abused. Who are you kidding? What teacher/ person in their right mind would seek to justify using his products! Because its free to download…..What price do you put on your good conscience. I used to use the products, I thought they were awesome, but the day I found out he was being convicted….for reoffending, I ripped down every last one and ensured other teachers did too. I would rather pay double for a subscription to Twinkl then get one thing ‘free’ from Sparklebox. It is not free. He makes a very good living from the advertisers on his site. If you still don’t see the harm in using his things then why not ask your students parents if they mind their children using a twice convicted pedaphiles resources.

  10. I have read all of the responses above. I cannot condone any comment that condones in any small way that Sparklebox stil exists. Paedophilia is abhorrent on many levels and we , as teachers/professionals working with young children, are in that pofession to protect them, aren’t we? By using Sparklebox products we are dismissing a simple fact .. ownershp at some level is by a paedophile. Is there a ‘bit of being a paedophile’ similar to be ‘a bit pregnant?’ Maybe not the best analogy, but if the conviction stands the label sticks.
    Many people have been at the hands of paedophiles and abusers in their past and their suffering is immense, certainly of a magnitude I could never imagine. They are ‘broken’ people, yet their perpetrators would have been ‘fine, upstanding members of the community’ at the time. I speak of those working in the church community, the orpahnages, even in the school community.
    Please don’t assume that resources for royalties could ever equate to the suffering of the victims. 20-30 years down the track we will all find out via the media. Perhaps we should respect the power of the media today.

  11. You suffered abuse yourself at the hands of your parents. Would you mind if your parents started making big money from a website offering advice about good parenting?
    After all, their advice might appear to be useful ….and free!

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