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School safeguarding: Everything you need to know about protecting pupils and lowering risk

Find out why, in an increasingly digital age, it is so important to protect pupils in school and online.

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In education, teachers and other school staff play a very important role in pupil safety and child protection. The terms ‘child protection’ and ‘safeguarding’ are used synonymously. They are, however, slightly different. Child protection refers specifically to children who may be at a higher-risk of harm. Safeguarding, meanwhile, refers to all children — therefore all pupils in schools.

“Safeguarding is most successful when all aspects are integrated together. Three key elements include a clear safeguarding ethos, a policy that sets out clear expectations and processes, and high-quality training that ensures staff know what to do and do it consistently across the school.”
Andrew Hall, Safeguarding in schools

What is safeguarding?

There is official safeguarding documentation outlining the legal duties with which schools and colleges must comply. This contains information on what schools and colleges should do to keep children safe.

The Children Act 1989, defines a child as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday, even if they are living independently, are a member of the armed forces, or is in hospital.

In December 2017, the Department for Education published its revisions to the new edition of its statutory guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education which will come into force in September 2018.

“Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families and carers has a role to play in safeguarding children. In order to fulfil this responsibility effectively, all professionals should make sure their approach is child-centred. This means that they should consider, at all times, what is in the best interests of the child.” Department for Education, Keeping Children Safe in Education, 2018

Schools should:

  • Create safe environments for children and young people through robust safeguarding practices
  • Ensure that adults who work in the school, including volunteers, don’t pose a risk to children
  • Make sure staff are trained, know how to respond to concerns and keep-up-to-date with policy and practice
  • Teach children and young people about staying safe in school and online
  • Maintain an environment where children feel confident to approach any member of staff if they have a worry or problem

Read more about safeguarding procedures for schools in our blog.

Safeguarding procedures in schools

Safeguarding pupils in schools has been a cornerstone of educational practices for decades.

Now, however, the ongoing issue of implementing safeguarding procedures is progressively complex in a landscape of digital platforms and online educational tools; students routinely view web content as part of research, learning and socialising.

“Over 25% of adolescents and teens have been bullied through their mobile — one in four children.” i-SAFE foundation

When it comes to digital safeguarding, the Department for Education 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.

There are a number of steps your school can take:

  1. Establish a safeguarding team
  2. Put effective online filters in place
  3. Invest in thorough safety education for staff and pupils
  4. Consider the fair use of personal devices
  5. Conduct due diligence of edtech and any third party software or hardware

Note that the responsibilities of the safeguarding team should include:

  • The monitoring and review of online safeguarding arrangements in the school
  • Supporting a designated teacher in the exercise of child protection responsibilities
  • Ensuring attendance of Governors and staff at relevant training – including refresher training – in keeping with legislative and best practice requirements

Read more advice for robust training and education around safeguarding in schools in our blog.

Teaching internet safety in schools

As with all elements of teaching safety to children, including crossing the road and carrying scissors correctly, it is beneficial to cover internet safety as soon as possible.

Safer Internet Day (SID), celebrated this year on 6 February, is the perfect time to talk to your class about both the benefits and dangers of using the internet.

How can you teach e-safety to your class?

  • Why not create thought-provoking activities, make worksheets or activities on your ActivPanel about online safety, highlighting potential risks?
  • Examine cyber-bullying, investigating its consequences and the ways pupils can protect themselves
  • Create a collage of images that pupils could share online. Get them to identify those that are safe to share, including their favourite TV characters, food and sports, and rogue images representing where they live, their own picture with their name attached, and more
  • Searched for video clips that deliver key messages such as “never share passwords” or “always ask a grown up if you see something you are unsure of online.”

There’s an increasing prevalence of social media among young children which means a greater requirement to teach online safety from a younger age. Internet-based tools are invaluable to developing new and engaging pedagogical methods, but the internet continues to pose a risk if we don’t teach children how to navigate it.

Read more about teaching the youngest pupils in schools the importance of internet safety.

Why is live streaming a safeguarding risk?

With the proliferation of mobile phones in schools and the popularity of platforms like Live.ly, YouNow, Hype and Live.Me, social media giants like Facebook, Instagram and video streaming sites like YouTube and Skype are capitalising on the live streaming trend.

What is live streaming?

Unlike asynchronous networks like Twitter and Facebook, live content does not get shared and spread; the audience sees the content the moment it goes live. For example, Skype in the Classroom allows teachers to connect with explorers, scientists and authors by subject, age group and location, so pupils can engage with real people in real-time.

