Author: Alan Mackenzie, e-safety adviser

As we begin the new school year it’s a good time to reflect on the updated Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) statutory guidance that comes into effect at the beginning of September. It’s quite a large document; the previous version had more of a focus on Prevent but this new version encompasses a lot more so I’ll summarise four important areas that would come under the online safety banner, namely: safeguarding, training, filtering and monitoring, and curriculum.

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Safeguarding
By now we all know that online safety (previously e-safety) is primarily a matter of safeguarding. We know it’s far more than that (commonly referred to as content, contact and conduct) but we’re talking about the statutory areas so prime consideration must be given to:

•    Child sexual abuse/exploitation (CSA/CSE)
•    Bullying (online bullying sometimes referred to as cyber bullying)
•    Sexualisation of children and young people (e.g. sexting)
•    Radicalisation.

Commonly within KCSIE and other documentation you’ll see that there must be a ‘whole school approach,’ but what does this mean?

As an example, safeguarding is the duty of every member of staff, after all a child or young person can make a disclosure to anybody. However, there are roles within school that have specific functions, for example:

•    The designated safeguarding lead is responsible for online safety incidents (of a child protection nature)
•    The IT Support team takes care of technical aspects such as internet filtering – but school safeguarding leads can also use NetSupport DNA to access and manage additional safeguarding features
•    Heads of year or PSHE/Computing coordinators etc., can manage curriculum aspects.

Additionally, don’t forget that some of incidents you’re dealing with are not happening in school, so parental/community engagement is a vital aspect of this too.

From those simple examples, this is what’s meant by a whole school approach; different persons with different responsibilities which, combined and managed, mean that children are safeguarded. In another article we’ll look at how we can bring these people together as a group to ‘manage’ online safety strategically.

Training
Things can change or evolve quickly, so it’s important that staff receive appropriate training which is regularly updated, at least annually, providing them with the relevant skills and knowledge to safeguard children effectively. This is a really important one as annual research shows that staff training is consistently the weakest area. Remember that a child can make a disclosure to any person, therefore in this context ‘staff’ refers to both teaching and support staff.
 
Appropriate filters and monitors
It’s essential that children are safeguarded from potentially harmful and inappropriate content. As such schools should ensure appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place.

Since the mid to late 90’s most schools have had a filter in place which is used to differentiate internet access to groups of individuals, for example students and staff. But now schools are required to go one step further and use software tools like NetSupport DNA to monitor activity such as internet logs, keywords and phrases being searched, typed or received on the screen, or visually monitoring the screen over-the-shoulder. The KCSIE document states that a risk assessment will provide you with the knowledge to assist you to determine which method of monitoring you use.
 
Curriculum
Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities, as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum.
 
Although online safety has been a statutory element of the Computing curriculum for a few years now, the document makes clear that more relevant issues can be targeted through PSHE or SRE. The main issues surrounding online safety are really to do with behaviour rather than the technology and so it stands to reason these are better targeted outside Computing. Teaching online safety isn’t optional; it must be taught in all schools and at all ages. Whilst there are the statutory aspects of online safety, we all know there is a wide and varied range of topics and risks and therefore a whole-school approach is key once again to help with the planning, that means involving members of teaching and pastoral staff, parents and vitally important, the students themselves.
 
What is clear from all of this is that a whole school approach is key so that online safety becomes an integral, embedded element within school culture, and as with many other areas of school life it needs to be backed up within policy.

In summary, this article pinpoints the key areas (in the context of online safety) within Keeping Children Safe in Education, so what can we do to establish a strategy for moving forward? Watch our short video to find out…

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