Meeting your e-safety duty

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Expert Hilary Wright offers advice on meeting Ofsted expectations for developing an effective e-safety strategy in your school.

 

Recent reports have highlighted that 28 per cent of key stage 3 and 4 students have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones or the internet (Virtual Violence II, Beatbullying, 2012), while 40 per cent of key stage 3 and 4 students have witnessed a “sexting” incident (Inspecting E-safety, Ofsted, April 2014).

Given these figures, it is little wonder that e-safety is becoming a growing priority in our schools. In fact, it has become so important that Ofsted now includes it as part of their inspections, putting the implementation of a stringent e-safety policy firmly on the agenda of all secondary schools.

But how do you maintain the balance between giving pupils freedom and maintaining control? How do you enable students to take full advantage of the technology to support learning and prepare them for the real world while providing a safe environment? 

Where does your responsibility end and parental responsibility begin? And can you ensure their online safety beyond the school gates? By creating an effective e-safety policy, schools can begin the process of keeping everyone safe online.

Putting a document like this together can seem quite daunting, but it needn’t be. These steps will provide some clarity and practical advice on how to approach e-safety, while giving simple ideas and useful tips on how to put effective e-safety provisions in place to meet the requirements of students, teachers, parents and Ofsted.

The school’s role?

Ofsted describes e-safety as a school’s ability to protect and educate pupils and staff in their use of technology as well as having appropriate mechanisms in place to intervene and support any incident where appropriate.

By protecting students, Ofsted is looking for schools to provide a safe learning environment by using appropriate monitoring and filtering to control what students can access while at school. However, this will only protect pupils while they are on school premises. 

Therefore, education around e-safety is crucial to ensuring that, wherever they are, pupils know how to stay safe online. 

Education, Education, Education

Enabling pupils to take full advantage of technology and preparing them for the real world while providing a safe environment is a tricky balancing act.

Locked-down systems that exert total control over what students can access online provide no opportunity for them to learn how to become digitally responsible.

Monitoring and filtering is essential to prevent access to inappropriate content but, for example, banning Facebook or other social networking sites could actually leave students more vulnerable when they are outside the school gates if they do not get to learn how to use social media safely.

To get you started on the path to educating your students about staying e-safe, here are five topics to deliver a highly engaging and stimulating e-safety course for key stages 3 and 4.

1, What is e-safety? Start by finding out what your students think e-safety is as a way of auditing their current knowledge.

2, How reliable is online information? This is all about how to interrogate what you might think are “facts” you find online.

3, Responsible use of social networking. Try sharing a fictitious social network profile and ask students how this person is protecting her personal information and what they are doing wrong.

4, Are you a cyber-bully? Was that “joke” they sent really funny or could it have been an act of unintentional bullying? Get the pupils to role-play the impact that this could have.

5, What’s your digital footprint? What information is there about you online? How can you protect your online reputation (now and in the future) and what do you need to know about sharing personal information?

The Ofsted low-down

What are the key features of e-safety in “good”: and “outstanding” schools and what is required to be considered outstanding in terms of e-safety provision?

In September 2012, Ofsted published guidelines sharing what it expects schools to deliver around e-safety. Here’s a brief summary of the contents:

1, Whole-school consistent approach. All teaching and non-teaching staff recognise, are aware of and prioritise e-safety issues. High priority is given to training in e-safety. The contribution of the wider school community is valued and integrated.

2, Robust and integrated reporting routines. School-based reporting routes (including Report Abuse buttons) that are clearly understood, respected and used by the whole school.

3, All teaching and non-teaching staff receive regular and up-to-date training; at least one staff member has accredited training, for example CEOP, EPICT.

4, Policies are rigorous, contributed to by the whole school and integrated with other relevant policies such as behaviour, safeguarding and anti-bullying.

5, An age-appropriate e-safety curriculum teaches pupils how to stay safe and take responsibility for their own and other people’s safety. The school uses positive rewards and peer-mentoring programmes.

6, Infrastructure includes a recognised internet service provider (ISP) or Regional Broadband Consortium (RBC) together with age-related filtering that is actively monitored.

7, Monitoring and evaluation includes risk-assessment taken seriously and used to good effect in promoting e-safety.

8, Management of personal data: the impact level of personal data is understood and data is managed securely and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Five keys for an effective e-safety policy

The above outlines the deliverables Ofsted is looking for to become outstanding. However, to underpin this best practice approach, schools will need revisit and update their existing e-safety policy. This is the framework where you set out how you will protect and educate students, staff and parents.

There are two main types of policy: an acceptable use policy, which sets out what students can and can’t do online; and an e-safety policy, which sets out the commitments the school makes to ensure its community is safe online. Robust policies are vital but they are only the starting point.

Here are five steps to ensuring your policy is at the heart of e-safety in your school:

1, Involve students in the development of any policies – this creates a sense of ownership and provides the first step in educating them about e-safety and acceptable use of technology.

2, Involve parents – they need to read and sign the policies and have the opportunity to share feedback. This will kick-start the conversation about e-safety out of school too.

3, Review it – agree a date each year when you seek feedback and review the contents of the policy. Life online changes at breakneck speed and what may have been watertight a year ago may no longer be adequate today.

4, Embed it – policies are no use if they are merely a tick-box exercise, they need to be part of daily life. You could implement a regular reward system that recognises students who have flagged an issue or shown leadership in this area, or appoint e-safety monitors whose job it is to keep e-safety front of mind.

5, Own it. All members of staff need to be trained and have responsibility for e-safety – but if one member of staff has deep expertise coupled with overall responsibility for e-safety it is far more likely to retain its place on the agenda.

  • Hilary Wright is e-safety product manager with RM Education.


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