Live streaming is also popular in social media, with young adults streaming events, messages and activities to their friends online. This activity has a worsening reputation, but it’s not all shrouded in negativity; teachers can work with their pupils to minimise the risk.

1. Identify which apps are higher risk

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube all feature the ability to broadcast live to followers, although there’s very limited interactivity. For most apps, this is an ‘anything goes’ area; children might get feedback they weren’t ready for, or even bullying comments. In a bid to win approval, children might share personal information or do things they wouldn’t otherwise.

2. Build confidence in your pupils

It’s not all bad. Through live streaming, pupils have the opportunity to connect, educate, inform and inspire people all over the world on topics they have an expertise or interest in. It can build confidence in camera-shy children. Virtual field trips with Skype in the Classroom are the perfect example of how live streaming can be educational and inspiring when used carefully.

3. Highlight the importance of privacy

Encourage digital literacy by helping children identify trusted sources and places they should be more cautious. Reinforce the idea that, on the internet, adults should not be giving young people instructions or telling them what to do.

4. Signpost support

Reinforce the message to children that it is never their fault if they are approached inappropriately, that they can always speak to an adult they trust if they are worried, no matter what may have happened.

Read our blog about live streaming in schools, giving educators more ideas about making children’s online experience safer.

How can you help prevent bullying and cyberbullying in schools?

Bullying, and now cyberbullying, are fast-growing issues that can affect anyone. Unfortunately, school children are at most risk.

“13 – 17 year olds are much more likely to confide in a peer (72%) than a teacher (34%) when they experience online bullying.” The ResearchBods

Social media can be excellent for connecting people of different cultures, but it can be dangerous depending on how it is used, or how opinions are shared.

Why is cyber bullying so common? Read more in our blog.

It’s easy to hide behind social media; children may say things online that they wouldn’t say in real life because they are behind their phone or computer screen. Worryingly, 15% of young adults have bullied another person online – sometimes intentionally, sometimes without them even realising.

As technology has become more accessible and embedded in daily life, many children have found themselves dealing with the fallout of abuse and misuse of the internet. It needs to be made clear to pupils that they can always confide in their teacher or parents.

Watch the cyberbullying 101 video from eAWARE, highlighting the risk of trolling and other forms of cyberbullying.

Statistics from TES show that more than three-fifths (63%) of teenagers want their school to offer more peer-led education programmes on how to use social media safely.

Here’s some tips for stamping out bullying in schools:

  1. Don’t block the internet, educate pupils. Support your teachers to educate pupils on the importance of appropriate online behavior, and how to be upstanding online citizens.
  2. Use edtech for online safety. School IT staff can use edtech software like NetSupport to perform real-time monitoring and search for exact phrases and keywords in several languages to keep an eye on questionable activity.
  3. Encourage children to talk. Consider providing a secure and anonymous method for pupils to communicate about and report different forms of bullying.
  4. Untap AI’s potential. Keeping up with developments in this technology space will identify more sophisticated methods to protect pupils against bullying in tomorrow’s educational landscape.

Read more about how technology can help teachers and educators stamp out bullying in schools.

How to protect your pupils’ digital footprints – top tips

Access to information, forums, chat rooms, gaming groups, social networks, shopping, and emails is now incredibly easy for pupils. When the internet is being used, a digital footprint trail is left.

Even with the best privacy settings, your pupils are no longer in control of the information once they have posted it. What’s more, your students are responsible for the information they have stored on their computers, laptops, mobiles, tablets or any device that connects to the internet.

To help pupils keep track of their online presence, here’s 5 tips:

  1. Search for themselves online
    Suggest pupils to search their name and see what they can find. If it’s something they don’t like, try to remove it.
  2. Check their privacy settings
    Make sure pupils know what information they are sharing on the websites they use, particularly on social networking sites.
  3. Tell them to think before they post
    Before children post a funny picture of their friend, tell them to ask themselves, “do you want everyone to see it; friends, family, grandparents, future employers?” If the answer is no, don’t do it!
  4. Deactivate and delete
    When pupils stop using a social networking profile or website, it’s a good idea to deactivate or delete their account.
  5. Make a positive footprint
    The best way for your pupils to keep online a good reputation in check is to use time online to get creative and create a positive footprint.

For more detail on protecting your pupils online, read our full blog — 5 top tips to protect your pupils’ digital footprints.