In a modern learning environment, sophisticated edtech and BYOD strategies are increasingly adopted by primary and secondary institutions. E-safety in schools is a growing priority for SMTs and head teachers, as a result. The ongoing issue of implementing safeguarding procedures is progressively complex in a landscape of digital education.
Why greater focus on digital safeguarding legislation?
Modern edtech is providing teachers with enhanced tools for digital, interactive and collaborative learning techniques in the classroom. More than this, though, school staff and SMT often use connected software as part of their everyday training and admin, while students routinely view web content as part of their research, learning and socialising.
Over 25% of adolescents and teens have been bullied through their mobile — one in four children. Because of the proliferation of mobile devices in schools and the danger of online streaming, the wider context of e-safety and digital safeguarding legislation has been embedded within generic safety procedures.
What’s the official direction?
On the subject of safeguarding schools online, The Department for Education is somewhat vague. It outlines that governors and head teachers should implement an ‘effective approach to online safety’, and must ‘protect and educate the whole school community in their use of technology and establish mechanisms to identify, intervene in and escalate any incident where appropriate.’
While the nature of an ‘effective approach’ is subjective, there are a number of steps your school can take to build better safeguarding procedures:
1. Senior level e-safety ownership
The Government requires that a member of the SMT is responsible for the general safeguarding your institution. Cybersecurity and e-safety in schools should be taken just as seriously.
Safeguarding procedures should be discussed regularly with school governors at senior leadership team meetings. Appropriate e-safety policies should be implemented and enforced by the SMT itself.
2. Effective web filtering
Young adults are frequent internet users with curious minds, often needing an extra layer of protection. Content filtering systems, therefore, need to be regularly updated; digitally-native students are often capable of creating ways to quickly bypass filters.
Ensure these filters are age appropriate, language sensitive and can identify which pupil or staff member has been looking at what material.
3. Invest in online safety education
The Department for Education has outlined that your staff, as well as pupils, should be taught about online safety as part of your safeguarding procedures.
Ensure your staff understand the risks of online content, and include policies covering acceptable and secure use of systems. If your school uses social media or other online platforms, there should be regular training sessions to ensure staff and students are aware of new online threats.
4. Consider personal devices
Smartphones and other edtech devices in schools are excellent for connected learning and interactive teaching methods, but BYOD strategies make access to inappropriate material far easier.
Ensure your school has clear policies around how mobile devices are used on the premises. Students and staff alike should be taught about acceptable use of devices, how to interact with each other on social media, and where to turn for help.
5. Do your due diligence
Your IT department should ensure they complete thorough research on any third party technology or software providers. Make sure the vendor’s approach to security and e-safety is in line with your own policies.
What’s more, your IT department should know what onsite hardware and software is being run on your networks. In a sensitive environment like schools, software updates and security patches should be implemented as promptly as possible.
Digital technology and interactive front of class displays like Promethean’s ActivPanel are incredibly beneficial for teachers. Edtech allows educators to deliver collaborative lessons and engage more students in learning, boosting your schools results. Internet-enabled technology, however, always poses a challenge to safeguarding schools and pupils, making the subject increasingly topical.
Ultimately, while the developing minds of children are more vulnerable than adults, training and education around e-safety in schools should extend to your SMT, staff and pupils. Ensure your school outlines and implements rigorous safeguarding procedures to protect your pupils’ online identities, and prevent any serious security breaches.