Q&A: compliance with the government’s ‘Keeping children safe in education’ guidance for online safety
Part of the new ‘Keeping children safe in education’ guidance includes a paragraph on online safety. Whilst this is vague in its guidance: “governing bodies and proprietors should ensure appropriate filters and appropriate monitoring systems are in place”1 the document introduces a new annex2 which gives two pages of more detailed information.
In this article we answer some questions relating to the guidance, specifically around online safety.
What is the ‘Keeping children safe in education’ guidance?
The DfE has set out new guidance detailing the legal duties that schools must comply with to keep children safe. It covers all areas of safeguarding.
Does it apply to my school?
Almost certainly. The guidance applies to all children under 18 unless they are in a 16-19 academy/free school. The guidance explicitly lists:
- all schools whether maintained, non-maintained or independent schools
- including academies and free schools
- alternative provision academies
- maintained nursery schools
- pupil referral units.
- further education colleges and sixth-form colleges
When does the new guidance become effective?
It replaces the existing guidance3 from 5 September 2016.
What does the guidance cover in relation to online safety?
The guidance acknowledges that technology provides a platform for safeguarding issues such as child sexual exploitation and radicalisation. It splits the risks into these three areas:
- Content: being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material.
- Contact: being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users.
- Conduct: personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm.
What do I need to do?
It’s often difficult to identify specific requirements from these guidelines (the document is 75 pages in length), so we have picked out what we consider to be the key action points for schools in relation to online safety:
- Ensure the internet connection provided through the school IT system has appropriate filtering and monitoring systems in place (more on this further down the article).
- Policies and procedures
- Ensure you have a defined mechanism to identify, intervene and escalate incidences to do with online safety.
- Review your policy on use of mobile technology and students accessing the internet through 3G and 4G connections (i.e. bypassing the school network).
- Ensure online safety training forms part of regularly updated safeguarding training for staff
- Ensure children are taught about safeguarding and online safety
What are the technical implications for my school?
Points 2 and 3 are unlikely to have any technical or infrastructure implications. Point 1 will vary; it could simply require schools to re-asses their current systems and to satisfy themselves that they are still ‘appropriate’, or it could require major upgrades to existing systems.
What does ‘appropriate filtering and monitoring systems’ actually mean?
This is certainly open to interpretation. Each school needs to determine what upgrades they may need, however the guidance does acknowledge the need for schools to weigh-up the cost vs risk factor, so going for the most expensive, feature-rich solution may not be appropriate. Requirements will vary depending on the age range of pupils, size of your institution and how IT and the internet are used.
Importantly, the guidance also recognises that ‘over blocking’ is a potential issue. Technology and the use of online tools and resources is growing and developing all of the time – schools need to find solutions that keep children safe but do not act as a barrier to the learning benefits that online resources bring.
To help determine what is ‘appropriate’, the guidance suggests ‘The UK Safer Internet Centre’ as a potentially useful resource.
How do I asses my filtering and monitoring systems?
E-safety solutions must continuously evolve and improve to keep pace with potential threats. It is therefore unlikely that you will have sufficient knowledge and skills in-house to comprehensively evaluate you existing systems against your requirements and the latest technology developments. We would always recommend this is done by a vendor-neutral expert who can carry out an audit and make suitable recommendations.
Some of the options they will be able to discuss with you include:
- keyboard monitoring solutions
- web filter solutions
- VPN and SSL solutions
Share this Post
CSE are e-safety experts with many years experience working with schools and colleges. We are independent of any vendor solutions, enabling us to work alongside you to tailor the optimal set-up for your school.